Competencies of Infant and Toddler Teachers and Caregivers: A Review of the Literature

December 4, 2019
Topics:
Child Care, Early Head Start, Head Start
Projects:
Infant and Toddler Teacher and Caregiver Competencies, 2017 - 2021 | Learn more about this project
Types:
Reports
Cover of Competencies of Infant and Toddler Teachers and Caregivers: A Review of the Literature
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  • Pages 68
  • Published 2019

Introduction

The first three years of a child’s life are a distinct developmental period, characterized by rapid brain development, reliance on relationships with adults, and extreme responsiveness to environmental variation. Yet little information is available about the specific knowledge, skills, and other attributes (that is, competencies) that are essential to the practice of teaching and caring for infants and toddlers (I/T) and are needed to support optimal development. Identifying the competencies essential to I/T teaching and caregiving may offer a common language and lens for assessing job performance and provide a clear structure for professional growth and development.

This review examines what is known about the links between I/T teacher or caregiver competencies and outcomes in several areas (child, family, teacher/caregiver, classroom, and/or program). In particular, the review examines two categories of studies that sought to link I/T teacher/caregiver competencies to outcomes:

  • Studies that examined interventions targeting I/T teacher/caregiver competencies; and
  • Studies that examined associations between existing I/T teacher/caregiver competencies and outcomes

Research Questions

  1. 1 What competencies of I/T teachers and caregivers have been examined in the literature?
  2. 2 What does evidence say about associations between I/T teacher and caregiver competencies and child, family, teacher/caregiver, classroom, and/or program outcomes?
  3. 3 Where are the gaps in the knowledge base pertaining to connections between I/T teacher/caregiver competencies and outcomes?

Purpose

This literature review focuses specifically on studies examining associations between the knowledge, skills and attributes (that is, competencies) of I/T teachers and caregivers in group settings (centers and family child care homes) and child, family, teacher/caregiver, classroom, and/or program outcomes. This review aims to examine the current state of evidence as well as identify gaps in the literature.

Key Findings and Highlights

Our review suggests that the knowledge base pertaining specifically to links between I/T teacher or caregiver competencies and outcomes is currently limited in scope. Although many studies focus on describing competencies, our literature search yielded only 30 studies conducted in the United States in or after 2008 that examined associations between I/T teacher or caregiver competencies and outcomes.

Studies that examined interventions suggest that competencies of I/T teachers and caregivers may be malleable. In particular, some interventions that targeted professional development activities were linked to increased teacher/caregiver knowledge and/or skills.

Much of the existing literature simultaneously examines the contributions of multiple competencies within a particular domain (e.g., a combination of knowledge, skills, or other attributes that support children’s socioemotional development) to outcomes. There is currently not enough information to link specific I/T teacher and caregiver competencies to outcomes.

The available research specific to I/T teachers and caregivers in group settings does not yet fully support the content included in existing competency frameworks targeted to this population. Other research not reviewed, such as research on the competencies of parents or the competencies of teachers/caregivers of preschool aged children may provide additional support for the wide array of competencies included in existing I/T teacher and caregiver competency frameworks.

Methods

We identified potential studies for review by conducting a database search and drawing on recent research reviews and recommendations from experts. We screened studies to ensure that they were conducted in the United States in or after 2008 and that each one examined associations between competencies of I/T teachers and caregivers in group settings and child, family, teacher/caregiver, classroom, and/or program outcomes. We summarized information about each study including the characteristics of the study sample, I/T teacher and caregiver competencies assessed, and specific outcomes examined.

Citation

Caronongan, P., E. Moiduddin, S. Atkins-Burnett, K. Niland, and M. Kharsa. (2019). Competencies of Infant and Toddler Teachers and Caregivers: A Review of the Literature. OPRE Report 2019-94. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Glossary

Competency
A piece of knowledge (K), a skill (S), or an attribute (A) essential to the practice of teaching and caring for infants and toddlers. • Knowledge is information that may be applied to practice. • Skills are strategies or abilities that may be applied to practice. • Attributes are attitudes, beliefs, or other characteristics that may influence the application of knowledge and skills to practice.
Competency framework
A compilation of competencies intended to convey the range of knowledge, skills, and attributes essential to a particular area of practice, job, or profession.
Competency domain
Competency frameworks often group competencies (that is, KSAs) by domain. That is, individual KSAs focused on a similar topic may be clustered within a framework by competency domain. Examples of a competency domains include “support for language and literacy,” “support for social-emotional development,”, “health and safety,” “working with families,” or “arts and creativity.”
Last Reviewed: December 4, 2019