|Title:||Development of an Empirically Based Intervention for Childcare Teachers to Promote Language Skills in At-Risk Toddlers|
|Principal Investigator:||Guttentag, Cathy||Awardee:||University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston|
|Program:||Early Intervention and Early Learning [Program Details]|
|Award Period:||6/1/11–5/31/14||Award Amount:||$1,370,738|
|Type:||Development and Innovation||Award Number:||R324A110104|
Purpose: Strong oral language skills can lay the foundation for later school achievement. Children who have delayed oral language skills by age three are less able than their typically developing peers to take advantage of preschool readiness curricula and are at risk for later learning difficulties in reading and math. Typical language interactions between teachers and students in early learning environments may not be of adequate quality for reducing language or academic difficulties. The purpose of this project is to develop and document the feasibility and promise of a professional development intervention, called Toddler Language in the Classroom, designed to improve language skills of toddlers who exhibit or are at risk for language delays. The program is intended to increase the quality of language and literacy experiences in the childcare setting by training teachers to respond to children's communicative signals, expose children to rich language, and encourage children to talk.
Project Activities: The researchers will develop a professional development intervention that will include two group teacher training sessions, 8 to 10 individual onsite didactic sessions, and 8 to 10 weekly in-class mentoring sessions. A multi-stage, iterative process will be used to develop, test, refine, and pilot test the professional development intervention sessions. During the final year, a pilot test of the program will be conducted in 20 classrooms to determine the promise of the intervention for improving teachers' use of the strategies and children's language outcomes.
Products: This project will result in published papers and reports on a fully developed professional development program designed to improve the language skills of toddlers who exhibit or are at risk for language delays.
Setting: The project will take place in community childcare centers in Texas.
Population: Approximately 30 childcare teachers and their students will participate in this research. Targeted students will be between 18 and 36 months of age and have low language skills as measured by the Early Communication Indicator.
Intervention: The researchers will develop a professional development intervention called Toddler Language in the Classroom. The program will include two group teacher training sessions, 8 to 10 individual onsite didactic sessions, and 8 to 10 weekly in-class mentoring sessions. The group sessions will bring together all participating teachers for presentations of intervention concepts and strategies (e.g., responding to children's communicative signals, exposing children to rich language, and encouraging children to talk) and discussion among participating teachers. During each onsite didactic session, a mentor will meet with individual teachers for about an hour and a half each week to review feedback, present additional concepts and strategies, and review video segments for self-critique. During each in-class mentoring session, the mentor will spend approximately 2 hours with each teacher, model interactions with children and use of target strategies, and provide additional coaching. The mentoring sessions will be videotaped, and following each session, the mentor will choose two examples of the teachers' successful use of the target strategies and two examples of less successful attempts at the target strategies. These examples will be reviewed with the teachers during the next didactic session. A monitoring tool will also be created to systematically record and live-code teachers and their use of the targeted strategies.
Research Design and Methods: The researchers will use a multi-stage, iterative process to develop, test, refine, and pilot test the professional development intervention sessions. During the third year, a pilot test comparing the feasibility and promise of the Toddler Language in the Classroom program will be conducted in 20 classrooms. Classrooms will be randomly assigned to the Toddler Language in the Classroom program or to a business-as-usual condition.
Control Condition: The comparison classrooms will be provided with age-appropriate children's books and toys that are also being provided to Toddler Language in the Classroom classrooms. Teachers in the comparison group, however, will not receive additional professional development.
Key Measures: Outcomes include measures of teachers' use of the Toddler Language in the Classroom strategies as well as improvements in teacher knowledge and practice promoting their students' language skills. Students' receptive and expressive language skills, social emotional skills, and nonverbal cognitive skills will also be measured.
Data Analytic Strategy: Analysis of covariance will be used to determine whether teachers' knowledge and use of the strategies improve after exposure to Toddler Language in the Classroom. Multilevel analyses will be used to determine whether the language, social emotional, and nonverbal cognitive skills of children in the intervention classrooms improve compared to their peers in the control condition.