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Efficacy Trial of MyTeachingPartner-Mathematics and Science Curricula and Implementation Support System

Year: 2012
Name of Institution:
University of Virginia
Goal: Efficacy and Replication
Principal Investigator:
Kinzie, Mable
Award Amount: $3,499,427
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/20126/30/2016)
Award Number: R305A120631

Description:

Co-Principal Investigator: Jessica Whitaker, Robert C. Pianta, and Amanda Williford

Purpose: There are few opportunities for young children, especially children from low-income backgrounds, to be exposed to mathematics and science content in the home environment or prekindergarten classrooms. At the same time, early childhood educators often lack mathematics and science content knowledge and the confidence needed to provide developmentally appropriate instruction to young children. The MyTeachingPartner-Mathematics and Science (MTP-Mathematics and Science) curricula, previously developed, refined, and pilot tested through an IES Development grant, and accompanying professional development system, were designed to support early childhood educators in delivering mathematics and science instruction in prekindergarten settings, and thus improve young children's knowledge and understanding of mathematics and science concepts. In this project, the researchers will conduct a randomized study to evaluate the impact of the MTP-Mathematics and Science curricula and professional development supports on early childhood teachers' instructional practices and children's early mathematics and science knowledge and skills.

Project Activities: The researchers will conduct a randomized control trial to examine the impact of the MTP-Mathematics and Science intervention on prekindergarten children's mathematics and science knowledge, skills, and engagement in classroom tasks and activities. In addition, the team will gather information about the quality of teacher-child interactions and seek to determine if teachers' instructional practices improve differentially during one versus two years of implementation and as a function of receiving the curricula and teacher supports. The first year of the study will focus on sample recruitment, collection of baseline data, and random assignment of teachers to treatment and control conditions. In years 2 and 3, the researchers will implement and evaluate the efficacy of the MTP-Mathematics and Science intervention. In year 4, the researchers will conduct final analyses and disseminate the study findings.

Products: The products of this project will be evidence of the efficacy of the MTP-Mathematics and Science intervention for prekindergarten teachers and early childhood educators. The study findings will be disseminated in peer reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will be conducted in a variety of center-based pre-kindergarten programs (public pre-kindergarten, Head Start, and private child care centers) in urban areas in Missouri and Oklahoma.

Sample: Study participants include 140 pre-kindergarten teachers and approximately 1120 children from a mix of public, private, and Head Start centers. Children will be excluded from the study sample if they have an existing Individualized Education Plan for a severe developmental disability or if they have Limited English Proficiency.

Intervention: The MyTeachingPartner-Math/Science (MTP-M/S) intervention includes two fully developed curricula, MTP-Mathematics and MTP-Science and a professional development support model for early childhood educators. The MTP-M/S intervention was developed and pilot tested through a 2007 IES Development grant. The MTP-Math curriculum focuses on concepts and skills in number sense, operations, geometry, and measurement. The MTP-Science curriculum addresses inquiry skills and key concepts in life, earth, and physical science. Two math and two science activities are implemented every week, along with one math or science center, for 33 weeks of instruction across the school year. The MTP-M/S implementation support system for teachers includes over 130, two-three minute video demonstrations of high quality, high fidelity curricular implementation, video-based quality challenges, teaching tips, instructional adaptations, curricular extensions, and a Quality Teaching Video Library containing hundreds of additional examples of high quality teaching in pre-k. Professional development workshops provide guidance to teachers in their use of these supports, and offer opportunities for self-reflection and peer debriefing. The MTP-M/S professional development support system is designed to improve teachers' mathematics and science concept knowledge, understanding of developmentally appropriate mathematics and science instruction in early childhood education, and their knowledge of how to foster the development of young children's mathematics and science skills.

Research Design and Methods: The study will be conducted over a four-year period. In year one, the researchers will recruit teachers for participation and conduct baseline observations to identify participant characteristics for stratified random assignment of teachers to treatment and control conditions. The researchers will randomly assign 140 teachers to the MTP-M/S intervention group or a business-as-usual control group. After randomization, years two and three will be devoted to implementation of the intervention and evaluation of its components. Training and support will be provided to the treatment group teachers as they implement the curricula. Eight children from each classroom will be randomly selected to be assessed using the battery of outcome measures. Child-, teacher-, and classroom-level data will be collected. Fidelity of implementation data will also be collected in treatment and control classrooms. In year 4, the researchers will complete final data analyses and disseminate the study findings.

Control Condition: The MTP-M/S intervention will be compared to a business-as-usual condition. Teachers assigned to the business as usual condition will continue to use a range of curricula including, Creative Curriculum, Project Construct, HighScope, the Montessori Method, and literacy and/or theme-based curricula.

Key Measures: A battery of measures will be used to collect direct child assessment data, teachers' ratings of children's mathematics and science skills, observations of children's interactions with teachers and engagement in classroom activities, and observational measures of teachers' classroom practices. The child outcome battery includes standardized and researcher-developed measures of children's mathematics and science learning. The Tools for Early Assessment in Mathematics will be used to assess children's mathematical knowledge and skills. The Preschool Science Assessment, an IRT-based instrument developed in an earlier IES grant, will be used to assess children's life science, earth and space science, and physical and energy science knowledge and skills. The Individualized Classroom Assessment Scoring System, an observational measure, will be used to assess children's positive interactions with teachers and classroom engagement. The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) will be used as an observational measure of teacher-child interactions. Two additional observational measures will be used to examine specific mathematics and science teaching practices. The Classroom Observation of Early Mathematics Teaching is a measure of classroom culture and specific mathematics activities. The Preschool Science Classroom Observation Tool is designed to measure teacher and student engagement in science process skills. The researchers will also use several methods including live observations, videotaped observations, and teacher self-reports to examine of fidelity of implementation.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will conduct analyses to examine the impact of the intervention on teacher-child interactions as measured by the CLASS (Emotional Support, Classroom Organization, and Instructional Support), and children's knowledge and understanding of mathematics and science concepts. The researchers will use a variety of statistical analyses ranging from basic descriptive to multi-level (hierarchical linear modeling) analyses. Variance associated with influential child (e.g., prior learning, family socio-economic and teacher characteristics will be controlled. The effects of moderating and mediating variables will be determined. These results will determine whether participating in the MTP-M/S intervention improves students' math and science school readiness skills and whether it affects the quality and fidelity of teachers' classroom practice.