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IES Grant

Title: A Model of Professional Development that Focuses on the Centrality of Teacher-Child Interactions in the Learning, Behavior, and School Readiness of Preschool Children with Disabilities or At-Risk for Disabilities
Center: NCSER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Hester, Peggy Awardee: Old Dominion University
Program: Early Intervention and Early Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (7/1/2016-6/30/2019) Award Amount: $1,500,000
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A160277

Co-Principal Investigators: Ginger Watson and Sabra Gear

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop a model of professional development that focuses on the teacher-child interactions of preschool teachers and children with or at risk for disabilities in inclusive classrooms. Previous research has demonstrated the critical role that teacher-child interactions play in young children's outcomes. Further, research has demonstrated the importance of coaching with feedback and evaluation for supporting teachers in their transfer of knowledge to classroom skills. This intervention focuses on both content — the affective, behavioral, and cognitive supports for child learning and behavior provided through teacher-child interactions — and the process of professional development to facilitate teacher implementation in the classroom in order to enhance children's social, behavioral, and academic readiness for school.

Project Activities: The research team will iteratively develop a model of professional development aimed at improving behavioral and academic outcomes of children with or at risk for disabilities. In the first 2 years, the research team will develop the intervention content (i.e., affective, behavioral, and cognitive (ABC) support strategies) to support child learning and behavior as well as process components (i.e., web-based simulations, coach use of ABC strategies, and the use of real-time cyber coaching and feedback via Skype and Bluetooth technology) to support teacher learning of skills and implementation of strategies in the classroom. The researchers will also collect data on coach, teacher, and child behaviors to evaluate the usability, feasibility, and fidelity of the intervention implemented by preschool teachers as well as to identify factors associated with model implementation and sustainability. These will inform development of the professional development model leading up to the pilot study in Year 3, during which the researchers will use single-case design to evaluate the model's promise for improving behavioral and academic outcomes.

Products: The products of this project include a fully developed professional development intervention for preschool teachers of children with or at risk for disabilities focused on teacher-child interactions; evidence of the intervention's feasibility and promise for improving child behavioral and academic outcomes; and peer-reviewed publications and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in preschool programs in an urban area of Virginia.

Sample: In Years 1 and 2, six preschool teachers will participate in the initial development of training simulations and coaching protocols. One supervisory teacher (coach) and nine preschool teachers, three per classroom, will participate in the pilot study in Year 3. Across all years of the study, at least two 3- to 5-year-old children with or at risk for a disability and two typically developing peers will be recruited for each participating teacher.

Intervention: The intervention will focus on high-quality teacher-child interactions and supports teachers need to effectively implement intervention strategies aimed at enhancing academic and behavioral outcomes for children with or at risk for disabilities. The intervention has two main components: content and process. The content component is comprised of three types of supports (collectively referred to as ABC supports) for child learning through teacher-child interactions: (1) affective supports (strategies for developing an affirmative/responsive relationship), (2) behavioral supports (reinforcement and modeling strategies to shape behavior), and (3) cognitive supports (strategies that help children develop higher-order thinking skills, such scaffolding). The process component is comprised of the ABC supports that teachers need to implement these strategies in the classroom with fidelity. To obtain these supports, teachers will be trained initially in web-based virtual environments followed by real time cyber-coaching using Skype and Bluetooth technology to support teacher implementation of the strategies in the classroom.

Research Design and Methods: In Years 1 and 2, the research team will use an iterative process to develop the intervention components (content and process) and examine feasibility. Across these 2 years, seven simulations through virtual environments will be developed and tested with teachers. After a teacher masters a simulation, that teacher will move to implementation in the classroom with cyber-coaching before moving on to the next simulation. The teachers will begin this process at different times so that feedback from each teacher can be used to revise the simulation and coaching for testing with subsequent teachers. During the development phase, research staff will serve as the coach. Regular feedback from a focus group (comprised of site directors and teaching staff at all levels) will also be used in this iterative process. In Year 3, the intervention will be pilot tested using a single-case multiple baseline design across ABC strategies within each intervention component (i.e., simulations and cyber-coaching) to examine teacher and child outcomes. During the pilot study, a supervisory teacher will serve as the coach.

Control Condition: In the pilot study, participants (teachers, students, and coach) will serve as their own control through the use of a baseline phase within a single-case research design.

Key Measures: Children will be initially screened for participation using a teacher survey of communication and language, behavior difficulties, developmental level of learning, and parent-child interactions. Those found to have delays in at least one area will continue screening using standardized tests — Developmental Indicators for the Assessment of Learning, Child Behavior Checklist, and Social Skills Improvement System. Focus groups will be videotaped and transcribed. Outcomes will be measured through a large variety of assessments and sources. The Multiple Option Observation System for Experimental Studies (MOOSES) will be used to measure teacher variables (i.e., supports they provide to children), coaching variables (i.e., fidelity, intervention and coaching strategies), and child outcomes (affective, behavioral, and cognitive/language outcomes). Child outcomes will also be measured using a variety of standardized measures, including those used for screening, Denver Development Screening Test, Individual Growth and Development Indicators, Preschool Language Scale–Fourth Edition, and Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening. Teacher outcomes also include questionnaires (e.g., teacher knowledge and skills) and data generated from the computer-based training modules. Teacher-child interactions will be observed using the Individualized Classroom Assessment Scoring System (inCLASS).

Data Analytic Strategy: Audiotapes of the focus groups will be transcribed and coded for feedback on the intervention components during the iterative development process using a combination of typical case sampling (identifying the most common support scenarios) and intensity sampling (identifying features of each teacher-child interaction that exemplify successful and unsuccessful interventions). For the pilot study, single-case design studies will be analyzed using visual analysis and calculation of effect sizes.