Appendix B: Glossary
You are here
ability—The means or skills to do something. In this position statement, we use the term “ability” more broadly than the traditional focus on cognition or psychometric properties to apply across all domains of development. We focus and build on each child’s abilities, strengths, and interests, acknowledging disabilities and developmental delays while avoiding ableism (see also disability below).
adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)—“Potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood. Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding.”79
agency—A person’s ability to make choices and influence events. In this position statement, we emphasize each child’s agency, especially a child’s ability to make choices and influence events in the context of learning activities, also referred to as autonomy or child-directed learning.80, 81
assessment—A systematic procedure for obtaining information from observations, interviews, portfolios, projects, and other sources, which is used to make informed judgments about learners’ characteristics, understanding, and development to implement improved curriculum and teaching practices.82
- authentic assessment. Age-appropriate approaches and culturally relevant assessment in a language the child understands—for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and children in early grades, across developmental domains and curriculum areas.
- formal and informal assessment. Formal assessment is cumulative and is used to measure what a student has learned. It includes standardized testing, screenings, and diagnostic evaluation. Informal assessment is ongoing and includes children’s work samples and quizzes and teachers’ anecdotal notes/records, observations, audio and video recordings.
- formative assessment and summative assessment. Used to inform and modify real-time instruction to improve student outcomes, formative assessment refers to the teacher practice of monitoring student learning. Summative assessment takes place at the end of the instructional period to measure student learning or concept retention.
bias—Attitude or stereotypes that favor one group over another:
- explicit biases. Conscious beliefs and stereotypes that affect one’s understanding, actions, and decisions.
- implicit biases. Beliefs that affect one’s understanding, actions, and decisions but in an unconscious manner. Implicit biases reflect an individual’s socialization and experiences within broader systemic structures that work to perpetuate existing systems of privilege and oppression.
- anti-bias. An approach to education that explicitly works to end all forms of bias and discrimination.83
candidate—Refers to a student who is a candidate for completion in an early childhood educator professional preparation program. In some cases, these candidates are also candidates for professional licensure or certification.
child observation—Observation of a child to gather information on the child’s development, behavior, levels of learning, interests, and preferences.
commonality—The current research and understandings of processes of child development and learning that apply to all children, including the understanding that all development and learning occur within specific social, cultural, linguistic, and historical contexts.
competencies—The knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to support high-quality practice across all early childhood education sectors, settings, and roles.84
content knowledge—The knowledge of subject areas in the early childhood curriculum to be taught and the ability to implement effective instructional strategies.
context—The conditions in which something exists or occurs. This position statement recognizes the interconnectedness of many contexts (e.g. societal, cultural, historical, family, learning environments) and their influences on young children.
continuity of care—A term used to describe programming and policies that ensure that a child and his or her family are consistently engaged in high-quality early learning experiences through a stable relationship with a caregiver who is sensitive and responsive to the young child’s signals and needs.85
culture—Patterns of beliefs, practices, and traditions associated with a particular group of people. Culture is increasingly understood as inseparable from development.86 Individuals both learn from and contribute to the culture of the groups to which they belong. Cultures evolve over time, reflecting the lived experiences of their members in particular times and places.
culturally relevant—Culturally relevant curriculum and practice emphasize content and interactions that are meaningful to the social and cultural norms, traditions, values, and experiences of the learners.
culturally responsive—“A culturally responsive teaching approach values all children’s cultures and experiences and uses them as a springboard for learning. A culturally responsive early childhood teacher learns about others’ values, traditions, and ways of thinking.”87
curriculum—The knowledge, skills, abilities, and understanding children are to acquire and the plans for the learning experiences through which their acquisition occurs. In developmentally appropriate practice, the curriculum helps young children achieve goals that are developmentally and educationally significant.
developmentally appropriate practice (DAP)—Refers to a framework of principles and guidelines for practice that promotes young children’s optimal learning and development. DAP is a way of framing a teacher’s intentional decision making. It begins with three Core Considerations: (1) what is known about general processes of child development and learning; (2) what is known about the child as an individual who is a member of a particular family and community; and (3) what is known about the social and cultural contexts in which the learning occurs.
