ProfileVisit your profile page Facilitator LoginSign in as a member to access your Facilitator resources  |  Your OrderManage your existing order  |  Your CourseLogin to your
online course

COS Classroom Approach

Enhancing Attachment in Early Care Settings

An Overview

Introduction to COSC Approach

Early childhood is a critical time for development. In early care settings, children need to develop a wide range of cognitive skills and social/emotional competencies to support their success throughout their school career and into adulthood. In other words, children learn to go to school so that later, they can go to school to learn.

Mary Ainsworth sums up the pivotal role of exploration in attachment by stating, "The interlocking between systems of this sort has led some to propose that the biological function of attachment behavior is (or should include) providing an opportunity for learning."

Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M., Waters, E., & Wall, S (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlgaum.

The COSC Approach incorporates a vast body of research in attachment and developmental psychology. Children learn within the context of relationship, so it is not surprising that secure attachment to early care providers has a significant positive effect on children’s school readiness and learning. Attachment theory, in general, and COS, in particular, provide critical organizing principles for the development of teacher-child relationships.

Early care professionals make a commitment to a child’s education, but children benefit when there is a deep commitment to the whole child. The relationship quality with a teacher affects not only academic outcomes, but also behavioral and emotional outcomes now and into the future.

Early care professionals benefit from guidance on how to promote secure attachment relationships with the children in their care. The Circle of Security Classroom (COSC) Approach is designed to enhance teachers' abilities to form secure relationships, and offers critical organizing principles from attachment theory to improve teacher confidence and competence in relationship building. This, in turn, fosters strong secure teacher-student relationships, and ultimately, student learning. COSC Approach is a two-tier approach to support secure relationships in the classroom by first equipping teachers with professional learning opportunities and, then, the application in the classroom through supportive coaching.


During the twenty-year incubation period of the COSC Approach, the COS team served as mental health consultants for Spokane Head Start/Early Head Start (HS/EHS) in Spokane, Washington, USA. In 2006, the program launched a focused effort to create a more systematic approach to enhancing relationships with the children in group care by forming a learning collaborative. Eleven highly talented HS/EHS teachers with an average of 22 years of experience in early childhood education, met twice a month with Glen Cooper from COS International, who presented COS theory to staff members as they reflected together on its application in the classroom.

Below is a video of a teacher from the first learning collaborative talking about her experience.

In 2016, Deidre Quinlan from COS International began the task of field testing and collecting data on the use of COSP program in early care. These lessons from the field informed the adaptations needed to develop and manualize from learned experiences to create the COSP Classroom Professional Learning Series. Since 2020, COSP Facilitators interested in bringing COSP to early care settings receive additional endorsement by completing the COSP Classroom Facilitator Course. Here facilitators are provided additional training in the use of COS materials and handouts specifically designed for early educators.

The Teacher's Circle was developed with teachers in mind to capture the complexity of relationships in the classroom.

Download the Teacher's Circle (PDF) in English

Click here to download a copy of the Teacher's Circle in English.

Download the Teacher's Circle (PDF) in Danish

Click here to download a copy of the Teacher's Circle in Danish.

Download the Teacher's Circle (PDF) in Spanish

Click here to download a copy of the Teacher's Circle in Spanish.

Watch the video below to learn more about how teachers are applying the COSC Approach to their work in the classroom and the benefits of focusing on relationship needs of children in their care.

Since 2020 another learning collaborative of early care professionals from across the United States met monthly for more than a year with Deidre Quinlan and Trasie Topple to help field test and develop learning protocols and modules to be used in classroom coaching. Through reflective dialogue, the pragmatics of moving theory into practice is unfolding. With their new understanding of children’s attachment needs, COSC Coaches introduce classroom friendly protocols and interventions to enhance attachments between children and early care professionals. Each year, a new group of coaches are learning from the COSC Approach the knowledge developed by past collaboratives as they continue to develop the thinking and applications into the future for the COSC Approach.

Click here to download a PDF copy of the COSC Approach Overview.