CEED to provide professional development for trainers and coaches through State of Minnesota grant

CEED is pleased to announce a new partnership with the Child Care Services Division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. CEED was awarded a contract to provide support for trainers and relationship-based professional development (RBPD) specialists who work with child care providers throughout the state of Minnesota. Through the Trainers And RBPD Specialists Support (TARSS) program, CEED will support the needs of trainers and RBPD specialists throughout the state by continuing to implement what is already working well within the current training and mentoring system, bringing innovative and culturally-responsive ideas to enhance this system, and evaluating the process and impact of these activities to inform future programmatic decisions.

Two smiling adults converse while sitting on a sofa in a preschool classroom

“We’re excited to be able to build upon the existing system and enhance support for child care trainers and RBPD specialists through the TARSS program,” said Ann Bailey, PhD, director of CEED. “We know that early childhood is a critical time in human development. Educators of young children are doing extremely important work and need more support. This support must include access to high-quality, usable content; training; coaching; and mentoring that leads to improved outcomes for young children. We look forward to drawing upon CEED’s 45 years of research and practical experience to maintain a highly-qualified and diverse support system for all trainers and RBPD specialists.”

The TARSS program is grounded in best practice for early childhood trainers and RBPD specialists. Research shows that these two related yet distinct disciplines have a meaningful impact on early childhood educators. Professional development opportunities for trainers and RBPD specialists will span a variety of formats, such as in-person and online events, along with opportunities for ongoing coaching and mentoring. The TARSS team aims to use innovative technologies to build communities which support peer learning. These technologies will also make coaching and mentoring services more accessible and customized for each professional’s schedule.

Trainers and RBPD specialists can access TARSS support from CEED staff by emailing or calling 612-624-5708. Hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; we will respond to calls and emails within one business day.

Reflecting on complexity: Q & A with module author Tracy Schreifels

Tracy Schreifels

Tracy Schreifels, MS, LMFT, IMH-E® (IV), is a therapist, reflective consultant, and executive director of Ellison Center, a non-profit early childhood mental health agency in the St. Cloud area. Schreifels teaches in the marriage and family therapy program at St. Cloud State University and is the co-chair of the Advisory Board for the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health – Infant and Early Childhood Division. In addition to teaching CEED online courses, Schreifels authored two of CEED’s self-study modules: A Guide for the Guide: The “How” of Reflective Supervision and The Plot Thickens: Reflective Supervision for Groups. In this Q & A, she discusses The Plot Thickens.

Who do you see as the audience for this module? Who do you think would benefit from enrolling in it?

Tracy Schreifels: This module is designed for professionals who are preparing to lead group reflective supervision sessions either as consultants or supervisors. In order to provide reflective supervision, professionals should have a solid foundational understanding of the principles of infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH). They themselves should also be receiving ongoing reflective supervision. 

This module would also work well for those who are looking to expand their skills. I would recommend it to professionals who have been providing individual reflective supervision and wish to add group offerings. I’d also recommend it to those who are looking for some new tools or ideas to try out when providing reflective supervision in this format.

Could you share some of the reflections or realizations you had while building the content for this module?

I always enjoy getting back into the literature around the dynamic and growing field of IECMH. As I explored the content and topics for this module, I found myself reflecting on my methods for starting reflective supervision with the groups I provide it to. Creating this module helped me be more intentional and aware of why I operate the way I do. 

Putting together the module was also an opportunity to to reflect on how I learned to provide group reflective supervision and how much the field has changed since then. When I was being mentored on providing reflective supervision, there wasn’t much research on the topic that we could use to guide the process. It’s amazing how much the field has grown in the past 10 years! In addition, I found that the group formation process can be informed by evidence from the field of parent education. It’s astounding to me how all kinds of disciplines are needed to support this important work!

What drew you to the work of reflective practice and reflective supervision?

I was drawn into this field by amazing mentors. I have always had a passion for working with young children, and that guided me to get a degree in child and family studies. With that educational background, I worked as a preschool teacher as well as with caregivers and children. Along the way, the agency I was working for as a teacher brought in a reflective consultant to support us in our work. I looked forward to our monthly sessions, but when the grant funding ended, so did our reflective practice. I decided to go back to school to earn my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, and I knew that I would specialize in IECMH.

What are the top three takeaways that you hope students come away with from your module?

First, I want students to be able to hold in mind the differences and similarities associated with group and individual reflective supervision. While the same foundation is used for both, the execution can be very different. Being able to process those similarities and differences can help us be more intentional in our approaches and better able to hold the perspectives of reflective supervision participants.

Second, reflecting on reflecting is essential. That is something I hope students take away from this module. I want students to consider the impact of group development. This field is founded on developmental principles, and those principles can inform group reflective supervision as well.