disability or developmental delay—Legally defined for young children under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), disabilities include intellectual disability; hearing, speech or language, visual, and/or orthopedic impairment; autism; and traumatic brain injury. Under IDEA, states define developmental delays to include delays in physical, cognitive, communication, social or emotional, or adaptive development. These legal definitions are important for determining access to early intervention and early childhood special education services. The consequences of the definition can vary based on the degree to which they are seen as variations in children’s assets or the degree to which they are seen as deficits. (See also ability.) 88
dispositions—Individual attitudes, beliefs, values, habits, and tendencies toward particular actions. Professional dispositions are considered important for effective work in a specific profession and are expected of all members of that profession. Critical dispositions for educators have been defined in the CCSSO’s Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC) Standards (CCSSO, 2013) and in the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). NBPTS dispositions for early childhood educators include collaboration, respect, integrity, honesty, fairness, and compassion; educators with these characteristics promote equity, fairness, and appreciation of diversity in their classrooms (NBPTS 2012).89
diversity—Variations among individuals, as well as within and across groups of individuals, in terms of their backgrounds and lived experiences. These experiences are related to social identities, including race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, social and economic status, religion, ability status, and country of origin. The terms diverse and diversity are sometimes used as euphemisms for non-white. NAEYC specifically rejects this usage which implies Whiteness is the norm against which diversity is defined.
early childhood—The first period in child development, beginning at birth. Although developmental periods do not rigidly correspond to chronological age, early childhood is generally defined as including all children from birth through age 8.90
early childhood education (ECE)—A term defined using the developmental definition of birth through approximately age 8, regardless of programmatic, regulatory, funding, or delivery sectors or mechanisms.
early childhood educator—An individual who cares for and promotes the learning, development, and well-being of children birth through age 8 in all early childhood education settings, while meeting the qualifications of the profession and having mastery of its specialized knowledge, skills, and competencies.
early childhood education profession—Members of the profession care for and promote the learning, development, and well-being of children birth through age 8 to establish a foundation for lifelong learning and success. Early childhood educator professional preparation programs prepare educators to be accountable for the following responsibilities:91
- Planning and implementing intentional, developmentally appropriate learning experiences that promote the social and emotional development, physical development, health, cognitive development, and general learning competencies of each child
- Establishing and maintaining a safe, caring, inclusive, and healthy learning environment
- Observing, documenting and assessing children’s learning and development using guidelines established by the profession
- Developing reciprocal, culturally responsive relationships with children’s families and communities
- Developing strong positive relationships with the young children they serve
- Advocating for the needs of children and their families
- Advancing and advocating for an equitable, diverse, and effective early childhood education profession
- Engaging in reflective practice and continuous learning
early learning settings—These include programs serving children from birth through age 8. Setting refers to the locations in which early childhood education takes place—child care centers, child care homes, elementary schools, religious-based centers and many others.
equity—The state that would be achieved if individuals fared the same way in society regardless of race, gender, class, language, disability, or any other social or cultural characteristic. In practice, equity means all children and families receive necessary supports in a timely fashion so they can develop their full intellectual, social, and physical potential.
Equity is not the same as equality. Equal treatment given to individuals at unequal starting points is inequitable. Instead of equal treatment, NAEYC aims for equal opportunity. This requires considering individuals’ and groups’ starting points, then distributing resources equitably (not equally) to meet needs. Attempting to achieve equality of opportunity without considering historic and present inequities is ineffective, unjust, and unfair.92
funds of knowledge—Essential cultural practices and bodies of knowledge embedded in the daily practices and routines of families.93
inclusion—Embodied by the values, policies, and practices that support the right of every infant and young child and their family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society. The desired results of inclusive experiences for children with and without disabilities and their families include a sense of belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships, and development and learning to help them reach their full potential. Although the traditional focus of inclusion has been on addressing the exclusion of children with disabilities, full inclusion seeks to promote justice by ensuring equitable participation of all historically marginalized children.94
individuality—The characteristics and experiences unique to each child, within the context of their family and community, that have implications for how best to support their development and learning.
interactive media—Digital and analog materials, including software programs, applications (apps), broadcast and streaming media, some children’s television programming, e-books, the internet, and other forms of content designed to facilitate active and creative use by young children and to encourage social engagement with other children and adults.95
microaggressions—Everyday verbal, nonverbal, or environmental messages that implicitly contain a negative stereotype or are in some way dehumanizing or othering. These hidden messages serve to invalidate the recipients’ group identity, to question their experience, to threaten them, or to demean them on a personal or group level. Microaggressions may result from implicit or explicit biases. People who commit microaggressions may view their remarks as casual observations or even compliments and may not recognize the harm they can cause.96
norm, normative—The definition of certain actions, identities, and outcomes as the standard (“the norm” or “normal”), with everything else as outside the norm. For example, the terms White normativity or heteronormative refer to instances in which Whiteness and heterosexuality are considered normal or preferred. Such norms wrongly suggest that all other races, ethnicities and sexual orientations are outside the norm or are less preferable. Art activities focused on filling out a family tree, with designated spaces for “mommy,” “daddy,” “grandma,” and “grandpa,” for example, may assume a two-parent, heterosexual household as the normative family structure. (While some research-based norms provide guidance regarding healthy child development and appropriate educational activities and expectations, these norms have too often been derived through research that has only or primarily included nonrepresentative samples of children or has been conducted primarily by nonrepresentative researchers. Additional research, by a more representative selection of researchers and theorists, is needed to develop new norms that will support equitably educating all children.)
