Contextual Factors That Affect Planning

Contextual Factors That Affect Planning

Regardless of where you teach, your circumstances (or context) will impact your planning. Among the most important factors that affect planning are the curriculum, the children, their families, your teaching colleagues, and the physical settingthe building and learning spaces.

The Planning Context

Whether you are given a curriculum to implement or expected to select or design curriculum yourself, planning should be a responsive process. You will need to balance planned activities with what you observe about the needs, interests, and characteristics of children. (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009; Gestwicki, 2011).

To varying degrees, the type of early childhood setting in which you work will influence how planning occurs. Home-care providers are typically independent and care for the widest age range of children in the same setting. They have to plan and implement care and activities for infants and toddlers as well as preschoolers and school-age children. Early childhood educators in child-care centers or preschools may have considerable flexibility or be expected to implement a particular curriculum. In primary classrooms, especially in the public schools, planning will likely be closely correlated with prescribed curriculum, state learning standards, and designated assessment procedures.

Context can also influence the planning tools you use and your accountability for them. Some teachers may be given or expected to use a planning book or specific forms on which to write their plans. You might be required to turn in plans weekly, monthly, or on some other schedule for review by a supervisor. Most state child-care licensing regulations also require that current/ongoing activity plans be prominently displayed and shared with parents. For example, the Pennsylvania Regulationreads as follows:

3270.111 Daily activities.

(a) A written plan of daily activities and routines, including a time for free play shall be established for each group. The plan shall be flexible to accommodate the needs of individual children and the dynamics of the group.

(b) The written plan shall be posted in the group space.

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Critical Thinking Question

  1. What would you do if you were paired with a teacher whose views about learning and curriculum differ significantly from yours?

Even if you are wholly in charge of your class or group of children, you may have a coteacher or assistant, or you may be part of a bigger teaching team, which means that other individuals will influence or perhaps have some control over your planning. Teachers in a center or school, for example, often plan collaboratively, as a group, by grade or age level. Further, the extent to which your ideas are incorporated into plans may be influenced by the group dynamics or competing points of view. For example, if you plan with a team of two lead teachers and two assistants, one of those individuals may tend to dominate conversation or another may be reluctant to consider trying new strategies. These are issues that would have to be worked out as you developed a collaborative approach to sharing ideas.

Finally, the physical setting within which learning takes place will impact your planning. You will have to consider what space you have, how the classroom will be arranged, what space you must share with other classes, and so on. Your planning for both the physical environment and activities will certainly have to consider how to reflect the diversity and cultural characteristics, experiences, and interests of the children and families in your group.

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