Third, I hope that students feel a sense of confidence after completing this module, so that they can step in to address concerns that arise in the group delivery model of reflective supervision. Holding in mind each participant, the group dynamics, and the work they are reflecting on is complex. This module was designed to help practitioners reflect on those complexities.

Are there any additional thoughts you would like to share?

We are never done learning. Professionals need the supportive relationships that develop in reflective supervision to support them and the children and families they work with as well. I hope that participants enjoy the content and allow themselves to reflect and process as they work through it.

Q & A with Program Quality Specialist Margarita Milenova, PhD

Margarita Milenova, PhD, joined CEED as a program quality specialist in 2013. She works on early childhood program quality projects and trains early childhood professionals on the Desired Results Developmental Profile© (DRDP [2015]) and the COR Advantage® assessment tools. Milenova has special expertise in authentic assessment. In this Q & A, she talks about the advantages of different assessment tools and offers tips for early childhood professionals to use them effectively.

Margarita Milenova

How did you become interested in early childhood education?

Margarita Milenova: My interest in learning about young children was sparked during my senior year in high school in Bulgaria when I enrolled in the prep program for assistant teachers. This was a year-round program that focused on early childhood education and psychology, combining academic classes with an extended practicum in child care centers. 

This experience motivated me to continue my journey at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, where I earned a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in early childhood education with a minor in special education. I was still curious to learn more and wanted to give back to the field, so I accepted a faculty position at the Department of Preschool and Elementary Education at Sofia University. After moving to the US, I had the opportunity to work as an early childhood teacher, as well as a director and teacher at the Bulgarian School in Minnesota supporting bilingual children and their families. These experiences across cultures were evidence of the fundamental importance of high-quality early childhood education.

Your work involves training early childhood educators to use the DRDP (2015)and COR Advantage® assessment tools. Can you describe how these tools work?

Authentic formative assessments help educators determine where each child is developmentally, so they can plan enriching learning opportunities for children, make changes in the physical environment, and provide the necessary support. Assessments like the DRDP (2015) and COR Advantage® provide a great way to communicate with families about children’s development and can also be used for accountability purposes. 

The assessment tools that I train educators to use are both reliable and valid authentic assessments. They look at all the important areas of child development. The assessments unfold as cycles of observation, documentation of behaviors and skills, reflection on the collected data, planning, and implementing. These steps are performed by caregivers who are familiar with the children. They’re performed in natural settings while children play and interact with peers or explore independently. These are the hallmarks of “authentic” assessments. It’s important to highlight that these are not test-like assessments where children are invited to do specific tasks or choose the correct answer.

What advice on using assessment tools such as the DRDP (2015) and the COR Advantage® do you have for early childhood professionals?

One important piece of information for Minnesota-based caregivers is that DRDP (2015) and COR Advantage® are on the list of approved assessments for Parent Aware, which is Minnesota’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system for early childhood programs. Both assessments may also be used by participants in the Kindergarten Entry Profile Initiative, which is a voluntary program offered by the Minnesota Department of Education. Another advantage of these assessments is that they are strengths-based and grounded in research. That means the focus is on what children can do, not on what they cannot do. I also like to emphasize that valid authentic assessments can yield very useful information. When programs use them as intended, teachers and caregivers can collect data that will help them make well-informed decisions about supporting children.

Sometimes it might look overwhelming to do all the different steps that authentic assessments call for (i.e., observe in various settings, write notes, snap photos, take videos, fill in forms and records, etc.). Working on it as a team with other caregivers can help make it more manageable. In fact, it’s actually preferable to have those observations in different settings—at the playground, at the sand table, in the dramatic play area, etc.—so you can be confident that a child is at a particular developmental level. 

Another tip is using technology to store and organize data collected through observation. There are some free apps available to make this easier for teachers. For instance, the DRDP Portfolio app and the Teaching Strategies® GOLD® app allow educators to save and quickly review the evidence they have collected. They can determine where a child is developmentally and share data with teachers and administrators, special education teachers, and families, all within these apps.

As someone who speaks more than one language, what are your thoughts about assessment for children who are bilingual or speak a different language at home from the one that is spoken in their early childhood program?

I believe that early childhood educators are very important partners for parents when we think about language development and how to support young children. When educators take the time to find out what language is spoken in the child’s home, it can really make a difference in relationship-building and instructional strategies. A child speaking a language other than English at home sometimes might appear to be falling behind their monolingual peers. In reality, however, this child might be able to fully participate in pretend play, with elaborate exchanges with a friend speaking Bulgarian or Tagalog, for instance. It’s important to have an open mind and avoid the assumption that having trouble expressing oneself in English equates to a lack of knowledge or understanding of concepts. 

