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IES Grant

Title: Development of an Intervention for Center-Based Early Childhood Care and Education Providers to Support Evidence-Based Instruction of Children with Developmental Disabilities
Center: NCSER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Landa, Rebecca Awardee: Kennedy Krieger Institute, Inc.
Program: Early Intervention and Early Learning in Special Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2018-6/30/2022) Award Amount: $1,399,961
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A180085

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop a professional development (PD) intervention to help early child care and education (ECCE) providers improve their knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy in implementing evidence-based instructional practices for children with language, cognitive, and/or social  delays (i.e., developmental disabilities). ECCE providers play a vital role in the development and well-being of children, many of whom have or are at risk for developmental disabilities. However, training to work with children with developmental disabilities is limited; ECCE providers often have inadequate knowledge and skills around implementing evidence-based practices; and there are few research-based treatment packages that include evidence-based instructional practices, are usable in early childhood settings, and have a PD component to equip educators to deliver evidence-based instruction. Early Achievements, an intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is one such treatment package that has demonstrated efficacy for improving child outcomes. The current project will extend this line of research by developing a PD program to train ECCE providers in feasibly implementing the practices used in Early Achievements with high fidelity for a wider population of children, those with developmental disabilities, to improve their language, social, and cognitive outcomes.

Project Activities: The research will occur in three phases. In Phase 1, the research team will engage in initial development activities including focus groups, consumer reviews of the initial intervention, and development and validation of researcher-developed measures. In Phase 2, iterative development will occur in two cycles as the PD intervention will be implemented and initially evaluated with two consecutive cohorts of ECCE providers and children. In Phase 3, the team will conduct a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the promise of the PD intervention for improving provider and child outcomes. Sustainability of practices after the PD intervention ends will also be examined.

Products: The products of this project will include a fully developed PD program for ECCE providers working with children with developmental disabilities to improve their language, social, and cognitive outcomes. Products will also include peer-reviewed publications and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in licensed child care centers in an urban area in Maryland.

Sample: Over the course of the project, 56 ECCE providers, 12 child care center directors, and 64 children (ages 24-42 months) with developmental disabilities and their families will participate in the research.

Intervention: As part of the PD, ECCE providers will participate in three workshops over the course of 6 weeks and will receive 16 individualized, practice-based coaching sessions over the course of the 4-month period of PD. The PD focuses on improving providers’ understanding of, and skill in, implementing the following three sets of evidence-based instructional practices: (1) targeting children’s language/gesture, social, and cognitive development; (2) using meaning enhancement strategies (e.g., using themes throughout the classroom activities, hands-on learning experiences, narrating events as they unfold); (3) and implementing naturalistic developmental behavioral strategies (e.g., providing developmentally appropriate signals to elicit child behavior, scaffolding and prompting, using natural reinforcers, responding contingently).

Research Design and Methods: The research will take place in three phases. In Phase1, the research team will hold focus groups with providers and parents and conduct classroom observations of existing teaching practices to inform initial development of the PD. The research team will implement an initial abbreviated version of the PD intervention (all three workshops and 8 weeks of coaching) with providers and children. Data will be used to inform revisions to the PD and to refine and conduct psychometric analyses of the researcher-developed measures to be used in the remainder of the study. In Phase 2, the team will implement the revised PD program with two consecutive cohorts of ECCE providers and children, iteratively revising the intervention based on data from each cohort. In Phase 3, the team will conduct a pilot study using a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the promise of the PD intervention in improving provider and child outcomes. They will also examine whether providers sustain the evidence-based practices 3 months post-intervention.

Control Condition: ECCE providers in the control condition will deliver business-as-usual instruction to the children in their classrooms.

Key Measures: Children will be assessed for eligibility with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire and either the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales-3 or parent documentation of diagnosis and/or receipt of services under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Child outcome measures include the Mullen Scales of Early Learning Visual Reception scale, the Receptive One-Word Picture Expressive and Vocabulary Tests, and additional researcher-developed measures of social-communication development. ECCE provider outcomes will include researcher-developed assessments of knowledge, skills, self-efficacy, and perceived barriers, as well as a researcher-developed measure of providers’ fidelity of implementing evidence-based practices. Fidelity of, and satisfaction with, workshops and coaching will be evaluated with researcher-developed scales and checklists.

Data Analytic Strategy: In Phase 1, qualitative data will be will be transcribed and coded for themes related to perceived needs, attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and experiences regarding PD and compared descriptively to observed practices. Psychometric analyses of researcher-developed instruments will include determining inter-rater reliability and internal consistency, conducting descriptive analyses of item-level data, visually inspecting data over time, and coding for consistency with existing measures (construct validity). In Phases 2 and 3, the research team will use multilevel modeling to examine whether there is preliminary evidence that the intervention is working as intended, the intervention leads to provider use of targeted practices, the use of practices leads to improved child outcomes, and there is evidence of sustainability of practices over time.

Related IES Projects: Development of a Social and Communication Intervention for Preschoolers with Autism (R324A120330); An Efficacy Trial of the Early Achievements Comprehensive Intervention for Preschoolers with Autism (R324A160228)