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Early Childhood Education Specialization

Collage of Early Childhood Images

We are not currently accepting applications for the Early Childhood Education Specialization program. If you are interested in earning a master's in early childhood, please visit the Online Early Childhood Education Master's program.

If you are currently enrolled in the Early Childhood Education Specialization, note that it has not changed and we will continue to work with you as you complete the program.

The Early Childhood Education Specialization at Portland State University is a fully online non-licensure degree program that culminates in a master's in curriculum and instruction focused on young children, birth through 8 years old.

Whether you are already working in the field of early education – preschool or primary grades – or looking to change your career path to focus on young children, our accredited, high-quality program will provide new strategies and concepts to successfully prepare you to work with young children, their teachers, and their families in a variety of program capacities. You will learn about theories and current research from our exemplary professors.

Whether you want to work with young children; advance to teacher leadership; build Head Start programs, preprimary schools, and infant/toddler centers; or provide other early childhood services, this master's degree will provide a strong background for your professional growth and development.


The predominant theoretical basis of PSU's ECE specialization is constructivism, which is grounded in the work of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. We believe that children and teachers construct knowledge, alone and in collaboration, through interaction with the social and physical world.

The issues of diversity and social justice that educators are faced with call for highly reflective and responsive teachers who have a deep understanding of development, curriculum and culture that is focused on the unique needs and issues of young children and their families. Because of the diversity of the population being served, this program is designed to develop a deeper understanding of those aspects of early childhood education that are particular to each student's needs and interests, while also developing a broad understanding of the field of early childhood education.

Overall, our program is inspired by many different traditions and more recently has included pedagogy and exploration of the preprimary schools and infant-toddler centers of Reggio Emilia, Italy.  If enough students organize themselves, we facilitate study tour trips for credit and learning in this direction.

Key values

Respect ~ Honoring our diversity and welcoming multiple perspectives
Participation ~ Engaging all members of the community
Constructing knowledge ~ Inquiring, experimenting, theory building
Listening ~ Paying close attention
Reflection ~ Thinking deeply
Representation ~ Making learning visible in many possible languages
Collaboration ~ Having wonderful ideas together