Campus-affiliated child care programs then called child development laboratory programs began to emerge on U. As they evolved, they embraced a three-part mission that continues into the present Osborn, : to serve as program sites for the professional development of personnel in both child development and early childhood education; to serve as sites for research on various components of both child development and early childhood education; and to serve as model programs for children and families, providing leadership for the early childhood field at the state, local, and national levels Barbour, ; Cutler et al.
Nearly all postsecondary institutions juggle competing priorities and seemingly ever-tightening budgets. McBride and Cassidy and Sanders noted that campus-affiliated early childhood programs find it increasing difficult to focus on and balance all three traditional elements of their mission professional development, research, and service to children and families in light of diminishing university resources and decreasing state funding.
Keyes and Boulton noted that in a climate of reduced contributions from their university affiliates, programs are challenged in their efforts to be models of high-quality, affordable, accessible early care and education in their communities. The infant-care programs in that sample showed wide variation in the experience of care, and we began to ponder ways that higher education institutions might be contributing to differences among campus-affiliated infant programs in the United States. We wondered how the needs of infants and families fit among other priorities and values of those institutions.
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A program must fully address all three elements of the mission in a high-quality setting in order to be a model for other programs and leaders in early childhood on and off campus, as well as various campus audiences McBride et al. The primary bodies of literature examined in this study included those related to university-affiliated programs and to conceptualizations of what infants experience in birth-to-3 programs.
The questions guiding this research were generated from concerns that arose during a previous study and those expressed in the literature about efforts to balance the sometimes competing elements of the tri-part mission of on-campus child care programs. The following questions are considered in this paper:. In campus infant programs, two or more caregivers in an infant room are responsible for addressing the individual care and needs of eight or nine infants and their families.
A variety of classroom aides and other adults may also work with and care for the infants throughout the day. Programs that house infant rooms have at a minimum a program director and sometimes other in-house administrators such as curriculum directors. Usually a campus administrator and faculty members from various departments are involved in the program.
Distinct norms, values, and cultures define how all these relationships are established and maintained, how lines of communication operate, and who holds power in decision making. Figure 1. Model representation of campus infant programs indicating reciprocity of relationships and communication in the system, imbedded within the norms, values, and cultures of its macrosystem. Bioecological Systems Theory posits that the development of the child or infant is influenced by several environmental systems Bronfenbrenner, , , Our adapted model shows infant and family at the center of several nested systems represented by concentric circles.
Each circle represents one of these system elements or interactions between lateral systems that have direct and indirect yet powerful influences on the child and family, which, in turn, influence decisions made throughout the system as a whole. Individuals with those perspectives are indicated in Figure 1 within the circles colored in shades of green.
Individuals or entities outside of the program but within the system are shown in blue.
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The model comprises the following components:. The arrow in our system model indicates reciprocity of relationships and communication flow through the system. This model is based on an assumption that the system involves reciprocal relationships among the constituents, with shared power in decision making about policy and practices that translate values into care e.
We recognize that campus-affiliated programs, like infants, grow and develop in unique contexts Reifel, Their missions and roles may be similar, but each program within its department, university, etc. Although this study primarily employed qualitative analysis, quantitative analyses were also used to aid in describing and comparing the three infant rooms.
The principal researcher spent a minimum of 2 weeks of full days in each classroom and program. See the Appendix. Time-sampling observations were collected on each baby, every 5 minutes throughout an entire day from arrival to departure. Also recorded were brief but detailed descriptions of what that infant was doing in the moment that a sample was taken. Qualitative data were collected in each classroom concurrent with and subsequent to time sampling. Formal and informal interviews were also conducted with family members, caregivers, other classroom staff, and directors and administrators at the program and university levels.
Documents and artifacts were collected from each classroom and program. Blending data from multiple sources and utilizing mixed methods allowed for triangulation and confirmation and enabled a comprehensive picture to emerge of the dynamics across each system and among system elements Creswell, ; Merriam, To further ensure trustworthiness, we engaged in member checking with primary informants and debriefed with multiple colleagues in the field of infant care and education about our conclusions.
A targeted sample of infant rooms in programs at major research universities in the midwestern United States were selected from a larger sample from an earlier study. The following descriptions provide a simple sketch of each room and offer highlights from evidence used to identify the rooms as prioritizing service to infants and families, research, or professional development.
