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Frequently Asked Questions

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The first version of The Learning Curve was developed in a project that engaged practitioners in a county’s community-funded service programs to gather information to inform local program managers and funders about staff training needs.  The outcomes from that early project showed that most infant-family practitioners wanted more information about the foundations of early child development dynamics.  It turns out many clinicians/practitioners described themselves as having only rudimentary knowledge of child development. 

The Learning Curve is a self-assessment survey that provides practitioners with information about their capacity for applying child development knowledge and reflective practice skills in their work with young children and their families.  The Learning Zones give the practitioner a sense of where they stand in relationship to applying core developmental concepts and relationship based clinical practice in their everyday work.

The definitional framework for self-assessed learning levels utilized in THE LEARNING CURVE is based on a classification of learning objectives, the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, proposed by a committee of educators chaired by Benjamin Bloom, (Bloom et al., 1956).  Their intent was to develop a method of classification for thinking behaviors that were believed to be important in the processes of learning that could guide curriculum and learning objectives. Ratings for self-assessed learning levels in THE LEARNING CURVE are based on the cognitive domain utilizing the Knowledge, Comprehension and Application levels of expertise.  The learning levels describe progression toward a mature ability to use/apply the specific knowledge of developmental processes to analyze and formulate the dynamics of a child’s difficulties and develop appropriate interventions. Each learning level can also be associated with suggested instructional strategies to promote ongoing learning. Definitions (rating anchors) for the learning levels are as follows:

(Mostly) NEW CONCEPT: I would like to know more about this and how it will help me in my work with infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their families. The ideas may sound familiar or relevant but I am not prepared to apply this concept in daily work across the age range with families from pregnancy thru the preschool years

KNOWLEDGE: I recognize the concept and could provide definitions; I am not sure what this looks like in individual young children at different ages; I am not yet ready to use this idea/concept in my daily work across the age range with families from pregnancy thru the preschool years. I cannot integrate this concept into my clinical formulations or interventions

Progressing toward Comprehension: Increasingly I find I am able to think about this concept as I am working with a child, parent, or specific clinical presentation. The concept does not yet inform my clinical interventions, but does expand my thinking about developmental or clinical dynamics that may be at work across the age range with families from pregnancy thru the preschool years

COMPREHENSION: I can discuss meaning of and explain concept in my own words but still am not able to translate it into clinical intervention; I can give some examples. I am sometimes able to “see” examples as I observe a child or clinical situation. I need more depth of understanding, more hands on experience and training with the concept to begin applying it in daily work with parents, individual young children of different ages, and in different clinical situations

Progressing toward Application: Increasingly I recognize clinical presentations and this concept sometimes informs my clinical intervention. I continue to be challenged to translate this concept into specific clinical meaning. My limited exposure to a range of different clinical presentations limits my ability to use this idea /concept clinically. Limited exposure contributes to challenges such as applying this concept across the age range, developing my understanding of “what this looks like” for a pregnant woman, or in a child’s behaviors, or understanding impact on parent-child interaction

APPLICATION: I can use the idea/concept in practice; My understanding of this concept regularly informs my clinical interventions. This knowledge forms the basis for my ability to provide developmental guidance and other interventions to support parenting and parent-child interaction. I can give examples of both typical and atypical manifestations of the concept and recognize these in the children I work with; I feel prepared to apply the content to clinical/service situations in daily work with parents and individual children across the prenatal-5 age range

In collaboration with professionals and families. Fenichel & Eggbeer (1990) identified key issues in the preparation of infant/family practitioners.  Project participants concluded that key concepts that form this basic framework include six areas of developmental knowledge and concepts of reflective practice that organize the helping relationship.  Across disciplines, these concepts are powerful integrators of information across many disciplinary fields, and as general guidelines for practice. Areas include 1) endowment, maturation, and individual differences; 2) the power of human relationships; 3) transactions between the child and environment; 4) parenthood as a developmental process; 5) developmental processes and their interrelationships; 6) risk, coping, adaptation, and mastery.  The Learning Curve was developed with this framework in mind.

