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IES Grant

Title: Impact of Professional Development on Preschool Teachers' Use of Embedded-Instruction Practices: An Efficacy Trial of Tools for Teachers
Center: NCSER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Snyder, Patricia Awardee: University of Florida
Program: Early Intervention and Early Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2015-6/30/2019) Award Amount: $3,498,113
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R324A150076

Co-Principal Investigators:  James Algina and Mary Louise Hemmeter (Vanderbilt University), and Mary McLean

Purpose: The goal of this study is to examine the efficacy of Tools for Teachers (TfT), a professional development intervention for using embedded instruction with preschool children with disabilities. Embedded instruction involves intentional teaching of individual child learning goals within the context of routine classroom activities. Prior research has found evidence that this approach can be effective with young children with varying disabilities, but it is not always implemented with fidelity. Therefore, the research team created this professional development program to support teachers in implementing the strategy with children. This study will use a randomized controlled trial to compare the efficacy of two versions of the TfT professional development program— using on-site coaching versus web-based self coaching — to one another and a control group to determine the impacts on teacher practices and child outcomes.

Project Activities: There will be 108 early childhood special education teachers randomly assigned to one of two TfT conditions (on-site coaching or self-coaching) or a business-as-usual control group. Each teacher will have three target children in their classroom with a developmental delay or disability. Child, teacher, and classroom data will be collected in four waves throughout the implementation year;  teacher and classroom data will be collected during the sustainability year. Data will be analyzed primarily with analyses of covariance to determine group differences in outcomes, with additional analyses used to examine mediation, moderation, and sustainability of instructional practices in the second year.

Products:  The products of this project will include evidence of the efficacy of the TfT professional development intervention, including the relative efficacy of the two versions, on preschoolers with disabilities, as well as peer-reviewed publications and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in preschool classrooms in rural, urban, and suburban areas in Florida and Tennessee.

Sample:  The researchers plan to recruit 108 certified or licensed teachers in early childhood and special education classrooms, and three children (age 3 and 4 years) with developmental delays or disabilities from each classroom for a total of 324 preschoolers.

Intervention: Tools for Teachers (TfT) is a professional development intervention for using embedded instruction with preschool children with disabilities. Embedded instruction involves 14 key teaching practices organized by what to teach (specifying skills used in typically occurring activities), when to teach (identifying appropriate activities), how to teach (using intentional and systematic instruction during ongoing activities), and how to evaluate (using data-based decision making to evaluate and impact child learning).  The four components of TfT professional development include (1) workshops with demonstrations and opportunities to practice, (2) teacher implementation guides and materials, (3) a multi-media website with videos and more in-depth information, and (4) coaching. Coaching involves assessing teacher needs, setting goals, observing, reflecting, and providing feedback.  The two intervention groups in this study will receive the coaching component differently. The first group will receive on-site coaching, with 16 weekly interactions between a teacher and project-trained coach. The second group will engage in self-coaching, with access to a separate section of the website with materials and supports for self-coaching, and weekly emails to prompt self-coaching activities.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will conduct a cluster randomized controlled trial, with randomization at the classroom/teacher level. Two cohorts of teachers will be assigned to the TfT professional development with on-site coaching, TfT with self-coaching, or a business-as-usual control group. Classrooms will participate for 2 years — the intervention year and sustainability year. In the first year of the study, the intervention will be implemented along with four waves of data collection from before the intervention begins to the end of the academic year. Data will be collected on child, classroom, and teacher variables. In the second year, there will be four waves of data collection on classroom and teacher variables. The primary aims of this efficacy trial are to examine the effects of the two TfT conditions relative to the control group on teacher implementation of embedded instruction, classroom quality, and child outcomes (learning target behaviors, engagement, functional skills, pre-academic learning, and social and behavioral skills); confirm that TfT with on-site coaching produces greater impacts than with self-coaching; determine what other differences between  groups emerge on key variables; demonstrate that both TfT interventions can be implemented with fidelity; and describe the conditions needed to support fidelity of implementation.

Control Condition:  The business-as-usual control condition will receive their typical professional development activities and implement their typical instructional practices.

Key Measures:  The primary classroom outcome measures in this study include Classroom Assessment Scoring System (classroom instructional quality) and two measures of implementation of embedded instruction practices developed by the research team. Primary child outcome measures include the EIOS (measure of learning targets), Engagement Behavior Rating System, Preschool and Kindergarten Behavior Scales-II, Preschool Language Scale-5, Test of Early Reading Ability-3, Bracken Basic Concept Scale-3, and Adaptive Behavior Assessment System-II. Observations of classroom quality, teacher and parent questionnaires, school records, and a rating scale of child functional abilities will be used to measure mediators and moderators as well as study inclusion criteria.

Data Analytic Strategy: Multivariate, multi-level analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) will be used to answer the primary research questions regarding the impact of the intervention on child and teacher outcomes. Multi-level mediation analysis will be used to examine mediators, interactions will be used to examine moderators, and latent growth analysis will be used to examine change over time during the sustainability year.

Related IES Projects: Impact of Professional Development on Preschool Teachers' Use of Embedded-Instruction Practices (R324A070008)

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