Authentic assessments can help educators take a holistic look at a child’s language development. As just one example, DRDP (2015) has a set of four English language development measures. These measures look at how a child is progressing in English. Crucially, however, each of these measures also takes into account the child’s development in their home language. The rest of the DRDP (2015) assessment can be completed based on a child’s use of their home language or based on alternative ways of communicating. 

No matter which assessment tool an educator is using, it can be really helpful to work with an interpreter, a cultural liaison, and a child’s parents when assessing multilingual children. They can help educators gain a better understanding of where the child is developmentally. It is not always easy to find interpreters and cultural liaisons, but connecting with cultural institutions representing different communities can be an option.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Living in Minnesota has given me plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors at a level that is new for me! I enjoy paddle boarding in the summer and cross-country skiing during the snowy months.

“This work is hard, and it should be”: Q & A with Mindy Kronenberg

Mindy Kronenberg, PhD, IMH-E®, is a clinical psychologist who specializes in infant mental health and the assessment and treatment of trauma across the lifespan. Kronenberg has worked in settings such as state agencies, schools, Head Start programs, dependency courts, and child welfare agencies. In this Q & A, Kronenberg talks about how she developed the self-study module Holding the Baby in Mind—When We Are Dysregulated Ourselves.

Mindy Kronenberg

Who do you see as the audience of your module?

Mindy Kronenberg: This module is aimed at people who work with infants and young children and their families. The concept of “holding the baby in mind,” or keeping the baby or child’s perspective in mind when working with a family, is central to infant mental health (IMH) work. However, our capacity to hold the baby in mind is affected by our own stress. This module addresses an issue that is at the heart of infant mental health, leaning into the often painful emotions of the families with whom we work. Holding the baby in mind while self-regulating remains challenging for IMH practitioners regardless of the stage of their career. That’s why this module is relevant for practitioners at any point in their career.

My guess is that not all of the videos and articles I’ve chosen for the module will be brand-new to all participants. However, I’ve organized the module in a way that I hope will stimulate new ways of thinking about the content. 

What are the top three takeaways that you hope students come away with from your module?

The first takeaway is that this work is hard, and it should be. The fact that we feel challenged and sometimes experience strong emotions can mean that we are fully connecting with a family. Making this connection is part of what leads to effective work.

Second, IMH work requires a strong foundation of knowledge as well as a learning mindset. In order to focus on relationships, hold the baby in mind, and be fully present with a family, we need to master core IMH competencies. I hope that this module helps practitioners consider how they can hold the baby in mind when they are dysregulated. I also hope that the ideas presented here stimulate their curiosity to seek more information.

The final takeaway is that we cannot do this work alone. We all need good reflective supervision or consultation. This type of reflective practice is not only beneficial to us, but it is beneficial to the families we serve.

Are there additional thoughts you would like to share?

While this is a self-study course, the module will be most beneficial if practitioners complete it together. We often think of the importance of regulation, learning, and exploration within relationships for infants, but the importance of relationships does not end with infancy. My hope is that, just like all IMH work, participants are able to complete this module in the context of relationships.

I’ve enjoyed putting this module together, and I hope you enjoy it as well!

Our award-winning e-book

Cover of e-book

We’re honored that our e-book, Reflective Supervision and Consultation: Preventing Burnout, Boosting Effectiveness, and Renewing Purpose for Frontline Workers, was recognized with a 2020 Maroon award for design by the University of Minnesota Communicators Forum! Each year, the Communicators Forum—a network of communications professionals at UMN—presents Maroon and Gold Awards highlighting work that “exemplifies the University’s core values: excellence, innovation, effectiveness, integrity, diversity, collaboration, sharing of knowledge, accountability, stewardship, and service.”

Written by Reflective Practice Center staff, our e-book was designed by Kirsten Mortensen, graphic design and production manager at the College of Education and Human Development. Download your free copy!

The RIOS in practice: Part two of our Q & A with Michelle Dineen

Michelle Dineen

Michelle Dineen, MSW, LICSW, IMH-E®, is a therapist and reflective consultant. In part one of our Q & A, she talked about what happens in a reflective supervision session and why it benefits participants. In this second installment, Dineen talks about how reflective supervisors and consultants use the Reflective Interaction Observation Scale (RIOS™), which was developed at CEED. Dineen teaches our online course, RIOS™ 1: Using the RIOS™ Framework for Reflective Supervision, and she authored the self-study module Wondering with Purpose: Reflection in Any Setting.

