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IES Grant

Title: Developing Talkers: Building Effective Teachers of Academic Language Skills
Center: NCER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Zucker, Tricia Awardee: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Program: Teaching, Teachers, and the Education Workforce      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (07/01/2019-06/30/2024) Award Amount: $3,299,819
Type: Efficacy Award Number: R305A190065

Co-Principal Investigator: Logan, Jessica

Purpose: Researchers will evaluate the impact of two theoretically distinct versions of an intervention called Developing Talkers (DT) that uses a Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS). DT is designed to improve teacher facilitation of academic language skills and the academic language skills of kindergarten students. The two versions are the Scripted Approach and the Teacher-Inspired Approach. Researchers will monitor teacher uptake of evidence-based practices during a first stage of intervention. At the second stage, researchers will provide additional individualized professional development (PD) resources based on teacher performance. Researchers will explore aspects of cognition, such as memory and vocabulary and other behavioral factors, including, self-efficacy and social norms, that may explain changes in teacher knowledge and behavior.

Project Activities: In Year 1, researchers will refine fidelity measures for live observation, analyze archival data to refine cut points for the tailoring variable, recruit the study sample, and collect baseline teacher observation in the spring before the intervention begins. In Years 2 through 4, researchers will conduct a cohort-based experimental design with equivalent, standardized procedures used across all cohorts. In Year 5, researchers will disseminate results and publish online edited teacher-created lessons from professional learning communities.

Products: Researchers will produce evidence of the efficacy of the two theoretically distinct versions of Developing Talkers (DT) on teacher and student outcomes. Researchers will disseminate these findings via and the DT website, reports to collaborating districts, the Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest (REL Southwest), presentations at local and national conferences, and manuscripts submitted to peer-reviewed journals as well as practitioner journals. Researchers will also prepare data from this project for public access.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in the Houston metropolitan area, a large urban area with 17 school districts.

Sample: Researchers will recruit 200 teachers and 800 of their students across 3 independent cohorts. Eligible teachers will serve in kindergarten public, ISD-based classrooms providing predominantly English instruction. The sample will include a majority of economically disadvantaged students from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds. About 20-30% of the population is expected to include students who are English learners.

Intervention: Researchers will evaluate Developing Talkers MTSS for academic language. This 20-week, curriculum supplement for classroom teachers provides individualized instruction and data-based decision making. The intervention includes:

  1. Evidence-based academic language curriculum and instruction provided 4 times/week at the universal, Tier 1 level before, during and after shared book reading.
  2. Universal screening of all student basic and academic language skills.
  3. Evidence-based, extended and/or review instruction at the targeted, Tier 2 level provided 4 times per week to students performing below screening expectations.
  4. Curriculum-based measures (CBM) for monitoring progress of students below expectations (biweekly, 3-5 min testing for Tier 2 students).

The Developing Talkers adaptive system of supports includes:

  1. Interactive learning with face-to-face trainings, online courses and practice manuals.
  2. Lesson plan resources that include prompts placed on-demand at the point of use in lesson materials or within pages of read-aloud texts.
  3. A second phase of adaptive performance supports that include collaborative learning via coaching for novice teachers or professional learning communities for expert teachers.

Research Design and Methods: Researchers will use a Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trial (SMART) design to provide adaptive PD approaches tailored to teacher needs. In the first stage, researchers will conduct a randomized control trial evaluating the impact of each version of the Developing Talkers versus business-as-usual. In the second stage, researchers will identify teachers within each intervention condition as responders or non-responders in terms of implementing focal evidence-based practices for academic language instruction. Then, researchers will re-randomize these teachers to increasingly intensive interventions (that is., coaching or professional learning communities) or to stay in their initial conditions.

Control Condition: Teachers assigned to the waitlist control group will continue business-as-usual instruction during the intervention phase. A condensed version of the intervention and portion of the curriculum will be provided to these teachers in the summer after their participation in the research study.

Key Measures: Teacher outcomes include knowledge of evidence-based practices and instructional behaviors during classroom observations. A measure of the teacher transfer of evidence-based practices beyond lessons within the intervention will be used to identify responders and non-responders to the intervention. Cognitive teacher moderators include measures of working memory, vocabulary, and executive function. Other teacher factors include various measure such as motivation, self-efficacy, and social supports/norms. Child outcomes include proximal and distal vocabulary knowledge, inferential listening comprehension and related language and literacy skills.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use multi-level analysis of covariance to examine intervention impact over and above teacher and student pre-test score on post-test scores.

Cost Analysis: Researchers will assess actual expenditures for each cohort at the cost per teacher, per classroom and per student. The estimation approach will include 4 phases: (a) identifying ingredients/resources; (b) determining the cost of the resources; (c) analyzing the extent to which resource use is aligned with the original design and costs at different levels of scale; and (d) calculating cost effectiveness. Researchers will document required resources and their costs for each of the intervention conditions and control/waitlist condition. Researchers will calculate cost-effectiveness ratios as the annual cost (in dollars) per standard deviation (effect size) of student outcomes.