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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: Hugo W Moser Research Institute at Kennedy Krieger, Inc.
Program: Early Intervention and Early Learning      [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 was 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. This project extended 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 occurred in three phases. In phase 1, the research team engaged in initial development activities including focus groups, consumer reviews of the initial intervention, and development and validation of researcher-developed measures with two consecutive cohorts of ECCE providers. In phase 2, iterative development occurred in two cycles as the PD intervention was implemented and initially evaluated with an additional two consecutive cohorts of ECCE providers and children. In phase 3, the team conducted 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 was also examined.

Key Outcomes: The main findings of this project, as reported by the principal investigator, are as follows:

  • The Early Achievements (EA) professional development (PD) program demonstrated promise in significantly improving ECCE providers' provision of high-fidelity (accurate) implementation of evidence-based instruction in inclusive, group, book sharing activities from pre- to post-PD. Pre- to post-PD gain in implementation fidelity observed in the EA-trained providers was significantly greater than that observed in control providers.
  • EA-trained providers sustained high fidelity of implementation 12 weeks after the PD ended.
  • There were positive effects of the PD on the knowledge (medium effect size) and self-efficacy (small effect size) of the providers in the EA PD group compared to the control group. The absence of statistical significance between the groups was likely related to small sample sizes.
  • The EA PD workshops and coaching were implemented with a high level of accuracy.
  • Provider ratings indicated that they greatly valued the coaching, coaching helped them learn to teach more effectively, and they were highly satisfied with the EA instructional approach and the overall PD program.
  • Children with and without developmental delays (combined) whose teachers completed the EA PD program had significantly greater gains from pre- to post-PD in expressive vocabulary and in social communication skills compared to children whose teachers did not have the EA PD training.
  • Children with developmental delays in both groups showed significant gains in receptive vocabulary and in social communication from pre- to post-PD; however, the gains for those in the intervention group were not significantly higher than for those in the control group. This may have been related to small sample sizes, the short duration of the intervention, and the fact that providers only used the strategies during book sharing twice per week. Children with developmental delays may need higher dosage and more consistent instruction to build their language and social communication skills.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research took place in licensed child care centers in urban and suburban areas in Maryland.

Sample: Over the course of the project, 55 ECCE providers, 12 child care center directors, and 201 children (100 with developmental delays or disabilities), ages 18–48 months, and their families participated in this research project and completed the study protocol.

Intervention: The Early Achievements PD focused on improving providers' understanding of, and skill in, implementing the following three sets of evidence-based instructional practices: (1) targeting children's language/gesture and social development; (2) using meaning enhancement strategies (e.g., hands-on learning experiences using book-related props); and (3) implementing naturalistic developmental behavioral strategies (e.g., providing developmentally appropriate signals to elicit child behavior, scaffolding and prompting, using natural reinforcers, responding contingently). In the final version, the PD program consisted of two 3-hour virtual, synchronous workshops over the course of 2 weeks and 12 weekly individualized, practice-based coaching sessions over the course of the PD period.

Research Design and Methods: The research took place in three phases. In phase1, the research team held focus groups with two consecutive cohorts of ECCE providers and conducted classroom observations of existing teaching practices to inform initial development of the PD. The research team implemented an initial abbreviated version of the PD intervention (three workshops and 8 weeks of coaching) with two cohorts of ECCE providers and children. Data were used to inform revisions to the PD and to refine and assess the researcher-developed measures to be used in the remainder of the study. In phase 2, the team implemented 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 conducted a pilot study using a randomized controlled trial design to evaluate the promise of the PD intervention in improving provider and child outcomes. They also examined whether providers sustained the evidence-based practices 3 months post-PD. After the providers in the active EA PD condition completed the PD program and the post-PD fidelity assessment, the providers in the control condition participated in the workshops but did not receive coaching in the implementation of the instructional strategies.

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

Key Measures: Children were assessed for eligibility with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire — Third Edition (ASQ-3) and Ages and Stages Questionnaire: Second Edition-Social Emotional (ASQ:SE-2) or parent documentation of diagnosis and/or receipt of services under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Child outcome measures included the Receptive One-Word Picture Expressive and Vocabulary Test, Provider Rating of Child Behavior During Book Sharing, a researcher-developed expressive vocabulary assessment, and additional researcher-developed measures of social-communication development. ECCE provider outcome measures included researcher-developed assessments of knowledge and self-efficacy, as well as a researcher-developed measure of providers' fidelity of implementing evidence-based practices. Fidelity of, and satisfaction with, workshops and coaching were evaluated with researcher-developed scales and checklists.

Data Analytic Strategy: In phase 1, qualitative data were 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 included determining inter-rater reliability, conducting descriptive analyses of item-level data, and visually inspecting data over time. In phases 2 and 3, the research team used multilevel modeling to examine preliminary evidence regarding whether the intervention was working as intended, the intervention led to provider use of targeted practices, the use of practices led to improved child outcomes, and there was 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); Developing Early Achievements for Pre-K Children with Developmental Language Disorders: A Comprehensive Contextualized Embodied Approach (R324A210031)

Products and Publications

ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.

Select Publications:

Journal articles

Pfeiffer, D., Feuerstein, J., Herman, D., & Landa, R. (2022). Early childhood providers' perceptions of effective professional development components: A qualitative study. Infants & Young Children, 35(3), 248–263.

Pfeiffer, D. L., & Landa, R. J. (2022). Assessing generalization during professional development in child care: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Early Childhood Education Journal, 1–13.