• Early childhood practitioners are a diverse group of providers who deliver education, care, health, nutrition, and protection services to children and families.
  • Supervisors and managers provide critical support, and can do so in both financial and non-financial ways.
  • Research has found that in-service training, professional development opportunities, supportive supervision, and other positive work conditions can impact practitioners’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, satisfaction, and, ultimately, their work with children and families.

In Practice

Effective practitioners are critical to quality early childhood programs. These adults include those who work directly with young children and their families (for example, preschool teachers, childcare workers, home visitors, community health workers, child protection workers) as well as those who supervise and support these practitioners (for example, managers, trainers, mentors and coaches).

Practitioners are professionals, paraprofessionals, or volunteers who work full- or part-time in public and private settings. They are responsible for delivering services spanning early education and care, health and nutrition interventions, support for parents and families, child protection services, or a combination of these.

When they are adequately trained and supported, practitioners can have a positive impact on children and families. Practitioners’ relationships with children should be warm, responsive, and stimulating. Their relationships with parents and families should be stable, respectful, honest, and supportive. See Playful Learning and Responsive & Stimulating Caregiving.

Programs should support practitioners in both financial and non-financial ways. Financial incentives may include a bonus or raise, a travel stipend, food or housing, or a scholarship to participate in additional training opportunities. Non-financial incentives can include supportive supervision, a manageable workload, opportunities for training and career development, safe work environments, and recognition and respect from supervisors, peers, the community, and the broader system.

In-service training and ongoing professional development can improve practitioners’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes and thus influence their behavior and practices with children and families. These opportunities are critical for ensuring practitioners have up-to-date information on effective ECD practices. Examples include specialized training, coaching, and peer learning.

  • Specialized training focuses on specific skills and may take place over a short period of time, such as one or two days. It may be delivered live through workshops or conferences or remotely through tutorials or manuals.
  • Coaching is a collaborative process between practitioners and mentors to apply certain concepts in practice. This can be one-on-one or delivered in small groups, usually in the workplace. Coaching may use observation, demonstration, guided practice, video feedback, and self-reflection. See also Teacher Coaching.
  • Peer learning is a collaborative process among practitioners, virtually or in-person, to improve their work by sharing real experiences and knowledge. Peer learning addresses what is relevant for actual situations and environments.

Supervisors and managers play an important role in empowering practitioners and creating an enabling environment for their work. Supportive supervisors are reliable, communicative role models.  They invite practitioners to share their feedback and identify their own challenges and solutions. Supportive supervision may incorporate useful methods such as mobile technology for increased communication or peer support for practitioners to share and learn from each other.

Tips

In-service training or professional development should include more than just instruction, and be hands-on and collaborative.

Supervisors or trainers should provide practitioners with opportunities to practice new skills and engage in self-reflection throughout the training or professional development processes. Learning and sharing experiences alongside peers can also help practitioners to apply new information to real situations and overcome shared challenges. If possible, on-site supervision, such as teacher coaching, should be used to tailor feedback and guidance to individual practitioners. See also Teacher Coaching.

Explore opportunities to incorporate technology into supervision and support processes.

Technology can also help to bridge a communication gap between supervisors and practitioners. Mobile phones can promote increased two-way communication as a supplement to on-site supervision and guidance, especially for those who travel for work, such as home visitors and community health workers. Videotaping practitioners’ work can help them to reflect on their own practice and identify specific areas for improvement.

To avoid overburdening practitioners, provide additional support when adding new responsibilities or expanding their role.

When practitioners are given new responsibilities, it can be overwhelming. Supervisors should provide very clear expectations and additional training to empower practitioners to take on new roles. Supervisors should pay extra attention to these practitioners and, if necessary, reduce their other duties.

Recognize practitioners for their work in both financial and non-financial ways.

When possible, reward well-performing practitioners financially, such as with a bonus or a stipend. Use non-financial incentives, too, such as by establishing a special day in the community to show public appreciation for these workers (for example, Preschool Teacher Day). Providing identification cards to home visitors, community health workers, and others traveling to homes and communities can help practitioners to feel proud and empowered to do their work.

Improve programs and empower practitioners by incorporating practitioners’ feedback into monitoring and evaluation processes.

Ask practitioners what they think regarding what is or is not working, and invite them to share ideas for program improvement. Based on the work they do each day, practitioners may have unique insights into challenges and potential solutions. Asking them for their feedback can also serve as a motivating factor because it shows that their input is valued.

