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IES Grant

Title: Teacher and Peer Speech in Inclusion Classrooms: Malleable Factors Affecting Language Outcomes for Children with Disabilities
Center: NCSER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Messinger, Daniel Awardee: University of Miami
Program: Early Intervention and Early Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2018-06/30/2022) Award Amount: $1,399,735
Type: Exploration Award Number: R324A180203

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to use innovative technologies to understand the role of teacher and peer speech in the language development and social relationships of preschool children with disabilities in inclusive settings. There is evidence that language-related experiences in the classroom impact children's language development. However, previous studies have been relatively short in duration. In this study, the researchers will use technologies that allow for real-time measurement of language in a natural context, over an extended period of time, to investigate whether teacher turn-taking with children and exposure to peer language during social contact are associated with improvements in children's expressive and receptive language and social interactions. Researchers will also explore whether these relationships differ for inclusive classrooms in which most children with disabilities have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and those in which most children with disabilities have other disabilities, primarily language delays.

Project Activities: The investigators will collect data on language input, social interaction, and language development repeatedly over the 9-month school year to investigate the role of teacher and peer speech in the development of language and social connections within inclusive preschool classrooms. In addition to more traditional measures of observation and child- and teacher-report, the project will make use of several advanced technology systems that capture language input and spatial orientation at the individual child level. Analyses will test the relationship between language input from teachers and peers and later language development and the relationship between language ability and exposure to vocal input; and to explore whether the relationships are moderated by type of disability.

Products: The products of this project will include preliminary evidence of the association between teacher conversational turn-taking and exposure to peer language and the language and social development of preschoolers with disabilities. Products will also include peer-reviewed publications and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in 20 inclusive preschool classrooms in urban and suburban areas in Florida. Of these classrooms, 10 will be ASD Inclusion classrooms (i.e., ratio of typically developing children to those with ASD is approximately 2:1) and 10 classrooms will be Language Delay Inclusion classrooms (i.e., ratio of typically developing children to those with other disabilities, primarily language delay, is approximately 1:1).

Sample: Approximately 350 3- to 4-year-old children (50 children with ASD, 100 children with other disabilities, and 200 typically developing children), and their teachers (50 teachers, at least 2 per classroom) will participate in this study.

Malleable Factors: Malleable factors include teacher conversational turn-taking with children and peer speech during social contact.

Research Design and Methods: This study will use a longitudinal design with repeated assessment of children's language exposure and development over the 9-month school year. Automated data collection of language will occur monthly; standardized language assessments will be collected at the beginning and end of the school year; observer ratings of child behavior and peer interactions and sociometric data on children's friendship networks will be collected every 3 months. Each year, new children will join the study as they enroll in the participating classrooms. The design will allow researchers to investigate a reciprocal model of language development to determine whether language exposure is related to later language development as well as whether language development is related to later language exposure.

Control Condition: Due to the nature of the research design, there is no control group.

Key Measures: Proximal language measures (overall vocalizations, vocalizations in contact with peers, and teacher's turn-taking with individual children) will be captured through automated, synchronized recording devices on children and teachers that capture information on physical location and orientation to others (Ubisense Tag Module) as well as vocalizations (Language Environment Analysis). Measures of more distal language outcomes include the Preschool Language Scales — 5th Edition (expressive and receptive language, syntax skills). The technology used to capture language will also be used to capture observational data for coding of child behavior and peer interactions. Additional measures of peer interaction in the classroom include the sociometric ratings by peers to determine friendship networks, Individualized Classroom Assessment System (inCLASS) to capture classroom engagement and peer interactions, and the Penn Interactive Peer Play Scale to measure teacher-reported quality of peer interactions during play. Finally, the Battelle Developmental Inventory (2nd edition) will be used to assess levels of developmental delay of children in inclusion classrooms.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will analyze the data to examine associations and moderation using multi-level modeling in which observations are nested within children and children are nested within classrooms.