Starting Early, Vol. 26, No. 2
“Quality in Early Education Classrooms: Definitions, Gaps, and Systems”
What’s the focus of your research?
My areas of expertise include student-teacher relationships and classroom processes that promote positive academic and social development for young children, and I have authored numerous peer-reviewed manuscripts on these topics. This work documents the ways in which early teacher-child relationships and teachers' social and instructional interactions with children support children's development and learning and may help close the achievement gap for students at risk of school failure.
If readers take one big idea from your Future of Children article, what should it be?
In order to address the challenges of inequity and low performance in our current school system, we have to attend to the daily interactions students have with their teachers. For too long we have focused policy on more distal aspects of "quality" such as ratios and group sizes, while teacher education programs have focused too heavily on theory without giving future teachers the knowledge and practice they need to succeed in the classroom. We now know a lot about the types of instructional and social interactions that can promote positive outcomes for our students, and we need to work to ensure that our educational system is better organized around these practices in ways that can help ensure that every student has access to effective teacher-student interactions—not just for one year, but consistently across the early childhood and elementary period.
What did you learn from writing a Future of Children article?
We actually have a lot more research and data on the nature of teacher-child interactions in preschool than we do in the elementary years. It’s really interesting to me how little kindergarten, first, and second grade have been a focus of major policy reforms—and how they are a bit of a black box in terms of really understanding what is happening daily for students. We summarize some of the data that is available, but it was surprising to me that we don't have a better descriptive picture of what K-3 looks like across the country in terms of teacher-student interactions and teaching practices.
Bridget Hamre is a research associate professor and associate director of the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education.