Articulating high quality free choice time in Head Start preschools: A framework to support professional development and classroom observations

  • Judy Hicks Paulick University of Virginia
Keywords: Head Start, guided play, free choice, observation tool, teacher practice


Free choice time (FCT) is ubiquitous on Head Start and other preschool’s daily schedules. Yet there is a lot of variation in what FCT looks like across classrooms. We lack tools that identify strong FCT practice, including how teachers ought to facilitate it. A framework for defining and gauging high quality FCT in preschool classrooms is overdue. This study documents the development of and preliminary findings from the Framework for Free Choice Time (F-FCT). Based on a comprehensive field- and research-based understanding of best practices, this framework articulates low, middle-range, and high-quality practice across 26 elements within 5 dimensions. Findings demonstrate some initial validity and reliability of the framework. The F-FCT articulates a range of quality and can be used to support preservice and in-service teacher professional development. Future work with the F-FCT may have implications for preschool curricula, policy, and teacher evaluation.

Author Biography

Judy Hicks Paulick, University of Virginia
Assistant Professor of Elementary Education
Research Articles