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Advanced Search

Achieving excellence through continuing professional development: A CPD framework for early childhood educators

This guide and toolkit helps program managers to develop and implement training and professional development opportunities for those working in childcare and early childhood education.
Singapore Ministry of Social and Family Development
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Developing and strengthening community health worker programs at scale: A reference guide and case studies for program managers and policymakers

This is a practical guide that discusses policy and programmatic issues and challenges that program managers and policy makers should consider when designing, implementing, scaling up or strengthening a large-scale community health worker program.
USAID & MCHIP, 2013
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Supervising child protective services caseworkers

A manual for supervisors who work with child protection services caseworkers.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2004
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Hennessy-Hicks training needs analysis questionnaire and manual: For use at a local level to identify training and development needs

This highly adaptable set of tools can help identify training needs and improve training programs for health workers in diverse settings.
Hicks, C. & Hennessy, D.
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Para social worker training manual & curricula: Partnering to strengthen the capacity of community-based caregivers to support orphans and vulnerable children

This training curriculum is a comprehensive workforce development model for para social workers in low-resource settings, particularly in HIV/AIDS affected communities.
Tanzania Institute of Social Work, Jane Addams College of Social Work, Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center, PEPFAR, USAID/Tanzania, AIHA
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Rapid retention survey toolkit: Designing evidence-based incentives for health workers

An adaptable, step-by-step guide to design and administer a rapid survey to assess what incentives can attract and retain health workers in remote areas.
USAID, CapacityPlus & PEPFAR
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Social welfare workforce: Strengthening for OVC

A case study of Tanzania's Social Welfare Workforce supporting orphans and vulnerable children, noting the challenges and efforts to address these challenges.
USAID - Tanzania
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Care for caregivers: A psychosocial support model for child and youth care workers serving orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa

A case study of South Africa's psychosocial support program for child and youth care workers that work with orphans and vulnerable children.
Tulane University, 2009
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Expanding access to early childhood development using interactive audio instruction: A toolkit and guidelines for program design and implementation

Guidance for program designers and managers who are interested in using interactive audio instruction for early childhood development programming.
World Bank & Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC)
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Para Professionals in the Social Service Workforce: Guiding Principles, Functions, and Competencies

Guiding principles for programs working with paraprofessional social workers who support children and families at the community level. This resource also outlines key functions and competencies for these workers, to guide training and supervision.
Interest Group on Para Professionals in the Social Service Workforce
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Supporting the Social Service Workforce - Attracting and Retaining Workers in Underserved Areas

This webinar discusses tools for attracting and supporting the social service workforce in underserved areas.
Global Social Service Workforce Alliance
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Social Service Workforce Training Curricula: Training Programs and Tools to Support Frontline Workers

This webinar presents promising training models for social work professionals, implemented in several sub-Saharan African countries.
Global Social Service Workforce Alliance
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Alternative care in emergencies toolkit

A toolkit for planning and implementing interim care and related services for children separated from or unable to live with families during an emergency. (Chapter 4 particularly addresses the topic of child protection staff and caregiver ratios, training, supervision and support needs.)
Save the Children
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Toolkit on child protection in emergencies: A guide for field workers (Section 4 - Separated and unaccompanied children)

Section 4 of this toolkit is a training resource and guide for field workers who work with separated and unaccompanied children in emergency settings.
UNICEF Indonesia
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Toolkit on child protection in emergencies: A guide for field workers (Section 5 - Psychosocial support)

Section 5 of this resource supports field workers in providing psychosocial support to children in emergency settings.
UNICEF Indonesia
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Working with children and families, Volume 2: A training manual

A training manual for group workers to organize and implement play activities with children and families.
The Family Protection Project
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Early childhood development kit: Guideline for caregivers

This toolkit provides information for caregivers working with young children in emergency situations to organize activities and make play materials with locally available resources.
UNICEF
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Child protection training manual: Facilitator's guide for teacher training

This manual guides the facilitation of a child protection training for teachers, trainer of trainers, other education authorities, training of members of Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs), and community-based child protection groups, .
Save the Children
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Introduction to child protection: Teachers' handbook

This handbook is primarily for teachers and other education authorities to learn about child protection in schools and their duties and responsibilities to prevent and respond to child abuse, exploitation, violence and neglect.
Save the Children
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Keeping Children Safe: Training for child protection

Intended for managers and trainers, these documents provide training exercises and materials for staff on their responsibilities in safeguarding children.
Keeping Children Safe Coalition
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Care for Child Development Package

This is the suite of materials that comprises the Care for Development Package which integrates health, nutrition and development in early childhood programs. It includes the participants' manual, facilitator notes, facilitator guidelines for conducting a planning workshop, a planning handbook for program managers and planners and counseling cards.
WHO & UNICEF, 2015
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How is child care quality measured? A Toolkit.

