Curriculum and Instruction


Early Childhood Education  - Undergraduate Program

Illinois Certification

Candidates completing the program are certified to work and teach in programs and classrooms for children from birth through second grade.

Candidates completing all required coursework earn the Early Childhood Special Education Approval, which allows them to teach in early childhood special education non-categorical settings for children up to the age of 6.

Entitled Gateways Program

We are an entitled Gateways program.  Anyone graduating from our undergraduate degree program has a Level 5 Gateways to Opportunity ECE credential.

Career Opportunities

In addition to teaching in state-funded pre-kindergarten, early special education, and kindergarten through grade three classrooms, candidates are employed in early intervention programs, childcare centers, Head Start programs, and private preschools.

As the emphasis on preschool education increases throughout the country, there is a growing demand for certified early childhood teachers.

Strengths of the Early Childhood Education Program

Coursework and classroom experiences are offered to prepare future teachers to

  • utilize their understanding of children’s characteristics and needs to create developmentally appropriate learning experiences
  • use a variety of assessment tools to document children’s learning
  • employ practices that accommodate the needs of diverse groups of children
  • work with parents and the community to foster children’s learning
  • use technology to facilitate children’s engagement in learning
  • create supporting learning environments
  • reflect on their practice and engage in continuing professional renewal


Candidates complete coursework that prepares them to teach in pre-primary settings as well as K-2 classrooms. During the first semester of the junior year, candidates focus on working with pre-primary children. Later in the junior year, candidates complete methods courses that prepare them to teach literacy, social studies, science, and mathematics in the primary classroom. Candidates acquire an indepth understanding of teaching literacy as they complete a young children’s literature course, a course in literacy development for toddlers and preschool children, a methods course for teaching literacy in the primary grades, and a course that prepares them to assess and provide appropriate instruction for young struggling readers.

Future teachers learn how to integrate technology into their classroom instruction and to use assistive technology to meet the unique needs of children with specific challenges. Required coursework prepares them to work with students who have diverse learning needs and to work with parents, families, and the community to enhance student learning.

Completing required coursework in the Early Childhood program allows candidates to earn the Early Childhood Special Education approval, enabling them to work children 0-6 with special needs.

Field Experiences

Early childhood majors apply these skills as they tutor and aid in classrooms and other settings in the junior year. During the first semester of the senior year, they teach a variety of lessons in pre-primary and primary classrooms during a thirteen week (half days) field experience. Candidates complete a 16-week student teaching experience in two different early childhood settings.

Student Teaching

Early Childhood Education candidates complete a sixteen-week student teaching experience in a pre-primary and primary classroom. Student teaching can be completed in the following regions:

  • REGION A Chicago Suburbs (North, West and South)
  • REGION B Chicago Public Schools (City of Chicago)
  • REGION C Quad Cities (including Bettendorf/Davenport IA)
  • REGION D Western/Central Illinois (Quincy, Peoria, Macomb)

Program Requirements

  1. Coursework: Majors complete a minimum of 120 semester hours:
  2. Required Assessments
  3. Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirements
    • Pre-early childhood education: cumulative GPA of 2.5 is needed to enroll in ECH 271, ECH 273, ECH 276 and ECH 277
    • Early childhood education: a cumulative and major 2.75 GPA is needed for admittance and continuation in the Teacher Education Program.
  4. Criminal Background Check
    • Upon application to the Teacher Education Program or prior to the first field work experience, whichever comes first.
    • The semester prior to student teaching
    • Candidates must complete an Illinois State Police and FBI background fingerprint investigation at two points: Additional information is available at
  5. Assessment of Professional Dispositions

    Disposition 1 Collaboration: Collaboration is valued in education. Effective collaboration means working with other members of a group (students, parents, or peers) exchanging ideas, sharing experiences and learning processes, and building communities. Group members work together toward common goals. Collaboration is valued inside and outside the classroom as a way to create strong communities.

    Disposition 2 Commitment to Learning: Active learning and professional development create exemplary educators. Valuing research, learning in all areas of instruction, problem solving, self-reflection and personal growth creates exemplary students and educators. Through participating in professional development, learning of best practices, and actively engaging in new ideas and knowledge building, individuals show a commitment to learning in and beyond the classroom.

    Disposition 3 Valuing Diversity and Equity: Valuing the diversity and uniqueness of all groups and using responsive non-discriminatory practices are essential in education. Individuals implement a variety of practices and strategies that meet the needs of all learners in and outside the classroom. They develop knowledge about ways in which groups and individuals are culturally, historically, economically, and socially shaped. They provide examples of the belief that all students can learn. They show respect in both words and actions for diverse groups, including students, peers, instructors, or advisors.

    Disposition 4 Responsibility and Respect: Responsibility and respect are vital for learners and educators. Responsible individuals are prepared, act independently, demonstrate accountability, reliability, and sound judgment. Respectful individuals are empathetic, respect others’ views, and demonstrates integrity.  They prioritize health and safety to minimize absences and illness. They accurately report information and take initiative in learning, professional, and personal environments (i.e. online presence). They are engaged, on-task, and responsible in all educational and professional environments. They make ethical decisions, are reflective in all learning experiences and situations, and are responsible for their behaviors and choices. They demonstrate respect for others, including peers, students, instructors, parents, and supervisors.