Fenichel, E., & Eggbeer, L. (1989, September). Educating allies: Issues and recommendations in the training of practitioners to work with infants, toddlers and their families. Zero To Three, 10(1), 1–7.

Developmental milestones refer to sets of observable (and measureable) behaviors and abilities that infants and young children typically acquire at certain ages, such as rolling over at 5 months, uttering a first word at 12 months, and engaging in pretend play at 18 months. Milestones provide a [research-based] framework for tracking children’s development in specific developmental skill areas (e.g., motor, language, social)  These age-specific skills are a window into the ongoing dynamic course of development and can be thought of as the “building blocks” of biological, psychological, and social-emotional developmental processes.  In contrast, processes such as emergence of a sense of self, formation of self-concept, the blossoming of a representational world of beliefs fueled by emotion and ideation, development of a conscience, and of social communication, are all elements of the dynamic of developmental processes that contribute to a child’s overall developmental trajectory that can be described as “normative” or “disturbed”. Developmental processes are internal – for example, elements of a child’s thinking, feeling, imagining, wishing – that are much more challenging to directly observe and identify. Developmental processes can be thought of as contributing to the motivational states that underlie a young child’s actions, the factors that motivate the child to use the skill sets he/she has developed to try to solve/manage all the interesting problems he/she encounters in daily life.

When you complete the TLC subsequent times, you will receive a feedback report each time.  You will be able to view your previous feedback reports in order to gauge changes in your Learning Zones for each of the knowledge domains.  In essence, you will compare yourself to yourself. The feedback about Learning Zones provided by The Learning Curve will guide you toward further learning to enhance applied practice.  The intent is to support self-reflection in a self-paced manner with the understanding that clinical curiosity leads to lifelong learning.

Good Question!  We are considering developing learning modules that could be accessed in a format that would include continuing education credits.  That process would probably include our collaborating with an existing on-line CE accredited organization. There is much to be figured out before CEs could be offered.  In some circumstances we also offer clinical consultations to individuals or for small groups of practitioners. Currently, there are a number of useful resources available.  We are working on providing information about these on our Resources page.  We also offer recommendations for learning activities in the Feedback on your Learning Zones.  And you can contact us to ask for help with your questions about more specific learning objectives.

It is not surprising that as we are exposed to more information we make discoveries about our knowledge.  Lower Learning Zones mean that you know more about what you don’t know. As you have perused resources about each of the knowledge domains you have discovered more information that has increased your understanding of the complexity of the concepts.

In his presentation of reflective practice, Schön (The Reflective Practitioner, 1983) points out that technical knowledge has to be applied in the “swampy lowlands” of clinical practice.  What does that mean?  Knowledge of developmental processes and of clinical practice techniques have to be wielded in the face of the challenges in the situation of a particular child, in a specific environment, with a unique set of caregivers.  Learning about, analyzing, all the specific features of the context in which you apply your knowledge is often the greater challenge in clinical work.  Schön discusses this process as the problem of problem-setting. When a practitioner sets a problem, he/she is choosing and naming the things that will be noticed, framing his/her understanding of the problematic situation.  Knowledge is, of course, a foundation for this process, but problem-setting involves determining what aspects or elements of knowledge are relevant to each unique situation.

Important question!  Each of us has specific training that is linked to our discipline.   And we also each have specific responsibilities in our work context.  It seems most appropriate for each individual to answer this question based on their work responsibilities to identify needed areas of expertise.  At the same time, in the infant/family/early childhood world, we tend to say that learning is a life-long endeavor.  It’s often true that our learning curve is stimulated by a specific child’s presentation.  That child’s needs may be puzzling and encourage us to “go back to the books” and use supervisory supports to gain the knowledge that seems most relevant to this particular child.  Clinical Curiosity Enriches Learning!

In order to produce a report/summary that describes Learning Zones for a group, we need to work together.  Our website makes the self-assessment available to anyone and individuals receive immediate, private feedback. To use the assessment tool for groups of practitioners, e.g., for program evaluation or to identify group training needs, we would need to collaborate. We would work with you to define the project scope, identify the data analytic needs, and develop a cost estimate. The report you receive would summarize knowledge domain Learning Zones for your group and offer suggestions for training activities. Each member of your group would follow the steps to create the free account, and take about 12-15 minutes to complete all the assessment questions, then receive their own individual and private results. The website stores data but does not attach individual information or identification. When we work with a group or program, the users from your program need to enter an identification code that we provide.  The code identifies users as members of your group and enables us to select that set of individuals for data analysis to develop group summaries of Learning Zones. If you have additional questions, please use the Contact form to contact us.

