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IES Grant

Title: Tools for Families
Center: NCSER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Bishop, Crystal D. Awardee: University of Florida
Program: Early Intervention and Early Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (07/01/2020 - 06/30/2023) Award Amount: $1,399,999
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A200044

Co-Principal Investigator: Reichow, Brian; Snyder, Patricia; Algina, James

Purpose: This project aims to develop and test for promise an intervention for preschool teachers to enhance their knowledge and skills to use relational and participatory family-centered practices to engage families of young children with disabilities in planning, implementing, and evaluating embedded instruction for early learning (EIEL) at school and at home. Tools for Families (TFF) will be a new component of EIEL, which currently includes Tools for Teachers, an existing IES-funded professional development (PD) intervention and toolkit for preschool teachers to use EIEL practices in the classroom. This intervention aims to increase families' engagement in EIEL across school, home, and community settings and enhance their self-efficacy (confidence and competence) to use EIEL practices with their children, as well as improve children's adaptive and school readiness skills

Project Activities: The research team will use an iterative process of development, including focus groups and field testing, to develop the TFF intervention. TFF will be tested for its promise for improving family and child outcomes using a small randomized controlled trial (RCT). A cost analysis will also be conducted to assess the cost of implementing Tools for Teachers plus TFF relative to the cost of Tools for Teachers only.

Products: The products of this project will include a fully developed TFF intervention for preschool teachers in inclusive classrooms and evidence of its promise for improving outcomes for children with disabilities and their families. The project will also result in peer-reviewed publications and presentations as well as additional dissemination products that reach education stakeholders such as practitioners and policymakers.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The project takes place in inclusive preschool classrooms in Florida and California.

Sample: Up to 24 stakeholders including content experts on EIEL and family-centered practices, preschool teachers, families of preschool-aged children with disabilities, and administrators of special education and preschool programs will participate in stakeholder panels to inform the development and refinement of TFF. Fifty teachers who have completed Tools for Teachers PD and 140 families and children will participate in a field test and a randomized pilot study of TFF.

Intervention: The TFF intervention will include an operationalized set of relational and participatory family-centered practices, an embedded instruction framework and visual model for facilitating shared decision-making between teachers and families, and a multimedia toolkit. Teachers will learn to engage families in identifying (a) learning priorities for their children and why these priorities are important, (b) logical times to teach priority skills at school and at home, (c) strategies for embedding learning opportunities within school and home activities and routines, and (d) strategies for evaluating the effects of EIEL. TFF will be a 6-month intervention that includes teacher-family meetings and ongoing, individualized communication between teachers and families to facilitate collaboration and implementation of EIEL across school and home contexts.

Research Design and Methods: An iterative design consisting of focus groups and a field trial followed by intervention refinement will be used to develop the TFF intervention in the first 2 years of the project. In the final year, a randomized pilot study will be conducted to examine the potential efficacy of TFF. Forty preschool teachers who have demonstrated competence to implement EIEL will be randomly assigned to conditions. Three children with a disability and one of their family members will be recruited from each classroom to participate in the study. The pilot study will examine the impact of TFF on (a) family self-efficacy to use EIEL practices, (b) family engagement in EIEL, and (c) children's adaptive and school readiness skills relative to the comparison condition. In addition, the study will examine teachers' intervention fidelity as well as teacher and family perspectives about the utility, feasibility, and acceptability of the intervention. A cost analysis will also be conducted to examine the cost of implementing Tools for Teachers plus TFF relative to Tools for Teachers only, looking at overall costs and costs incurred by school districts.

Control Condition: Teachers in the control condition will have completed Tools for Teachers PD and demonstrated competence to implement EIEL with fidelity, but they will not receive TFF.

Key Measures: Teachers' use of family-centered relational and participatory practices to engage families in EIEL will be assessed with an observational measure and teacher and family reports that will be developed and validated by the research team. Family outcome measures include an observational measure, family reports of their engagement in EIEL, and a family self-efficacy scale that will be developed and validated for this study. Child outcomes will be assessed using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales – Third Edition and the Desired Results Developmental Profile, which is an instrument used by teachers to assess children's developmental and school readiness skills. Social validity measures and focus groups will be used to assess the usability, feasibility, and acceptability of TFF.

Data Analytic Strategy: Descriptive analyses of teacher and family surveys and thematic analyses of focus group data will be conducted during the iterative process of development. Pre-post descriptive analyses of teacher, family, and child outcomes will be examined in the field trial. Multilevel analysis of covariance and multilevel multivariate analysis of covariance, supplemented by effect size estimates, will be used to examine teacher, family, and child outcomes in the pilot study. The ingredients method to cost analysis will be used to determine the incremental cost of implementing Tools for Teachers plus TFF relative to Tools for Teachers only.

Related Projects: Impact of Professional Development on Preschool Teachers' Use of Embedded-Instruction Practices (R324A070008); Impact of Professional Development on Preschool Teachers' Use of Embedded-Instruction Practices: An Efficacy Trial of Tools for Teachers (R324A150076)