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Scalable Approaches for Preparing Early Childhood Teachers: Identifying Costs and Effectiveness of Evidence Based Approaches to Coaching

Year: 2014
Name of Institution:
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Goal: Efficacy and Replication
Principal Investigator:
Landry, Susan H.
Award Amount: $3,499,220
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2014-6/30/2018)
Award Number: R305A140378

Description:

Co-Principal Investigators: Maria Carlo, April Crawford, Jeffrey Williams, and Tricia Zucker

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to compare the efficacy of two distinct approaches for providing professional development support to child care teachers: remote, video-based coaching and in-classroom coaching. Both approaches seek to increase the quality of child care teachers’ language and literacy instruction and positive responsiveness to children in order to improve children’s school readiness skills. While support has been found for both coaching approaches, each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Video-based remote coaching has the potential to significantly lower the costs of training teachers and can be scaled at high fidelity across diverse communities. In-class support is more expensive and can be challenging to implement in certain communities; however, it also allows for greater differentiation of demonstrations and co-teaching to bridge the gap between coursework and implementation with children. In this study, researchers will evaluate the impact of a professional development course focused on language and literacy combined with coaching using either video-based or in-classroom coaching on teacher- and child-level outcomes delivered to child care teachers. The relative costs of both coaching models will also be investigated.

Project Activities: This randomized controlled trial will be conducted in 210 center-based child care classrooms. Across a three-year period, three cohorts of teachers (one per year) will be randomly assigned to one of three conditions (in-class coaching, remote coaching, or control). In each classroom, eight children will be randomly selected for assessments.  In each year’s cohort, classroom-, teacher-, and child-level data will be collected in fall and spring of the school year. In the two intervention conditions, lead teachers and teacher assistants will participate in professional development training sessions and receive coaching support. The researchers will follow each cohort of children into kindergarten to assess student outcomes. The team will also visit the classrooms of the child care teachers in the school year following their participation in the intervention to collect observational data and administer a teacher knowledge and belief questionnaire.  Cohort-specific and overall analyses will be conducted to address the study aims and hypotheses.

Products: The products of this project will be evidence for the efficacy of the two different coaching approaches (remote versus in-classroom) designed to support child care teachers in their language and literacy instruction. In addition, the results of a cost analysis will provide important information about the cost of implementing the coaching approaches in child care centers. Peer reviewed publications will also be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project will take place in center-based child care classrooms in urban and rural areas in Texas.

Sample: Study participants include 210 child care teachers and 1,680 low-income, 4-year-old children from diverse backgrounds (African-American, Hispanic, and White non-Hispanic) who are enrolled in full day child care programs.

Intervention: The interventions consist of a web-based teacher professional development course and coaching support (in-classroom or remote).

Professional development coursework , training, and supplemental curriculum:  The professional development course is an eight month language and literacy web-based course that features content in alphabetic awareness, print concepts, written expression, phonological awareness, language development, responsiveness and best practices.  The course content is presented through expert commentary and video examples of quality instructional practices and teacher child interactions.  The key components of the professional development model include: (1) coursework that is intended to increase teachers’ knowledge of appropriate language, literacy, and responsiveness strategies; (2) training and resources to conduct student progress monitoring; and (3) training in the use of a supplemental curriculum which includes 25 books with linked language and literacy activities, and a CIRCLE activity guide. The coursework and training in the use of the student progress monitoring software and the supplemental curriculum will be conducted using a web-based platform.

Coaching: The researchers will implement two approaches to coaching, either in-classroom or remote via video. Teachers in the two treatment groups will receive weekly support from their coach to implement the language and literacy instructional practices and responsiveness strategies presented in the professional development course.

Research Design and Methods: In each of the first three years of the study, a new cohort of teachers and classrooms in child care programs will be recruited and randomly assigned to one of three conditions: in-class coaching, remote coaching or a business-as-usual control group. In each classroom, a subset of children will be randomly selected for pre- and post-testing to measure concurrent and long-term impacts of the coaching models on their language, literacy and social-emotional skills. During each cohort year (years 1-3), teachers in each treatment condition will participate in an online professional development course.  Coaches will receive training to provide in-classroom or remote coaching support to teachers on a weekly basis. The coaching is intended to facilitate effective implementation of language and literacy activities and responsiveness strategies presented in the professional development course. In years 1-3, classroom observational data, teacher questionnaire data, and teacher and parent ratings of children’s social-emotional skills will be collected in fall and spring of each year. Teachers will complete progress monitoring measures for children three times during the school year.  The researchers will collect fidelity data three times during the school year. The research team will collect data to determine the costs of the two coaching approaches. The researchers will also follow the preschool teachers in the year after they received the intervention to determine whether impact on teachers’ instructional practices, knowledge and beliefs is sustained. In year 4, the researchers will collect data from Cohort 3 preschool teachers and from the Cohort 3 sample of children who will be enrolled in kindergarten. 

Control Condition: Teachers/classrooms will be randomly assigned to a business-as-usual control group.

Key Measures: Measures of teacher practices and beliefs will be assessed using the Teacher Behavior Rating Scale (TBRS), the Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO),  the Teachers Literacy Beliefs Questionnaire, the Teacher Efficacy Scale, and the Teacher Sense of School community measure.  Child language and literacy measures include the Expressive One Word Picture Vocabulary Test-III (EOWPVT-III), the Expressive One Word Picture Vocabulary Test-Spanish-Bilingual (EOWPVT-SBE), the Preschool Language Scale-4th Ed. Spanish and English, the Print Knowledge and Phonological Awareness subtests from the Test of Preschool Early Literacy (for English speaking children) and subtests from the Spanish version of the Preschool Comprehensive test of Phonological and Print Processing (for Spanish speaking children). Children’s social-emotional behaviors will be assessed indirectly through parent and teacher ratings using the Children’s Behavior Questionnaire and the Social Competence and Behavior Evaluation.  Teachers will also complete ratings of children’s academic engagement and relationship with the teacher using the School Liking and Avoidance Scale.

Data Analytic Strategy: A mixed model approach to analyses will be used to evaluate the impacts of the two approaches to coaching for improving teaching behaviors, attitudes and knowledge, as well as children’s language, literacy, and social-emotional skills.  For teacher-level outcomes, growth curve analysis will be conducted to capture change in teachers’ practices, efficacy, and knowledge of language and literacy development over time.  Analysis of covariance will be used to examine initial teacher status as a moderator of intervention impact on child outcomes and will include children’s pretest performance on the outcome measures as covariates.  The researchers will also investigate the costs of both coaching models to inform four policy questions: (1) How much better is the more expensive program? (2) Is it better for all types of participants? (3) Does it matter more for particular outcomes? and (4) Is the increased expense and effort worth the investment (i.e., what are the tradeoffs between access and cost)?