A resource for monitoring and measuring the impact of childcare centers.
Tomé, R., Araujo, M.C., López Boo, F., 2016
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¿Cómo se mide la calidad de los servicios de cuidado infantil?

(Español) A resource for monitoring and measuring the impact of childcare centers.
Tomé, R., Araujo, M.C., López Boo, F., 2016
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Community health worker assessment and improvement matrix (CHW AIM): A toolkit for improving CHW programs and services

A set of tools and resources for surveying, planning, evaluating, and strengthening community health worker programs.
USAID, Initiatives Inc., & URC, 2013
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Distance Education for Teacher Training: Modes, Models, and Methods

Chapter 7 (Mobile Technologies for Distance Learning) starting on page 107 highlights the ways in which various devices can be used in initial teacher training and follow-up support; also notes the limitations of mobile technologies for distance teacher training.
Education Development Center, Inc., 2011
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Teacher Professional Learning and Development

This booklet provides a list of general best practices in teacher professional learning and development that have positive impacts on student learning outcomes.
International Bureau of Education
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How to write a supervision checklist

Guide and template for writing checklists to assess an individual's performance (e.g. that of a teacher, discussion group leader, etc).
tools4dev
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Models and Best Practices in Teacher Professional Development

Starting on page 20, this document lays out the purposes and methods of three types of teacher professional development: standardized, school-centered, and individual. The strengths, limitations, and cost implications of each are described.
GESCI
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The Power of Coaching: Improving Early Grade Reading Instruction in Developing Countries - Supporting environment

Page 5 of this report emphasizes the importance of building an environment that supports teacher coaching.
USAID, 2014
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Where It's Needed Most: Quality Professional Development for All Teachers

This guide highlights the need for, and recommendations for strengthening, teacher development in fragile and conflict-affected states.
Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, 2015
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Teachers, Inclusive, Child-Centered Teaching and Pedagogy

This booklet helps to develop an understanding of how teachers can be prepared and supported to teach in inclusive settings, along with the teaching and learning approaches most suitable for such contexts.
UNICEF
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Assessing and Scaffolding Make-Believe Play

This brief paper offers strategies for practitioners to "scaffold" children's play.
Bodrova, E. & Leong, D., 2012.
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Early Childhood Care and Education in the Pacific

Chapter 8 provides information on how practitioners in the region have bene able to creatively use local resources in their classrooms. Chapter 10 provides case studies of pre-service training at training institutions in Fiji.
Palmer, G., 2008.
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Integrated Learning - Teacher Manual

This manual is designed to support teachers in creating a child-centered, participatory environment for learning which integrates games into daily practice.
Right To Play, 2011.
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The Madrasa Early Childhood Programme: 25 Years of Experience

This publication provides a case study of the Madrasa Early Childhood Program which utilizes innovative practices to cultivate playful learning and in supporting practitioners.
Aga Khan Development Network, 2008.
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The Whole Child Development Guide

This guide describes how children develop, learn, and engage with the world from ages 0-8 years.
LEGO Foundation
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Featured Case Studies

These case studies provide examples of how programs can support early childhood practitioners in practice.

CHN on the Go

CHN on the Go (Community Health Nurses on the Go) is an Android mobile application (app) designed to motivate and support community health nurses (CHNs) who work on maternal, newborn, and child health in remote communities of Ghana. CHN on the Go was developed under the Care Community Hub (CCH) pilot project, implemented in 5 rural districts in Ghana by Grameen Foundation in partnership with Ghana Health Service, Concern Worldwide, and JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc. The design for CHN on the Go was based on formative research conducted by ThinkPlace Foundation, and guided by their human-centered design process.