Professional Engagement - Being comfortable with ones’ own self in order to be with families and young children.

We each must endeavor to recognize our own beliefs and knowledge and recognize that the other person’s sense of meaningfulness is equally as strongly embraced.  Our ability to be respectful of difference or sameness is terribly powerful; it leaves us able to be curious and to understand.

Maintaining a clear sense of comfort with our roles is the essence of sustaining a sense of boundaries and flexibility in these boundaries “as they may need to shift.” More important, it is the sense of true mutual responsibility, the sense of working with a person rather than doing something to that person that is the crucial attitude that protects everyone.

Clinical Formulation – Organizing and re-organizing the problematic situation

Formulation is the process of developing hypotheses about “what is going on” for this child and family at this time.  Formulation involves knitting assessment data together into an understanding of the factors predisposing (history) to the current problematic situation and identifying precipitating (current triggers), perpetuating (ongoing contributing factors), and protective factors (resources and strengths) in order to develop treatment objectives and a treatment plan. (This process may or may not require applying classification system diagnostic labels, depending on funding sources.)

Assessment Approaches - Sit alongside of and observe

Assessment activities are based on the capacity to observe young children and caregivers organized by a general approach to assessment. This general approach is inclusive of family context, parent-child interaction, caregiver representations of self and child, and caregiver behaviors that contribute to adaptive/maladaptive relational health.  The assessment involves compilation of data on familial and child health, functional developmental status, behavioral presentation, and cultural impact on the child and family system. Assessment supports “problem-setting”, the process of naming and framing the problematic situation impacting the child and family.

Developmental Skill Areas – identify the make-up of functional developmental capacities

How able is the practitioner to use knowledge about age-related skill levels to characterize the child’s capacity to effectively employ developmental skills to solve the array of problems that the child encounters in the context of daily activities.  Through observation and interaction based activities, the practitioner determines whether a child demonstrates age level functional competencies across the routines and settings of daily life and in interactions with all caregivers? Or are there difficulties with specific developmental skills that undermine functional competency and limit the child’s capacity to adapt successfully to solve the problems of his/her daily life

Social-Emotional Developmental Processes - The foundation of all relational health

Social and emotional developmental processes contribute to the child’s successes and challenges in social interaction and social “problem-solving”. How able is the practitioner to use understanding of age expected presentations of symbolic play, representational capacities,  social communication cues to engage peers or caregivers, dynamics of individuation, and emerging sense of self, as windows into powerful motivators of a child’s behaviors and reactions. These motivations underlie both normative presentations of challenging behaviors and also support the practitioner’s capacity to identify maladaptive motivational organizations that undermine the child’s developmental trajectory.

Assess your Current Understanding and Knowledge

Completing The Learning Curve will help you to determine your Learning Levels in five knowledge domains that are the foundation of infant/family practice. You will receive information about areas of strength and areas where additional support will enhance your capacity to apply these concepts in daily practice.

Get Instant Feedback To Help Further Your Skills

The Learning Curve will provide you with immediate feedback summarizing your responses in the five Knowledge Domains: Knowledge of Assessment Approaches, Developmental Skill Areas, Social and Emotional Developmental Processes, Professional Engagement and Clinical Formulation. Learn more about the Knowledge Domains here. Feedback will identify your Learning Zones along the continuum from New Concept to Application. Feedback will also identify some Resources (above) for some suggested reading to support your learning process.

See Your Skills Build

Return to The Learning Curve over time as you use the resources to strengthen your ability to apply the concepts. Revisit The Learning Curve to evaluate the impact of your recommended learning activities. Find out about changes in your knowledge base. Strengthening your knowledge base will help you to apply these concepts in work with each individual child who needs the support of your intervention capacities/abilities.