GSE Distinguished Professor Joins Child Care Research Collaborative

Sharon Ryan

The Rutgers Child Care Research Collaborative has invited Sharon K. Ryan, Distinguished Professor of Early Childhood Education, and Coordinator of Teacher Leadership Concentration, Ed.D. program to join their research consortium. She will contribute to their new research initiative to improve child care access for families who work nontraditional hours.

Listen to her interview with Marybeth Gasman to learn more about her role and the research:

Can you tell us about a new research project you are working on?

I am really fortunate to have been invited to be part of the Rutgers Child Care Research Collaborative, working on a statewide study of the child care landscape in NJ. This is a research collaborative between the National Center for Early Education Research, the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, and the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.  I am helping to lead a focus group and statewide survey study of the childcare workforce. Additionally, I am working with colleagues at the Center for Women and Work on a focus group study of families needing access to, and using, childcare during nonstandard work hours.

Why did you decide to pursue this research? And what is unique about your approach?

Qualifications and education of the child care workforce vary depending on where individuals work and the low wages and status associated with the work, among other factors, contribute to a high turnover rate. The pandemic has contributed to a lack of high quality child care options for families and not enough childcare professionals. The state needs data that can inform efforts to build the supply, capacity, and quality of the early childhood workforce. Given that research that looks at the child care workforce tends to be uneven and rarely considers workforce issues at a state or systems level, this research is a comprehensive effort to use data to identify a set of policy recommendations for the state of NJ to improve the supply, preparedness, and retention of a high quality child care workforce. 

What kind of methodological and theoretical approaches do use? And why are these important to your work?

The workforce study uses a mixed methods approach combining survey data with qualitative interviewing. Survey data provides policymakers with understandings of who comprises the early childhood workforce, their qualifications and demographic characteristics, as well as key factors that contribute to their job satisfaction and intent to remain in the profession. Qualitative data allows us to learn first-hand from members of the child care workforce about their work with young children. This is really important as the workforce is comprised mostly or women and women of color,  who are rarely asked about their work, despite its importance. 

What’s next?

My first major line of inquiry as a researcher was exploring the potential of critical theories to re-conceptualize the early childhood curriculum. I am going back to my critical work, writing a literature review that examines what teacher educators in the US and globally are doing to prepare early childhood educators to enact socially just pedagogies. 

The Child Care Research Collaborative is funded by the NJ Department of Children and Families.