Grameen Foundation, Concern Worldwide & JSI

Madrasa Early Childhood Programme – Zanzibar (MECP-Z)

The Madrasa Early Childhood Programme (MECP) is an early childhood organization that assists poor and underprivileged communities to establish, develop, and manage high quality preschools. MECP offers professional development and training courses to new and practicing preschool teachers and provides technical support to preschools, civil society, government, and private organisations.

Madrasa Early Childhood Programme – Zanzibar (MECP-Z) Tanzania

Additional Programs

Click the links below to learn about other programs supporting early childhood practitioners.

Hand in Hand

The Hand in Hand Plan (HIH) is the largest privately funded ECCD (Early Childhood Care and Development) program in China. It builds child-friendly kindergartens and ECCD centers in 24 impoverished counties. Additionally, it trains teachers, parents, and healthcare workers to spread ECCD knowledge and best practices.
Right to Play China
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Brighter Futures Programme

In close collaboration with the Ghana Education Service (GES), the Sabre Charitable Trust's Brighter Futures Programme aims to improve the future of poor and marginalized young children in rural Ghana by building innovative learning environments (Building Better Schools) and providing Transformational Teacher Training.
The Sabre Charitable Trust Ghana
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Lady Health Workers

This program created a new cadre of female health workers in the Pakistan health system to connect rural communities with the formal health systems, providing prenatal and postnatal care. Lady Health Workers receive comprehensive instruction and practical, on-the-job training.
Ministry of Health Pakistan
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International Child Teacher Training Institute

The International Child Teacher Training Institute is a teacher training initiative that aims to train teachers without formal Early Childhood Development training so as to improve teaching delivery. It is designed to increase access to high quality, developmentally-appropriate early childhood education for Africa’s poorest children.
International Child Resource Institute (ICRI) Kenya
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Training, ongoing support, and working conditions can significantly affect practitioners’ knowledge, skills, and beliefs, which guide their behavior and interactions with children and families and, ultimately, impact children’s learning and development outcomes.

More education and training, particularly for preschool and childcare workers, are generally associated with better interactions and relationships between practitioners and children. However, it can be difficult to identify the right type, amount, and intensity of training to optimize the quality of practitioners’ work. Research from developing and developed country contexts has shown:

  • In general, ongoing training and professional development experiences that are hands-on and take place on-site are more effective in improving skills and behavior than instruction alone.
     
  • Community health workers often become overburdened when more tasks or households are added to their workload. Additional education and training can motivate and support practitioners in accepting greater responsibilities or advancing professionally.
     
  • Longer-term professional development interventions that use coaching and/or reflection groups can improve and sustain the quality of early care and education services. They have also had positive effects on cognitive and social outcomes for children.
     
  • Incorporating intensive video feedback into short-term training opportunities can improve practitioners’ knowledge and skills, especially in providing better verbal stimulation. This can lead to greater language acquisition for young children.

In addition to training and professional development, working conditions can affect practitioners’ satisfaction and performance, which impact child outcomes. Poor conditions can include a burdensome workload, unclear responsibilities or expectations, limited resources, low pay, and lack of respect or recognition from the community. In addition, supervision that is weak, uncoordinated, or overly punitive can lead to low satisfaction and poor productivity.

Poor pay or compensation can reinforce public opinion that working with young children is a lowly profession, making it difficult to recruit and retain qualified practitioners and leading to low job satisfaction and high turnover rates. High turnover is costly and inefficient, and it interrupts the development of warm, stable relationships between caregivers and children, leading to poor child outcomes.

 

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Advanced Search

Working conditions, training of early childhood care workers and quality of services – A systematic review.

This report reviews research evidence from 28 EU Member States, focusing on the impact of working conditions and continuous professional development of the workforce in early childhood education and care on the quality of services provided and on the outcomes for children.
Eurofound, 2015
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Working conditions, training of early childhood care workers and quality of services – A systematic review. (Multi-lingual)

Available in 22 languages, the executive summary for this report reviews research evidence from 28 EU Member States, focusing on the impact of working conditions and continuous professional development of the workforce in early childhood education and care on the quality of services provided and on the outcomes for children.
Eurofound, 2015
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Measuring the quality of home-visiting services: A review of the literature.

