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Effective Classroom Interactions: Supporting Young Children’s Development

During the early childhood years children gain knowledge and skills that provide the foundation for later learning. Young children learn many of these skills through the interactions they have with their teachers. This course is intended to increase teachers’ knowledge about specific types of teacher-child interactions that promote young children’s development. The course will focus on helping teachers to offer emotionally supportive interactions to the children in their care.

About the Course

When we look at the research about what teachers actually do each day that makes a difference in children’s lives, there’s clear evidence that it’s the daily interactions that teachers have with children that are most important.  And we know quite a bit about the specific type of interactions that lead to children’s development and learning.  So this course focuses on those interactions.  By the end of the course, you should have a deep knowledge and understanding of the types of interactions that foster learning and development among your students.

Although there are many types of interactions that are critical to young children’s development, this course will focus on one area in particular – Emotional Support.

This course focuses on Emotional Support because it is really the foundation of every early childhood classroom. In classrooms that are Emotionally Supportive children and adults are comfortable with one another and excited about learning. They look forward to spending time together and know that, even when times are tough, there will be someone there to help them.

What do you need to know to be a really effective early childhood teacher? Teachers need many types of knowledge – knowledge about children’s development, about the content they’re teaching, about effective teaching practices, about the needs and abilities of the children in their classrooms, and about themselves. In this course we’ll focus a bit on knowledge about children’s development and we’ll spend lots of time focused on knowledge about specific types of classroom interactions that promote learning and development.

Another part of effective teaching is seeing. All the knowledge in the world about effective teaching is only a piece of the puzzle. Good teachers need to see what effective teaching looks like – in lots of different types of classrooms, with lots of different types of children. Teachers tell us they don’t get nearly enough opportunities to see other teachers teach and they report how helpful these experiences are when they do get them. We’ll spend lots of time in this course focused on observing classroom videos and we’ll also ask you to spend some time watching yourself teach.

Ultimately we can’t learn to be an effective teacher without practice – we need to spend some time doing – enacting the teaching practices that we’ll learn about. Just as young children need to do things to really learn about them – you need to spend some time practicing the types of interactions we’ll be talking about.

There’s one last important element to being an effective teacher. Effective  teachers spend time reflecting on their practice. We think of this a bit like taking time to really look at your teaching through a magnifying glass – we’ll give you time to reflect on your teaching and what you have learned throughout this course.

Much of this course is based on the research of Drs. Robert Pianta, Bridget Hamre and many colleagues UVA and other institutions using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System – or CLASS(™). CLASS is an observational measure used in research and practice that defines specific elements of effective teaching. In this course you will see examples of the kinds of teaching practices assessed by the CLASS. And you will get opportunities to observe and analyze your own teaching practice in ways that have been shown to increase the effectiveness of teachers' interactions with young children.  


The development of the course was funded, in part, by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305A100154-11 to the University of Virginia.  The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the U.S. Department of Education. 

Course Syllabus

Week One – Creating Emotionally Supportive Classrooms:

We’ll take a closer look at the importance of interactions and the power that teachers have in the development of young children. This week will include an overview of the areas and dimensions of the Teaching through Interactions Framework. For this course, we’ll focus specifically on the area of Emotional Support.


Week Two – Building Positive Relationships with Children – The dimension of Positive Climate:

This week will focus on the first dimension of Emotional Support – Positive Climate. You’ll learn about the importance of Positive Climate, see examples of real teachers as they demonstrate effective Positive Climate interactions with their students, and get a chance to analyze what you’re seeing. There will also be an optional homework assignment in which you will videotape your own teaching interactions with children and then analyze what you see based on what you have learned about Positive Climate.


Week Three – Providing Individualized Support to Young Children – The dimension of Teacher Sensitivity:

This week will focus on the next dimension of Emotional Support – Teacher Sensitivity. You’ll learn about the importance of sensitive interactions with children and what sensitive interactions look like in real classrooms. You’ll have the opportunity to analyze classroom videos based on what you know about Teacher Sensitivity. Again, there will be an optional homework assignment in which you will videotape your own teaching and analyze your interactions looking specifically at the dimension of Teacher Sensitivity.


Week Four – Supporting Children’s Independence and Sense of Self – The dimension of Regard for Child Perspectives:

In the final week, you’ll learn about the last Emotional Support dimension – Regard for Child Perspectives. You’ll learn how important it is for young children to have opportunities for their voices and perspectives to be heard, as well as how to foster children’s feelings of self-efficacy and positive self-concepts through your daily interactions. In addition to opportunities to view and analyze classroom interactions based on your knowledge of Regard for Child Perspectives, you’ll have an optional homework assignment allowing you to do the same thing with videotape of your own classroom interactions. Finally, we’ll sum up all that you have learned about all of the dimensions of Emotional Support across the course.

Recommended Background

This course was developed specifically for teachers working with preschool children, but the information you will learn about providing emotionally supportive interactions is relevant to anyone teaching or working with young children.

Course Format

The course will consist of video lectures, which are between 6 and 15 minutes in length. There will also be a number of in-video quizzes, and Test Your Knowledge quizzes at the end of each week. There are also optional weekly homework assignments.


Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this course?

  • Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

    What resources do I need for this class?
    For this course, you will need is an Internet connection and the time to read, reflect, and participate in discussions with your peers. If you plan to complete the homework assignments, you will also need a video camera of some sort in order to record your interactions with children for later reflection and analysis. Any type of video recording device should work.