Catalyzing Action Through Collaboration

Collaborative Thinking Requires a Round Table

The Ideal Learning Roundtable advances the goals of Ideal Learning.

In this emerging field of early childhood education, Trust for Learning has observed providers and policymakers grappling with issues around scaling the most effective approaches, and we feel strongly that in order to change the conversation about what’s best for our children, we need to begin with the models that understand human development. We need to begin with those practices that approach learning from a child-centric perspective and put particular focus on the indisputable value of developmentally appropriate skill-building—executive function skills, human development, self-regulation, collaboration, self-reliance—all with a view to building the child’s own capacity to learn.

What we are finding, however, is that the developmental models that should occupy a central place in the early childhood education discussions are not getting the attention they deserve with federal/state policymakers, local authorities, and parents as they choose (or have limited choices for) the best learning opportunities for their children.

The Ideal Learning Roundtable is intended to offer our help in drawing more attention and support to this work, and to help these providers identify and share their collective value and influence. The Roundtable also brings a carefully selected group of researchers into the discussion, to help guide the providers as they aggregate existing research to validate their work, and to identify gaps where new investigations may be beneficial. It also invites our funding partners and other colleagues to round out the table, as it is our hope that what emerges from this series of discussions will create opportunities for alignment and strategic grantmaking and may inform our collective future support to this field. Most importantly, it aims to bring Ideal Learning to more children—especially the ones who need it most in this country.

What qualifies the Trust to do this work? The Trust was designed to act as a strategic axis, as we both contribute technical expertise and financial resources to developmental education providers, and leverage resources from other interested grantmakers that have been looking for a way to support a national strategy for advancing these high-quality educational approaches. Over the last three years, we have invested quite heavily in the Montessori model as we recognized early on that it offered a comprehensive, time-tested, and science-based approach for birth-eight and beyond. Our efforts have included convening and grantmaking for the national Montessori leadership in order to provide them with the capacity-building support to consolidate their efforts, document their exemplar programs, examine their teacher-training pipeline, explore scale-up “birth-six” models for families and communities, and to better understand their collective effectiveness as advocates for high-quality early childhood education.

Over the course of that work, we have recognized that there are other important ECE approaches that embrace similar developmentally-focused values and principles, including Reggio Emilia, Friends Center for Children, Tools of the Mind, Bank Street, and others. Each of these models approach early childhood learning from the perspective of human development. They each take a holistic approach that realizes the critical role of play in a broad spectrum of applications, reflecting a commitment to self-direction, creativity, and cooperation. Broadly speaking, we are building on our convening and capacity-building expertise with an offer to help strengthen the developmental education sector writ large, and this series of convenings is the first step.