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Choosing CDA Training... It's Giving Me a Headache!

Posted by on in Professional Development
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headache2One of the first steps in the CDA process is acquiring 120 clock hours of training. Choosing where to get this training can be confusing, overwhelming, a shot in the dark,or all three. This is especially true if the candidate begins to search for online CDA training.There are literally hundreds of training agencies vying for your business, with more popping up every day. Most have catchy ad campaigns and promise quick and easy completion of CDA training hours from the comfort of home. After a while, they all start looking pretty much the same to the casual browser. So then, price becomes the next logical criterion.

Some of these online programs charge a base fee good for a year of unlimited training at your own pace. Others charge by the course or number of CEU's completed. Still others have more complicated payment plans, based on group sign-ups or specific courses chosen. The headache is starting.

Add the lists of customer testimonials and suggestions from friends to the frenzy and it's no wonder the final choice is just a matter of a few clicks. Money is paid, a username is generated, and it's a done deal. Surely the training will be just what is needed... or will it?

Before even beginning to investigate CDA training, some important homework needs to be done. Consider these:

1. Look in the CDA Competency Standards booklet for the listing of required subject areas that  must be covered by the training hours. This is where it all has to start. Otherwise, when choosing a course track, you'll be comparing apples to oranges- or not comparing at all and end up taking (and paying for) courses that aren't even needed.Or, you may come up short at the end, not having all of what's needed.

2. Make sure the course vendor you've chosen is approved by the Council. For example, some courses are sold by independent trainers. These will not be recognized or approved. Similarly, training acquired by attending workshops is not accepted. Don't guess. Make a call to the Council and ask before you give anyone a credit card number.

3. Think about this... Are online classes really for you? Are you a self-starter? Can you set deadlines for yourself and then meet them? Have you had good luck in the past working on your own without collaborating with other students? Some online training doesn't even have a live instructor. You read the material, take a quiz, and repeat until the program is completed.

4. What about actually learning something? Will this be possible with the training you choose? One of the most important outcomes of taking courses toward a CDA is new or expanded knowledge that translates to improved practice in the early childhood program. If this doesn't happen, the training certificate earned is not worth the paper it's printed on. Good, quality child care training should build on the skills the care provider already has, should challenge, stimulate higher level thinking, and provide opportunities to learn new developmentally appropriate ideas and improvements that can be put into practice.

5. Do these training hours go anywhere beyond a CDA? In other words, is this vendor offering dead-end training that has no further value? State child care licensing continues to raise the entry-level educational requirements for early care and education providers. What may be a CDA today may be a BA or BS in a few years. We are seeing this happen in Head Start programs, with others soon to follow. Why spend money on courses that can't transfer to a degree program? 120 clock hours can equate to 9 or more college credit hours... a nice entry into a degree. CDA should never be seen as the end of the road, but rather as the first step in an early childhood professional's life-long learning. The best choice of all may very well be to fore go the Internet "by-guess-by-golly" and take college credit courses from the local community college. You can still take them online, if you like, but you're more likely to receive quality content, valuable interaction and networking with others, a real live instructor, and hours that count for something.

These are just 5 points to consider. I'm sure some of you reading this have other words of wisdom to share! Please join the conversation with more ideas and personal experiences.

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Debra Pierce is professor of Early Childhood Education at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. Ivy Tech is the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college systems, serving nearly 200,000 students annually.

Her professional background has always involved children, over the past 40 years, having been a primary grades teacher in the Chicago Public School system, a teacher of 3 and 4 year-olds in a NAEYC accredited preschool for 15 years, and a certified Parent Educator for the National Parents as Teachers Program.

Debra is a certified Professional Development Specialist for the Council for Professional Recognition. She has taught CDA courses to high school career/tech dual credit juniors and seniors in preparation for earning their CDA credentials. She also conducts CDA train-the-trainer events across the country and develops and teaches online CDA courses for several states, is a frequent presenter at national and state early childhood conferences, and is a Master Trainer for the states of Minnesota and Arizona. She was also awarded the NISOD Teaching Excellence Award by the University of Texas.

Debra is active in her community, supporting children's literacy and is on the board of directors of First Book in Indianapolis. Debra is a contributing author for Hamilton County Family Magazine and Indy's Child in Indianapolis.
She loves spending time with her two grandsons, Indy, who is 6 and Radley, almost 3.

Debra has spent the last 16 years dedicated to the success of those pursuing the CDA credential and is the author of The CDA Prep Guide: The Complete Review Manual for the Child Development Associate Credential, now in its third edition (Redleaf Press), the only publication of its kind. She hosts a website providing help and support to CDA candidates and those who train them at http://www.easycda.com
The comments and views expressed are not in collaboration or affiliation with The Council for Professional Recognition or Ivy Tech Community College.
Follow me on Twitter at /easycda

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