Early Childhood Education Journal

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 297–308 | Cite as

Changing Through Relationships and Reflection: An Exploratory Investigation of Pre-service Teachers’ Perceptions of Young Children Experiencing Homelessness

  • Travis WrightEmail author
  • Ilana Nankin
  • Kathryn Boonstra
  • Elizabeth Blair


One in 30 American children experience homelessness, and yet educators are often unaware of the challenges these students face. Drawing on a qualitative study of 21 pre-service teachers (PSTs) interviewed at the completion of their early childhood/ESL teacher education program, the overall purpose of this study was to ascertain PSTs’ reported attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and self-identified skills for working with young homeless children in schools with the goal of identifying opportunities for teacher education programs to better prepare PSTs for work with children experiencing homelessness. Findings suggest that PSTs enter teacher preparation with many misconceptions about children and families experiencing homelessness. Incorporating specific information about homelessness into coursework and supervision, nurturing PSTs’ capacity for critical self-reflection, and creating opportunities for PSTs to develop positive teacher–student relationships with children experiencing homelessness were identified as essential in fostering PST self-efficacy, and, by extension, the resilience of homeless children. By illuminating the processes through which PSTs make sense of children’s experiences of homelessness and its impacts on schooling, these findings have important implications for the education of young children and the design of professional development opportunities and structured learning for preservice teachers.


Early childhood education Teacher preparation Pre-service teachers Student–teacher relationships Homelessness Teacher beliefs 



This work was supported by a grant from the Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.University of Wisconsin-WhitewaterWhitewaterUSA
  3. 3.Department of Counseling PsychologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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