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Preparing for Your CDA Observation by the PD Specialist? What about a Self-Study?

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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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.


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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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