”The role of higher education is crucial to early childhood education
becoming a recognized professional field of practice.”
Stacie Goffin, Ed.D.
Goffin Strategy Group
by Senior Policy Advisor Steven Hicks
A recognized leader and author in early childhood education, Stacie Goffin serves as Principal of the Goffin Strategy Group and has led significant change initiatives spanning higher education, local, state, and national organizations; organizational development; and advocacy, resulting in change for systems, policy, and practice.
Steven: How did you begin your career in early learning?
Stacie: I began my career as an early childhood special educator. After practicing as a classroom teacher for a number of years and earning my doctorate, I became an early childhood teacher educator, teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels. I then went to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and had the privilege of being its first program officer for early care and education. From there I went to NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) and directed the Accreditation Reinvention Project, which involved both the redesign of the association’s early childhood program accreditation system and developing the criteria to accompany the program standards that came out of the first national commission. These experiences gave me the opportunity to expand my understanding of early childhood education in terms of how it was viewed in different contexts and how differing responsibilities offer new levers for advancing the field. When I left NAEYC, I wasn’t sure what next I wanted to do. I became a consultant, presumably only for a short time, so I could reengage with the field in a broader way. Now, 12 years later, I am principal of the Goffin Strategy Group, which is dedicated to strengthening early childhood education’s ability to provide effective programs and services for children and families through leadership, capacity, and systems development.
Steven: What do you see as the role of advocates and others in improving the quality of early learning?
Stacie: As advocates, we tend to spend most of our time helping others to understand the importance of children’s earliest learning years, convincing them of the importance of the work we do, and developing supportive public policies on behalf of that work. I think we need to attend more to what I call “internal advocacy.” Children and their families deserve access to competent practitioners regardless of the program setting, and I believe we need to advance ECE as a recognized professional field of practice. This transformation would allow us to define ECE as a field of practice and assume responsibility for ensuring its practitioners have the knowledge, skills, and disposition necessary for effective practice, and to ensure systems are in place for verifying that our practices well serve serve children and their families.
Steven: How do you see the role of high education?
Stacie: The role of higher education is crucial to early childhood education becoming a recognized professional field of practice. One of the ways professions ensure their practitioners have the knowledge and skills necessary for effective practice is by focusing on the preparation that takes place in institutions of higher education. We need to attend in a deeper way to the role higher education plays in advancing early childhood education as a recognized profession. The issue is not only about what the field’s prospective professionals are learning in terms of their knowledge and skills; it’s also about the knowledge and skills of those preparing future early educators so, as a field of practice, we can be more confident that we are delivering on ECE’s promise.
Steven: Is there anything else you want to add?
Stacie: This is a defining moment for early childhood education. We increasingly are being made aware of the gap existing between our promises as a field of practice and our ability to fulfill those promises. In the absence of our assuming responsibility as a field of practice regarding this issue, individuals outside of ECE are defining our work. The time has come for us to develop consensus around the future we want for early childhood education and to begin working on bringing that aspiration to fruition.