Early childhood professionals' beliefs and practices regarding the rights of young children to express views and to be heard




Daniels-Simmonds, Laura

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An online survey of early childhood professionals who were employed by a national child care company examined beliefs and practices regarding the rights and abilities of young children to express views and be heard. Participants represented seven US regions, and comprised a sample of 107 preschool professionals working directly with children ages 3-5.

The Early Childhood Professional Authority Questionnaire (ECPAQ) was adapted from the Parental Authority Questionnaire (Buri, 1991). Thirty items addressed authority style (Permissive, Authoritarian, and Authoritative) in the classroom. The Early Childhood Professional Beliefs regarding Children's Rights (ECPBCR) was designed by the researcher. Twenty-four items produced a Beliefs score that explored Beliefs on Children's Rights and on Ways of Listening. Additional items addressed Practices on Ways of Listening and Accessibility of Listening Tools. A vignette solicited open-ended responses of ways of including children in the design of a preschool.

Professionals with the least years of experience (0-5) were more likely to use an authoritarian approach to authority than those who had 16 or more years of experience. Participants strongly endorsed beliefs on children's rights. Dramatic free play and drawings were most frequently practiced ways of listening. Disposable cameras, audio recorders, and both pretend and real video recorders were reported least accessible and least practiced ways of listening. Digital cameras were very accessible and used frequently by teachers only, not children.

The majority of participants reported that they would involve children in the planning of a new preschool. Children would be provided active or passive roles. The most frequent way of involving children was to have them "talk about" or "tell" their ideas.

Only 4% of the respondents were aware of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (United Nations, 1989). The United States is one of two member nations out of 193 who have not signed and ratified this document. The UNCRC protects the rights of all children to express views and to be heard. It provides a principled framework for considering new ways of listening to young children. The findings of this study have implications for early childhood policy-making, professional development, and classroom practices.



Education, Children's rights, Early childhood professionals, Freedom of expression, Rights