The RIOS was initially developed as a research tool, but reflective practitioners quickly started using it as a tool for training and practice. Can you talk about how the RIOS is used in reflective supervision sessions?

Michelle Dineen: I’ll give you my personal answer. Have you ever seen that image of pinning down a cloud? Describing reflective supervision can feel like that. What researchers at CEED did when they developed the RIOS was to answer the question: “What are we actually doing in reflective supervision?” What they found is that we’re actively listening and being curious. The RIOS framework helps the reflective supervisor or consultant to remain grounded while listening to a story. I think of the RIOS as a touchstone, something to think about when you’re getting lost, when you might have veered off. It’s a reminder to ask yourself: What am I curious about next? What am I not curious about?

So the RIOS was developed as a way to describe the content of a reflective supervision session. But practitioners can actively use it during reflective supervision to help guide the conversation.

Here is one way to think of reflective supervision. Picture six people sitting around a table with a 3D object in the middle of it. None of us can see the object from every angle. Each of us is seeing a different part of the thing. But if we all look at it at the same time and from our different perspectives, we are seeing the whole object.

One of the Essential Elements of reflective supervision identified by the RIOS is Holding the Baby or Child in Mind. What the RIOS does is to help us hold all of the pieces: the person who’s receiving services, the baby or child, and the provider who’s telling the story. It helps us build a whole picture of a family or a situation. It helps us know if we are seeing all the different parts of the 3D object. This is especially important since a reflective supervision session consists of two or more people talking about a third party.

This sounds like one of the differences between reflective supervision and therapy. When someone meets with a therapist, their own stories are the focus of the conversation. In contrast to that, in reflective supervision, the provider and the reflective supervisor are talking about someone who is not in the room with them.

Yes, when a client shares a personal story with their therapist, the therapist is curious about the person and their story. But the client has the answers. In a reflective session, the people in the room don’t have all the answers. We are still curious about the provider sitting with us who is sharing the story. As we know, they are part of the story. They’re helping that third party, and part of their work is to be curious about that third party.

It’s interesting that you use the word “curiosity” more than words like “empathy” or “compassion.”

When you’re curious, open, or challenging assumptions, it helps you to connect empathetically. The curious mindset leaves more space for understanding the other person–or just sitting with that person and not understanding. Research has found that a curious, wondering mind is a coping mechanism for stressful events. If a stressful thing happens, instead of holding onto the stress, the curious mind can actually say, “Okay, this is an adventure. I’m interested. What do I need to know?” We move towards action, curiosity, and wonder. That curiosity goes away sometimes when things are stressful or when someone hurts my feelings. Yet my job is still to be in a relationship with the other person, to get them what they need.

Let’s say I’m a home visitor working with a parent. The parent is yelling at me. If I’m able to maintain my curiosity about the person, I may ask, “What is the feeling that produced this behavior?” I may learn that they were verbally abused as a child. That starts to kick my empathy into gear. Now I understand that they’re playing out their attachment relationship with me, and if I act differently from their parent, then there’s potential for repairing that prior relationship. Later, when the parent interacts with their child, they may be able to use our relationship as a model sometimes, instead of only the relationship they had with their parents.

That’s an example of Parallel Process, one of the Essential Elements identified in the RIOS.

It’s one of the reasons why reflective supervision was born in the infant mental health field. Workers were trying to create these corrective relationships with clients who were becoming parents. But what if corrective relationships like that were available to everyone? If there are people who are curious and interested in me and in whatever I’m having trouble with, I can hold my feelings instead of acting them out.

This is why I believe this course, RIOS™ 1: Using the RIOS™ Framework for Reflective Supervision, can work for people in a range of professions. I think the same is true of the module Wondering with Purpose: Reflection in Any Setting. Take “Holding the Baby in Mind” and change “baby” to “person on the phone who needs housing” and “provider” to “person answering the phone.” The reflective provider will be more able to hold the boundary when someone is acting inappropriately. The provider will then be more able to give them another chance when they’re acting appropriately, rather than saying, “You can’t come back to my agency again.”

So that’s what opens up this course to anybody who’s interested in this reflective way of interacting with people. A big piece is practicing identifying a feeling in someone else and in yourself. Have you heard what Brené Brown has to say about empathy versus sympathy? Empathy acknowledges that maybe there are no solutions. Empathy means that when someone feels like they’re down in a hole, you just get down in the hole with them. It helps us get used to saying to a supervisor, “I am tapped out, frustrated, and angry.” And it helps the supervisor get used to saying: “Wow, I hear you.” Or: “I trust you to do what you need to do so you can get back to work.” That’s instead of saying: “Just get back to the phones.” Or: “Let me fix it.” There doesn’t need to be a genius fix, there just needs to be a space.