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IES Grant

Title: Building Preschool Children's Complex Language Using Informational Texts
Center: NCER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Breit-Smith, Allison Awardee: University of Cincinnati
Program: Early Learning Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (09/01/2020 - 08/31/2024) Award Amount: $1,393,595
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A200271

Co-Principal Investigators: Guo, Ying; Kelcey, Benjamin

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to teach complex language skills (that is, how to use information to draw inferences, use and understand syntactic/semantic relationships, and use and understand academic vocabulary) to preschool-age children during interactive book reading, mapping, and hands-on activities using informational texts.

Project Activities: Researchers will carry out three lines of activity. First, they will fully develop an informational text program and all of its components (instructional objectives, sequence, teaching strategies, activities and materials, dosage, and professional development). These components will be embedded in three, 9-week modules focused on three science topics, Module 1: Life Science; Module 2: Earth Science; Module 3: Physical Science. Next, they will test the feasibility of each module in an authentic educational setting. Finally, they will assess the promise of the full 27-week informational text program in a pilot study using a small-scale multisite cluster-randomized design. During the pilot study, they will analyze the full range of costs associate with implementing the proposed informational text program.

Products: The products of this project will include a fully developed informational text program and evidence of promise. Researchers will share findings in conference proceedings and peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The project will be implemented in preschool classrooms in Ohio and Kentucky.

Sample: The total sample size for this project includes 39 preschool teachers and 234 children. Three teachers and 18 children (6 per classroom) will be recruited for each module in Phases 1 and 2 to field test the program (total: 9 classrooms and 54 children). In Phase 3, we will pilot the program with 30 classrooms across 15 schools with a total of 180 preschool children.

Intervention: Lead preschool teachers will read the same developmentally appropriate informational text three times per week (two times in whole group; one time in small group) and map relationships within the text two times each week as well as engage children in a hands-on activity related to the text one time each week. Teachers will use language facilitation strategies (i.e., ask open-ended and direct questions, breakdown clauses and elicit buildups, provide verbal definitions and elicit examples, extend children's utterances and provide hints) embedded in strategically planned discussions for targeting and building children's complex language skills. Teachers implementing the program will also participate in professional development consisting of an online introductory presentation, three face-to-face workshops per module, three in-class coaching sessions, and oral/written feedback on submitted videos six times.

Research Design: In this study, researchers will use an iterative process that includes development, implementation, and revision of Modules 1, 2, and 3 during the first two phases of the project. In the final phase, researchers will conduct a small-scale multisite cluster-randomized pilot study to determine the promise of the full informational text program.

Control Condition: Teachers in the control condition will conduct business as usual.

Key Measures: Researchers will measure child and teacher outcomes of the informational text program using both standardized and research-based measures. Prior to and at the conclusion of the program, they will assess children's complex language skills (ability to use information to draw inferences, use and understand complex syntactic/semantic relationships, use and understand academic vocabulary), and engagement and teachers' knowledge of complex language and informational texts, feelings of self-efficacy, and quality of book reading interactions.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will analyze data during the development process using qualitative approaches. Qualitative methods will include focus groups, field notes, and structured interviews. They will analyze data from the pilot study using quantitative methods. Quantitative methods will include descriptive statistics and multivariate, multilevel modeling for measuring the informational text program's impacts on child- and teacher-level outcomes.

Cost Analysis: Using the Ingredients Method, the project team will analyze the full range of costs associate with implementing the proposed informational text program.