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Simple, Everyday Interactions as the Active Ingredient of Early Childhood Education

by Junlei Li and Dana Winters
January/February 2019
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Article Link: https://www.childcareexchange.com/article/simple-everyday-interactions-as-the-active-ingredient-of-early-childhood-education/5024560/

In a research review article in 2012, Developmental Relationships as the Active Ingredient: A Unifying Working Hypothesis of “What Works” Across Intervention Settings, my colleague Megan Julian and I outlined the idea that responsive and supportive relationships between adults and children are the active ingredients of children’s development across intervention contexts.

We reviewed foundational theories in developmental science and research, as well as intervention studies across multiple settings, including institutionalized care (i.e., orphanages), elementary school classrooms, youth mentoring programs, and home visiting programs for young parents. When interventions specifically improved adult-child interactions in orphanages, the positive impacts were significant for children even in the absence of abundant material resources. Compared with other indicators of quality (e.g., class size, curricula, teacher credential), high-quality classroom interactions were the most predictive of students’ learning. Adult-youth mentoring relationships lasted longer and produced greater impact if the mentor focused more on understanding and supporting the youth rather than prescribing changes to the youth. Lastly, the more home visitors invested in their relationships with parents, the more likely they were to enhance the parent-child relationships. Overall, we found that both theories and studies converged on the idea that interventions across these settings were positively impactful if ...

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