A literature review looking at the quality of home visiting programs, key components that affect quality, and an overview of existing instruments for measuring quality.
Inter-American Development Bank, 2015
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La medición de la calidad de los servicios de visitas domiciliarias: Una revisión de la literatura

(Español) A literature review looking at the quality of home visiting programs, key components that affect quality, and an overview of existing instruments for measuring quality.
El Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, 2015
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Competence requirements in early childhood education and care: A study for the European Commission Directorate-General for Education and Culture

Building on a literature review, survey, and series of case studies in Europe, this study identifies required competences for early childhood education and care staff and systems for achieving quality.
University of East London & University of Ghent
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Increasing community health worker productivity and effectiveness: A review of the influence of the work environment.

An analysis of the characteristics of work environments (workload, supportive supervision, supplies and equipment, and respect from the community and the health system) that influence the effectiveness and productivity of community health workers.
Jaskiewicz, W. & K. Tulenko, 2012
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A review of the literature: Early childhood care and education (ECCE) personnel in low- and middle-income countries (English)

A literature review of pre-primary teachers in low- and middle-income countries looking at their characteristics, training, support, knowledge, beliefs, practices, and pay.
Neuman, M., Josephson K., & Chua P. G., 2015
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Analyse de la littérature: Le personnel d’éducation et protection de la petite enfance (EPPE) dans les pays à revenu faible et moyen

Une analyse des enseignants préscolaires dans les pays à faibles revenus.
Neuman, M., Josephson K., & Chua P. G., 2015
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Does training matter? A meta-analysis and review of caregiver training studies.

A meta-analysis and review of studies published between 1980 and 2005 that shows a significant positive effect of specialized training on the competency of caregivers in childcare. This article requires a subscription to access.
Fukkink, R.G. & Lont, A., 2007
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The promotion of decent work for early childhood education personnel: The professionalization of a neglected profession.

This paper looks at work conditions, financing, curricula, learning practices, professional ethics and governance of early childhood education as they relate to the design and implementation of policies.
Shaeffer, S., 2015
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Professional development in early childhood programs: Process issues and research needs.

A literature review highlighting representative research on professional development in its various forms/approaches and offering an agenda for research on the professional development process.
Sheridan, S.M., Edwards, C.P., Marvin, C.A. & Knoche, L.L., 2009
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Human capacity within child welfare systems: The social work workforce in Africa

A desk research study on the opportunities for and constraints of building the social work workforce within the child welfare sector in Africa.
Davis, R., 2009
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The role of social service workforce development in care reform

This paper illustrates key issues in the topic of social service workforce strengthening in child care reform, drawing on experiences from Indonesia, Moldova, and Rwanda.
Better Care Network & Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, 2015
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The impact of daycare programs on child health, nutrition and development in developing countries: A systematic review.

A systematic review of impact evaluations examining the impact of daycare interventions on health, nutrition and development of children under five years of age in low- and middle-income countries, as well as identifying pathways through which daycare may improve child outcomes.
3ie, 2011
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A job analysis of community health workers in the context of integrated nutrition and early childhood development.

This paper looks at the promising policy environment yet limited capacity of community health workers in Malawi to deliver integrated nutrition and early childhood services.
Phuka, J., Maleta, K., Thomas, M. & Gladstone, M., 2014
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Motivation and retention of health workers in developing countries: a systematic review.

A review of literature to identify 7 key themes essential to motivating and retaining health workers.
Willis-Shattuck, M., Bidwell, P., Thomas, S., Wyness, L., Blaauw, D., & Ditlopo, P., 2008
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Teacher professional development: an international review of the literature

From an examination of teacher training (focused mainly in the United States), this book offers several recommendations for effective and sustainable professional development, which, the authors argue, should be a long-term process that begins with pre-service training and continues throughout a teacher’s career.
UNESCO, 2003
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Teacher Professional Learning and Development

This booklet provides a list of general best practices in teacher professional learning and development that have positive impacts on student learning outcomes.
International Bureau of Education
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The Power of Coaching: Improving Early Grade Reading Instruction in Developing Countries - Supporting environment

Page 5 of this report emphasizes the importance of building an environment that supports teacher coaching.
USAID, 2014
View

Where It's Needed Most: Quality Professional Development for All Teachers

This guide highlights the need for, and recommendations for strengthening, teacher development in fragile and conflict-affected states.
Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, 2015
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Child Centered Approach: How is it perceived by preschool educators in Mongolia?

This study looks at the perceptions among teachers in different types of kindergarten models in Mongolia around child-centered approaches.
Myagmar, A.
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