Haring Center

January 22, 2020

Collaborative Doctoral Consortium Seeks to Develop Future Leaders in Early Childhood Education

“Early childhood education is the foundation for future success,” says Haring Center researcher and Associate Professor Angel Fettig. “Early childhood is a critical time, and we need quality people in higher education institutions to advance this field and prepare future educators.”

With a new collaborative grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the Haring Center has a new opportunity to shape the future of the early childhood education field.

The University of Washington will join nine other elite institutions of higher education to form the Early Childhood Doctoral Leadership Consortium (ECLC), which will prepare 28 doctoral students to become leaders in early intervention, early childhood special education and related fields.

“Through the support of this grant, a select number of incoming UW graduate students in special education will receive a fellowship for four years of full-time graduate study beginning in Autumn 2020,” says Kathleen Artman Meeker, the Haring Center’s director of research and associate professor for the College of Education. She joins Fettig and Assistant Professor Maggie Beneke on the consortium’s core faculty recognized as outstanding leaders in the field of early childhood special education.

The consortium’s goal is “to develop leaders who will serve as faculty in early childhood intervention with knowledge and skills about infants and young children with high, intensive, interdisciplinary and individualized learning needs.” The U.S. Department of Education reports on the increasing number of children eligible for early childhood intervention services nationwide, and references both personnel shortages and the need for improved quality and effectiveness of the early childhood intervention workforce, resulting in the need for leadership training programs such as ECLC.

According to Fettig, the early childhood field has a documented shortage of doctoral students pursuing higher education. “It is truly valuable to further develop this field to ensure we highlight the importance of early childhood education,” says Fettig.

“We’re not just talking about children when we’re talking about early childhood,” adds Artman Meeker. “We’re talking about children, families, communities and all of the different places where young children and their families are.”

Students will fulfill all doctoral program requirements from their respective universities, in addition to participating in monthly webinars, summer intensive seminars, advanced methodological training and opportunities to build advocacy, public policy and teaching skills. Through these activities, students will be able to collaborate with faculty and students across the ECLC to develop research projects, learn research approaches and build professional networks.

Faculty will also take part in ECLC’s collaborative component. Fettig says, “Faculty have differing opinions regarding how to best train doctoral students, and this is really a strength of this consortium.” Artman Meeker noted the collaborations that will arise among faculty for future research projects.

In addition to the expanded learning opportunities from other elite universities and expert faculty, Artman Meeker noted the chance to share the Haring Center’s leadership and success: “Twenty-eight doctoral students can learn from the Haring Center about advocacy, policy and adult learning. We can show this model of research and practice partnerships with professional development that touch many different points in the system.”

“There is a lot of overlapping momentum to bring faculty and students across the ten universities together, and any time that happens, really good things come from it,” says Artman Meeker.

The ECLC is by nature interdisciplinary, inviting students with experience as early interventionists, preschool teachers, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists and more. Artman Meeker identified this as an opportunity for peer learning and networking to expand the status quo.

“This project recognizes different ways of knowing and different experiences with children,” she says. “These are the people who will advance what comes next in the early childhood arena, and it cannot be people all from the same background. This consortium allows us to create a network of different people that can push on the way we do things and expand the field.”

“At the end of the consortium, we want students to feel prepared with their strong training in teaching, their strong training in research and their understanding of our field’s needs,” says Fettig. She explains that the impact will continue as the doctoral students enter higher education, and onto future teachers and teacher educators trained by this consortium’s students. These doctoral students will also be the researchers advancing rigorous, high-quality science and evidence-based practices in early childhood education, says Fettig.

Artman Meeker noted the complexities of the early childhood education field—and how these complexities indicate significant potential. “This consortium gives us the opportunity to recruit the leaders of tomorrow who will advance the Haring Center’s vision of a world where all children learn, play and grow together,” she says. “It recognizes what we already do well and provides opportunities to expand on it.”