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Understanding how higher education contributes to teacher performance is a complex undertaking. It requires identifying which variations in program content and delivery are most relevant to student learning and teacher practice with young children. This necessitates appropriate research methodologies that can illuminate key program variations, which are re essential for generating solid evidence to inform policy and practice.

By Default or By Design? Variations in Higher Education Programs for Early Care and Education Teachers and Their Implications for Research Methodology, Policy, and Practice draws upon a case study of two early childhood B.A. completion cohort programs in order to illuminate the limitations of current ways of conceptualizing and studying early childhood teacher education. Focusing on four dimensions– program content, clinical experiences, faculty characteristics, and institutional context–we examine challenges encountered and lessons learned in seeking to understand differences in educational experiences among students attending these two programs. We then offer a series of recommendations for more nuanced ways of describing and evaluating the quality of higher education programs for early care and education practitioners.