About Learning Collaboratives

An early care and education (ECE) learning collaborative uses an empowerment model designed to support the growth of leadership and efficacy of ECE providers as they learn, change, grow, and become champions for children’s health, development and learning.


The learning collaborative model brings together early care and education (ECE) programs to participate in a learning system to make quality improvements in a focused area. The collaborative model is powerful because it:

  • Brings together a community of learners.
  • Creates a network of shared ideas and mutual support.
  • Provides access to high-quality resources for quality improvement.
  • Offers opportunities to build important skills: implementation of best practices, nurturing a collaborative and productive ECE program team, as well as leadership and training.

What Happens in Collaboratives?

Learning collaboratives offer pathways for increasing knowledge, creating networks of support and engaging ECE program staff in the process of making healthy changes as an empowered team.

  • Leadership teams meet in structured Learning Sessions.
  • After each session, Leadership teams facilitate Action Period tasks — training with their staff to share information, stimulate discussion, and engage in assessment, action planning and implementation.
  • After each session, Leadership Teams guide ECE program staff to work on specific tasks supporting change: assessment, action planning, implementation, observation and reflection, and documentation of the process of change.
  • Sharing the experience with colleagues through group discussions and presentations of storyboards documenting the process of change.
  • Visits from trainers are scheduled after sessions to provide technical assistance, encouragement, information, an opportunity to share experiences and a forum for raising questions and thinking together about next steps.
Key Elements of Collaboratives

Learning Sessions provide education about the relationship of healthy eating and physical activity to children’s health, the powerful role of providers, the process of change and the potential of partnerships with families.
Action Period Tasks: Leadership teams use the Action Period after Learning Sessions as a way to share content, engage the entire ECE program staff, and facilitate discussion, brainstorming, planning and action.
Program Assessment tools, such as the Wellness Workbook and Go NAPSACC assessments, function as educational, planning and evaluation exercises.
Action plans are developed by each ECE program to begin the process of making program changes, target improvements, and obtain staff input in response to the program assessment results.
Storyboard presentations by the Leadership Teams are a way to document the process of change, share challenges and successes with colleagues, and provide valuable resources to others involved in making change.
Toolkits and resources offer concrete ways to involve children in nutrition awareness, healthy eating activities and physical activity in every classroom from birth through age five, as well as activities for families to try at home.
Trainers lead discussions at each Learning Session, provide virtual or in-person technical assistance to ECE programs after each Learning Session, support brainstorming and problem-solving, and link ECE programs to needed resources.