Further details about the rooms are provided in the Findings and Discussion sections. Along the hillside of this mountain valley is a beautiful meadow of wild flowers. The colors and sizes of the flowers, their smells, and the textures as you walk among them create a riot for the senses. The wildflowers follow no real pattern but meander rather aimlessly along the hillside.
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There is always something new and exciting to explore around the next bend in the valley. The Wildflower Valley Room was chosen for inclusion in this study because its mission most clearly prioritized service to children infants and families over professional development or research. A daily schedule was posted in the room, which served as a general guide or approximation of when things might happen. There was considerable spontaneity in the Wildflower Valley Room; staff often seized opportunities for activities that arose unexpectedly.
Transitions throughout the day were smooth, and one activity flowed naturally into another. As many as eight infants were with the same two to three paid caregivers at all times two lead caregivers and one of two consistent aides. Document analysis and interviews with the program director and university administrator revealed that the program had a record of commitment to research-based professional development of its caregivers.
The program maintained a strong connection with the university for accessing inservice training, workshops, and advanced education; however, staff expressed caution about allowing adults from the university community into the room for study or professional development. In this beautiful and well-tended garden, a tremendous amount of time is spent not only designing the space but landscaping and keeping it an attractive and inviting place for all to enjoy.
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It is very peaceful in its beauty and organization. Everything is in its place; there are clear, self-guiding paths to follow; and there are few surprises. Everyone knows what to expect, and no one is rushed, as they proceed from one engaging experience to the next.
Schedules in this multiage infant-toddler room were dependably followed, with predictable, clear signals for transitions from one activity to another. Transitions were handled smoothly and expertly. The morning schedule was duplicated exactly in the afternoon. Two to three professionally educated, paid staff members were always present in the room, caring for eight infants at a time, assisted by several undergraduate students throughout the day.
The schedule appeared to be comfortable for many of the infants and accommodated the rotations of university students and their practicum and course requirements.
Guidance of preservice caregivers was a serious undertaking for all of the paid staff. Professional staff members were frequently observed to be purposefully modeling ways of talking to infants and other practices for the university students who were present daily and for the occasional volunteer. Oversight by an affiliated university faculty member, serving as administrator of campus programs, encouraged implementation of research-based practices.
Caregivers and the program director, in turn, supported faculty and graduate student research agendas as part of their professional roles. The flowers are beautiful, and it sure smells like a garden, but it looks very different from what is found, either in nature or by someone who has carefully cultivated the ground. The environment is hard, harsh, uncomfortable, not a place that recognizes the beauty of the flowers but measures every slight change with scientific detail, rather than heartfelt celebration.
The Experimental Greenhouse Room was included in this study because we found that it prioritized research in its mission, followed by professional development of teachers and researchers. Service to infants and families appeared to have lowest priority. No paid caregivers were employed in the Experimental Greenhouse Room.
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A total of eight undergraduate students, working in three shifts, took charge of the classroom of eight infants as part of their requirements for an early childhood education course at the university. From an observation booth connected to the room, three graduate students one per shift supervised the undergraduate caregivers three per shift. In total, the infants in this room had 12 different caregivers per day, none of whom were paid professionals and none of whom had teaching credentials.
The program director, however, had experience and a degree in the field. The program was not accredited. Several university faculty and graduate students were conducting studies in the program within the time frame of this research.
Experimental Greenhouse Room infants were held to a rigorous and detailed schedule that determined their caregiving routines eating, sleeping, diaper changing, etc. Toys and activity options were selected for the infants every 15 minutes, according to a scheduled rotation.
Bulletin boards outside of each room displayed recent research done in the program and its affiliated university department, along with announcements about upcoming research conferences and grant funding. On the classroom walls, charts with schedules and agendas were posted along with goals for each baby related to mastery of developmental skills. Table 1 provides information about the room size, group size, caregiver-to-infant ratio, and qualifications of the lead caregivers in each of the three infant rooms. Key informants represented the different system elements of our model: infants and their parents microsystem ; caregivers, aides, classroom assistants, and program directors mesosystem ; and exosystem members such as university administrators and departmental faculty Table 2.
Table 3 provides descriptions of infants and families in each room.
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The infants spent an average of All of the infants lived in two-parent households at the time of this study; one couple was in the process of separating. Six infants had attended other child care centers before joining the classroom under study Sixteen had parents who were American [U. Another infant had one Malaysian and one Ecuadorian parent.