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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET 4  |   CHAPTER ONE learning and development opportunities associated with children’s positive growth. DEFINITIONS • A field is an invisible world filled with mediums of connections: an invisible structure that connects. 1 • The term field of practice makes explicit that the purpose of the field in question revolves around performance of a specialized and shared competence. 2 • Professions are coherent, interconnected systems of preparation, practice, and responsibility. 3 • “A system is a set of things (people, cells, molecules, or whatever) interconnected in such a way that they produce their own pattern of behavior over time. The system may be buffeted, constricted, triggered, or driven by outside forces. But the system’s response to these forces is characteristic of itself, and that response is seldom simple in the real world. In essence, systems cause their own behavior.” 4 • “Mental models are deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures or images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action.” 5 ORGANIZING AS A PROFESSIONAL FIELD OF PRACTICE In return for its unique societal contribution, a profession is granted autonomy as a field of practice, but this indepen- dence is coupled with certain responsibilities. A profession is expected to continually develop its expert knowledge base, given authority over its use in practice, and held accountable for monitoring members’ ethical and competent perfor- mance. A profession’s mandate is realized through interde- pendent systems of preparation, practice, and accountability, making professions unique in their occupational structure. At their core, systems are about the interconnections among their elements. 8 The connections and relationships within and across professions’ three primary system com- ponents are central to their coherence and effectiveness. By moving beyond its fragmented occupational configuration and structuring itself as a professional field of practice, ECE’s potential can be more fully realized. In 1996 Sharon Kagan and Nancy Cohen presented the first comprehensive vision for an ECE system. 9 Since then, the field has focused on developing its infrastruc- ture and easing the fragmented relationships embedded within and across policy, program delivery, and financing. Systems work related to professional develop- ment has attended primarily to cultivating coordination across the field’s varied education and training programs, expanding access, and creating career lattices. With growing recognition of teacher-child interactions as central to children’s learning and development, the work within this systems domain is also increasing- ly attending to teachers’ instructional and relationship skills. Absent from these systemic pursuits has been attention to structuring ECE as an organized field of practice, one unified by shared purpose and tightly bound by systems of COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL