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7 Essential Features of an Effective Guidance Policy

December 28th, 2018 | 2 min. read

By Gryphon House

The primary focus of any early childhood program is to care for and educate the young learners enrolled in the program. Caring for and educating young children is rewarding yet difficult work; however, it is critical that systems are in place to support the children, families, and staff to be their very best. One way to support both teaching and learning and to prevent and address challenging behaviors in early childhood programs is through an effective, high-quality behavior-guidance policy. 

During their years working as teachers, administrators, consultants, coaches, and higher-education faculty, Sascha Longstreth, PhD, and Sarah Garrity, EdD, experienced the stress, chaos, and emotions that result from children’s challenging behavior.  Many of the vignettes in their book, Effective Discipline Policies: How to Create a System that Supports Young Children’s Social-Emotional Competence, come from their personal experiences working in the field.  Not surprisingly, children’s challenging behaviors are often listed as the number one concern of early childhood teachers and can lead to burnout, stress, and skilled passionate teachers leaving the field.  Administrators and families are also affected by children’s challenging behavior.

Longstreth and Garrity reviewed the literature on effective behavior-guidance practices for more than a decade and examined almost 400 behavior-guidance policies collected from early childhood programs across the United States.  In Effective Discipline Policies, they share what they have learned to support early childhood administrators and program leaders in developing effective behavior-guidance policies that will help create and sustain a positive social-emotional climate and support the social, emotional, and academic success of all students.  

Because of their belief in the importance of high-quality behavior-guidance policies, they developed the Teaching and Guidance Policy Essentials Checklist (TAGPEC) to support program leaders and their staff as they engage in the process of developing policies that reflect what research tells us is best for children, teachers, and families. The TAGPEC is used throughout Effective Discipline Policies to guide program leaders as they think about and develop effective, high quality behavior-guidance policies.

The Teaching and Guidance Policy Essentials Checklist (TAGPEC)

The Teaching and Guidance Policy Essentials Checklist (TAGPEC) is an easy-to-use, thirty-item checklist that describes seven essential features of high-quality behavior-guidance policies for programs serving children from birth to age eight. The TAGPEC and its seven essential features can be used to build an infrastructure that supports the social, emotional, and academic success of all children.

ESSENTIAL FEATURE 1: Intentional Focus on Teaching Social-Emotional Skills

Early childhood behavior-guidance policies should reflect an instructional, proactive approach to behavior guidance that supports the learning and practice of appropriate prosocial behavior of all children, regardless of individual differences and/or cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

ESSENTIAL FEATURE 2: Developmentally and Culturally Appropriate Learning Environment

Early childhood behavior-guidance policies should describe the importance of a developmentally appropriate learning environment that is predictable, engaging, and relationship based. 

ESSENTIAL FEATURE 3: Setting Behavioral Expectations

Early Childhood behavior-guidance policies should describe clear and consistent expectations for behavior.

ESSENTIAL FEATURE 4: Preventing and Addressing Challenging Behaviors Using a Tiered Model of Intervention

Early childhood behavior-guidance policies should identify primary, secondary, and tertiary preventative and intervention practices for promoting prosocial behavior and reducing challenging behavior in young children. 

ESSENTIAL FEATURE 5: Working with Families

Early childhood behavior-guidance policies should reflect the family-centered nature of early childhood education.

ESSENTIAL FEATURE 6: Staff Training and Professional Development

Early childhood behavior-guidance policies should indicate a commitment to providing ongoing staff training and professional development regarding how to implement the guidance policy.

ESSENTIAL FEATURE 7: Use of Data for Continuous Improvement

Early childhood behavior-guidance policies should reference the use of a data-collection system by which the relative success or failure of the behavior-guidance policy will be evaluated