When asked, my CDA students who have earned their credentials will say the most valuable preparatory exercise they did was a Self-Study. Is this really necessary? True, after completing the required professional training and work experience with young children, candidates should feel confident about their practices and the early childhood environments they provide. You probably also know the types of appropriate practices that the PD Specialist will expect to see, based on your study of the CDA Competency Standards.
However, it never hurts to participate in a little review and self-reflection! Sometimes (no, many times), we get caught up in the day to day operation of our programs and begin functioning on autopilot. Things appear to be running relatively smoothly, the children and families seem happy, and so we are, too. How long has it been since you stepped back and took a close, objective look at what’s really going on? The Self-Study provides just such an opportunity.
It’s always a good idea to be reminded about exactly what the Observation will cover and that you are in compliance with every item.
What’s in It for Me?
The Self-Study serves multiple purposes. First, it offers peace of mind that you have taken a closer look, perhaps found a few things to adjust, and feel prepared. No surprises usually translates to no stress. On the day of your Obser3vation, you want to be on top of your game- confident and fully functional, not impaired by nerves and fear of the unknown. You should be able to sail through that 2 hour Observation confident that your program and practices demonstrate an understanding of the CDA Standards and exemplify early childhood professionalism.
A second benefit of the Self-study is information-gathering. It may have been a while since your last self-evaluation and there may be things that need to be fixed, changed, or improved. When we are immersed in an environment, it’s often hard to see these things. Or, we may have made a mental note of a few things, but they are still on the “to do” list.
How Does a Self-Study Work?
Self-Studies can be conducted in many ways, but in order to make it specific to the Observation at hand, we will use the CDA Competency Standards, and specifically, the Comprehensive Scoring instrument that the PD Specialist will use.
This Scoring Instrument is at the back of the Competency Standards book. The Indicators are grouped by color and type, into three sections. You can photocopy each section to take to work with you.
Rate each Indicator a 3, 2, or 1, with 1 being the lowest. For every item you rate below a 3, make a note in the margin of the specific issue, your plan to remedy it, and who might be able to help you. When all 3 sections are completed, review your ratings and make a list of things you need to do to.
It may be a good idea to consult with your CDA instructor, center director, or your mentor for advice or assistance with and changes or adjustments you need to make.
I’ve Finished the Self-Study- Now What?
Well, first of all, congratulate yourself for a job well done and for taking a big step toward the main goal of this entire CDA process. What is that, you may ask? Well, it is not just to get that piece of paper. You’ve worked too hard and there’s a deeper reward than that! The most important outcome of this CDA process is improvement in your practice as an Early Childhood professional.
You now know more, do more, and want more for young children and their families. You’ve changed and hopefully you’ll continue to make changes with future self-studies and a commitment to life-long learning.