Preschool Professional Development with At-Risk for Early Childhood Educators

Rethinking Disruptive Behavior

It’s hard to argue against the importance of preschool for young children and preschool professional development for their educators. A rising movement in the U.S. is recognizing the value of preschool opportunities so that children can start kindergarten ready for success.

Yet many people are surprised to know that each year, over 8,700 three- and four-year-old children are expelled from state-funded preschool classrooms. This is three times the rate of their older peers, and in childcare settings can be 13 times higher.

Why are suspensions and expulsions problematic at this age? Interrupting early childhood education has academic, social, and emotional consequences. According to the Institute of Child Success:

Young children who are expelled or suspended are as much as 10 times more likely to drop out of high school, experience academic failure and grade retention, hold negative school attitudes, and face incarceration than those who are not. Expulsion or suspension early in a child’s education predicts expulsion or suspension in later school grades.

Why Preschool Professional Development Matters

These consequences are causing policymakers and preschools to rethink how they respond to challenging behavior in the classroom. Recognizing underlying causes of disruptive student behavior such as trauma, mental health, and home environments can make a crucial difference in connecting children to support.

With disruptive behavior on the rise, managing a classroom of preschoolers ages three to five is a challenging job. It requires not only a focus on early childhood education, but also on classroom management. Lack of training on responding to disruptive behavior can exacerbate feelings of stress and burnout, in turn negatively impacting their teaching.

Preschool professional development is therefore critically important to ensure that young children have a high quality education and that preschool teachers are satisfied in their jobs.

Addressing Young Children At-Risk

With growing attention on emotional regulation among three- to five-year-olds, the Kognito team has developed a new preschool professional development simulation for educators to lead conversations with students and develop relationships with caregivers.


At-Risk for Early Childhood Educators is designed to prepare adults to identify when a young student in their class needs more support. The immersive learning experience, in which teachers practice talking with virtual students and caregivers, builds knowledge and skills in child mental health and behavior management. The end goal is to lead real-life conversations on challenging behavior with young students and to collaborate with their caregivers on a plan.

Learning objectives of At-Risk for Early Childhood Educators are for preschool educators to be able to:

  • Identify signs that a young child in their care might need support
  • Intervene appropriately in response to behavioral challenges or social-emotional skill deficits
  • Bring up concerns with a caregiver and collaborate on a plan, and
  • Practice emotional self-regulation to better support themselves and their students.

About At-Risk for Early Childhood Educators

This preschool professional development tool covers four role-play scenarios in about 45 minutes:

In the first scenario, the learner assumes the role of a teacher who tries to refocus the class and help a student, Eli, calm down after he accidentally hit another student during a group activity.

The second scenario takes place shortly afterwards when the learne checks in with Eli to help him identify his feelings and problem-solve for the future.

In the third scenario, the learner chats with Eli’s mother to share observations and collaborate on a plan around Eli’s behavior.

Finally, the learner sits down with the grandfather of a student, Sophia, in order to build a relationship and learn about Sophia’s behavior at home to inform her approach in the classroom.

Kognito designed these role-play conversations to

  1. help teachers effectively manage their classrooms, and
  2. to collaborate with caregivers to build a community around students who need additional support.

With guidance from a virtual coach, learners try different conversation approaches to see what works to meet their goals.

Preschool Professional Development and Up

At-Risk for Early Childhood Educators joins Kognito’s At-Risk suite of online professional development role-play simulations tailored for elementary, middle, and high school grades. These tools are currently adopted by schools, districts, and statewide agencies to train school personnel to address student mental health.

Complementing mental health and suicide prevention training, Kognito also offers PK-12 professional development training on the following topics:

How to Access

More information and demo access for At-Risk for Early Childhood Educators is available here.

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