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Marilou Hyson and Heather Biggar, from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, describe ways to facilitate the sharing of research among early childhood practitioners, policymakers, and researchers.

John, who works on Capitol Hill, discards a paper on early childhood programs because it's not specific to the Head Start legislation he's working on. Jenny, a reporter, glances at a 20-page report on children with special needs but puts it aside because she has to file her story in 4 hours. Carol teaches in a pre-K program and gives up reading an article on school readiness after reading about the less-than-accessible sounding “cognitive advantage hypothesis.”

Connections among early childhood researchers, practitioners, and policymakers can be improved in numerous ways. Among the steps that need to be taken are providing high quality opportunities for research-related professional development, publishing research in formats appropriate for various audiences, and promoting partnerships between researchers and practitioners to highlight the relevance of research and to identify issues that need further investigation.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), an organization of over 100,000 early childhood educators and other professionals, leads and consolidates efforts to achieve healthy development and constructive education for young children. Research is used to inform association positions and contribute to the development of user-friendly association products for people like John, Jenny, and Carol.

NAEYC facilitates the dissemination and integration of research through a number of avenues:

  • Publications. In addition to disseminating books that distill research findings into effective practice, the association publishes Young Children, written for all NAEYC members—teachers, program administrators, and federal and state agency staff—and the Early Childhood Research Quarterly, a scholarly journal that publishes outstanding new research.
  • Conferences. NAEYC hosts conferences that attract teachers, policymakers, program administrators, therapists, students, advocates, and researchers. Special sessions highlight new research, and organizers encourage all presenters to talk about the research that informs their work.
  • Standards. NAEYC uses evidence-based standards developed in relation to the latest research findings to accredit programs and institutions of higher education.
  • Position statements. NAEYC develops and adopts statements to articulate its position on issues such as early learning standards, mathematics, and child abuse prevention. Based on empirical research, position statements go directly into the hands of people who make decisions about classroom practices, legislation, and teacher preparation.
  • Public policy. NAEYC advocates for specific issues on the basis of research and evaluation findings. To make research accessible to policymakers and grassroots advocates, NAEYC posts summaries of important national reports and research, along with links to the reports and articles, on its website.

Related Resource

With the help of a national commission, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), through its accreditation reinvention project, is developing revised standards to increase the credibility and reliability of its accreditation system. Once in place, the new standards will set research-based expectations for early childhood programs to promote positive learning and developmental outcomes. Criteria for each standard were developed by nine technical resource teams, comprised of researchers, early childhood educators, and administrators, with feedback from the public at large.

After Governing Board approval and beginning in 2005, early childhood programs seeking NAEYC accreditation will need to demonstrate compliance with each of the revised NAEYC program standards. For more information on the project visit

In spite of these efforts, research is not integrated into the field as well as it could be, nor is it typically accessible to nonresearchers in a format that is useful and understandable. To better reach policymakers and practitioners, NAEYC recommends adopting three principles:

  1. Be relevant and provide context. Explain why a given finding is important and relevant to the issue at hand; give a real-world example of how it would be implemented to change child outcomes.
  2. Communicate clearly and avoid jargon. Acronyms and jargon are useful within groups but tend to shut others out.
  3. Be brief. Describe findings in a page or less and include information on where to find further details and additional resources.

Producers and consumers of research must also be aware of potential roadblocks. Researchers, policymakers, the press, and practitioners work on different timeframes. Research may take years to complete, and findings may not be available in time for congressional reauthorizations. The hourly deadlines of policy and press people and the yearly cycles of practitioners need to be taken into account as well.

An additional consideration is that needs for specificity of research differ: Policymakers may need a study that focuses on a particular type of setting or program; program administrators may be interested in a certain curriculum; and teachers may be looking for help regarding specific children.

Marylou Hyson, Ph.D.
Associate Executive Director
for Professional Development

Heather Biggar, Ph.D.
Professional Development Specialist

National Association for the Education of Young Children
1509 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036-1426
Tel: 800-424-2460

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