pedagogical content knowledge—Knowledge of academic disciplines and the ability to create meaningful learning experiences for each child by using effective teaching strategies.
play—A universal, innate, and essential human activity that children engage in for pleasure, enjoyment, and recreation. Play, solitary or social, begins during infancy and develops in increasing complexity through childhood. Play integrates and supports children’s development and learning across cognitive, physical, social, and emotional domains, and across curriculum content areas. Play can lead to inquiry and discovery and facilitate future learning. While there are multiple and evolving theories about the types and stages of play, as well as about the teacher’s role in play, the professions of developmental psychology and of early childhood education have long recognized play as essential for young children’s development of symbolic and representational thinking, construction and organization of mental concepts, social expression and communication, imagination, and problem-solving.
position statement—Adopted by the Governing Board to state the NAEYC’s positions on issues related to early childhood education practice, policy, and/or professional development for which there are controversial or critical opinions. Position statements are developed through a consensus-building approach that seeks to convene diverse perspectives and areas of expertise related to the issue and provide opportunities for members and others to provide input and feedback. (NAEYC, About Position Statements, NAEYC.org/resources/position-statements/about-position-statements).
professional development—A continuum of learning and support opportunities designed to prepare individuals with the knowledge, skills, practices, and dispositions needed in a specific profession. Professional development for early childhood educators includes both professional preparation and ongoing professional development; training, education, and technical assistance; university/college credit-bearing coursework, preservice and in-service training sessions; observation with feedback from a colleague and peer learning communities; and mentoring, coaching, and other forms of job-related technical assistance.
professional judgement—The application of professional knowledge, professional experience, and ethical standards in context with understanding, analysis, and reflection. Early childhood educators exercise professional judgement to make intentional, informed decisions about appropriate practice in specific circumstances.
professional preparation program—A program that culminates in a degree, certificate, or credential that provides candidates with the appropriate level of mastery of the agreed-upon standards and competencies. Early childhood educator professional preparation programs are responsible for preparing educators serving children birth through age 8 across settings.
race—A social construct that categorizes and ranks groups of people on the basis of skin color and other physical features. The scientific consensus is that using the social construct of race to divide people into distinct and different groups has no biological basis.97
reciprocal relationships—In reciprocal relationships between practitioners and families, there is a mutual respect, cooperation, shared responsibilities, and negotiation of conflicts to achieve shared goals for children.
standards—The national standards formally adopted by a profession to define the essentials of high-quality practice for all members of the profession. They may be applied in the development of national accreditation, state program approval, individual licensing, and other aspects of professional development systems. They provide the unifying framework for core as well as specialized or advanced knowledge and competencies.
structural inequities—The systemic disadvantage of one or more social groups compared to systemic advantage for other groups with which they coexist. The term encompasses policy, law, governance, and culture and refers to race, ethnicity, gender or gender identity, class, sexual orientation, and other domains.98
technology—Broadly defined as anything human-made that is used to solve a problem or fulfill a desire. Technology can be an object, a system, or a process that results in the modification of the natural world to meet human needs and wants. Additionally, technology includes digital tools like computers, tablets, apps, e-readers, smartphones, TVs, DVDs and music players, handheld games, cameras, digital microscopes, interactive whiteboards, electronic toys, non-screen-based tangible technology, and simple robots. Familiar analog tools found in early childhood classrooms include audio recorders, VHS and cassette players, record players, headphones, crayons and pencils, scissors, rulers, blocks, and magnifying glasses. Social media, email, video conferencing, cloud collaboration tools, e-portfolios, blogs, pod casts, and other methods of communication are used by young children.99
tiered intervention approaches—“also called response-to-intervention models, have been used to stimulate the learning of children in the areas of reading, mathematics, and socioemotional development. These approaches make use of ongoing formative assessment to determine which children have mastered specific skills or knowledge and which might benefit from additional, more intensive instruction and learning opportunities.”100
Universal Design—A concept that can be used to support access to environments in many different types of settings through the removal of physical and structural barriers. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) reflects practices that provide multiple and varied formats for instruction and learning. UDL principles and practices help to ensure that every young child has access to learning environments, to typical home or educational routines and activities, and to the general education curriculum.
young children—Refers to children in the period of early childhood development, from birth through approximately age 8. Although developmental periods do not rigidly correspond to chronological age, early childhood is generally defined as including all children from birth through age 8.