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Internet Implementation of Empirically-Supported Interventions that can be Remotely Delivered in Authentic Preschool Programs for Mothers and Teachers: Evaluation of Direct Child and Teacher Outcomes

Year: 2014
Name of Institution:
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Goal: Efficacy and Replication
Principal Investigator:
Landry, Susan H.
Award Amount: $3,499,758
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2014-6/30/2018)
Award Number: R305A140386

Description:

Co-Principal Investigators: Maria Carlo, Michael Assel, Jeffrey Williams, Tricia Zucker, Ursula Johnson, Edward Feil, and Betsy Davis (Oregon Research Institute)

Purpose: Many states estimate that half of their students arrive at kindergarten already far behind where they need to be in order to succeed. There is growing consensus that high quality preschool experiences can lay a strong foundation for school readiness even among economically disadvantaged children. However, there is a mismatch between the preparation of most early childhood educators and the preparation needed to optimize classroom practices. Support from parents in the home environment can also facilitate optimal developmental trajectories in early childhood and better assure children are ready for kindergarten, particularly with respect to language and self-regulation. The purpose of this project is to evaluate the impact of two web-based preschool interventions on child-, parent-, and teacher-level outcomes.  The unique and combined effects of The Early Education Model (eTEEM), a classroom and teacher professional development program, and Play and Learning Strategies (ePALS), a parent program, will be investigated.  This study is a replication of an IES efficacy study in which the two interventions used an in-person model to train teachers and parents in responsiveness skills and cognitive instructional approaches specific to both school and home settings. In this study both interventions will be delivered online. This replication will enable the team to examine the cost effectiveness of the paired interventions delivered in-person as compared to a new web-based delivery method, and evaluate if the technology-mediated approach can produce similar effects of practical importance at lower costs. In addition, this replication study will examine additive and synergistic effects of intervening in one setting (school vs. home) or both settings simultaneously; the combined school-home approach is hypothesized to lead to the best likelihood of school readiness for children of lower socio-economic status (SES).

Project Activities: In years 1-3 of the study, teachers, classrooms, parents and children will be recruited and randomly assigned to treatment and control conditions. Classrooms (20 per year) will be randomly assigned to receive the web-based teacher professional development program (eTEEM) or business-as-usual practices. Within each classroom, informed consent to participate in the parent intervention (ePALS) will be requested from parents of all children.  Of those who provide informed consent, eight children will be randomly selected and tested prior to classroom intervention, with four randomly assigned to ePALS and four to a no-parent intervention group. Each cohort of children will be assessed in kindergarten. During the intervention years, classroom-, teacher-, and child-level data will be collected in fall (pre-test) and spring (post-test).

Products: The products of this project will be evidence of the efficacy of the unique and combined effects of a classroom and teacher professional development intervention (e-TEEM) and a parent intervention (e-PALS) for preschool teachers, parents, and children, as well as information about the cost effectiveness of the in-person versus online delivery models.  Peer reviewed publications will also be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will be conducted in Head Start programs in an urban area in Texas.

Sample: Study participants will include 60 Head Start classrooms and teachers and 300 children and parents. All of the children are from low-income backgrounds and the sample will include a large percentage of Spanish speaking English language learners.

Intervention: The eTEEM intervention is a web-based professional development program for preschool teachers that uses video examples with remote coaching support to support teachers’ instructional practices. The eTEEM intervention includes approximately 54 hours of online coursework, weekly web-based coaching, a web-based progress monitoring measure, and teaching resources such as classroom management tools and a curriculum supplement. Teachers are trained to integrate responsive interactive behaviors into their language, literacy, and math instruction. Teachers also receive training in the use of small group instruction, support for English language learners, organization of the learning environment to provide repeated exposure to concepts in ways that build conceptual understanding, and a balance of teacher- versus child-directed learning.  The ePALS intervention provides training and support for parents in the use of four strategies: 1) maintaining versus redirecting children’s attentional focus and interests; 2) contingent responsiveness; 3) rich language input; and 4) warm sensitivity. The ePALS coaches support parents remotely in combination with the web-based ePALS curriculum sessions to develop a set of core behaviors that comprise a responsive interaction style. ePALS incorporates video examples of the target behaviors with parents from diverse backgrounds, uploaded videotaped interactions of parents with their children, and parents critiquing videotapes of their interactions with their coach remotely. Parents will meet with coaches on a weekly basis in online training sessions to receive feedback on videotaped parent-child interactions that the parents will upload to an online site before each coaching session.

Research Design and Methods: This randomized controlled trial will be conducted in 60 Head Start classrooms. Each year, 20 classrooms will be recruited and assigned to treatment (eTEEM) and control conditions.  In each classroom, up to eight children per classroom will be randomly selected to participate in each study cohort. Within each classroom, children will be randomly assigned to have their parents receive ePALS, or to an active control group in which parents will receive information about child development. The 2 x 2 design will result in four conditions with 120 children in each condition:  1) eTEEM/ePALS; 2) eTEEM/no ePALS; 3) no eTEEM/PALS; and 4) no eTEEM/no ePALS. Teachers, classrooms, parents, and children will be assessed in the fall and spring of each intervention year. In year 1, the first four months of the project will be devoted to development of a web-based program for delivery of the ePALS intervention. Children will also be followed into kindergarten to determine long-term impacts of the interventions. In year 4, the researchers will follow the Cohort 3 sample of children into kindergarten. Data analyses will be conducted to address the research questions and the study findings will be disseminated.

Control Condition: Teachers in the control group will receive the typical professional development offered in their Head Start program. Parents in the control condition will receive handouts (also given to PALS parents) about activities that promote children’s school readiness skills.

Key Measures: Observational data will be collected and a battery of direct child assessments will be administered to participating children.  The Teacher Behavior Rating Scale (TBRS)will be used at pre- and post-test to document changes in target teacher behaviors (e.g., responsive teaching behaviors; book reading behaviors; and math instruction) specific to the intervention. Parent behaviors will be examined through coding of videotaped parent-child interactions in the home for support of children’s signals and interests and rich language input.  Children’s language and literacy skills will be measured using the Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test-IV, Spanish-Bilingual Edition of the Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test,  the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-Preschool-2nd Edition (CELF-Pre-2), the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-Preschool-2 Spanish, the Print Knowledge and Phonological Awareness subtests from the Test of Preschool Early Literacy (for English speaking children), and comparable subtests from the Spanish version of the Preschool Comprehensive Test Phonological and Print Processing (for Spanish-speaking children). The Applied Problems subtest from Woodcock Johnson Test of Academic Achievement-IIIand the Batería III Woodcock-Muñoz will be used to evaluate children’s early math skills. Children’s social-emotional behaviors will be assessed during parent-child interactions in the home and using parent and teacher ratings. Parents and teachers will use the Social Competence and Behavior Evaluation-Short Form (SCBE-30) and the Child Behavior Questionnaire (English and Spanish versions) to rate children’s social-emotional skills. Three tasks (Bird and Dragon, Dimensional Change Card Sort, and Gift/Waiting for the Bow) will be used to assess children’s self-regulation skills. Kindergarten measures will include a state administered kindergarten readiness screener, kindergarten teachers’ ratings of children’s social-emotional skills, and the Texas Primary Reading Inventory (or the Spanish version - the Tejas LEE). Kindergarten teachers will also be asked to complete the SCBE-30 for participating children.

Data Analytic Strategy: Multilevel models will be used to account for the nesting of children in classrooms. A general linear mixed model will be used to determine main effects for each intervention as well as the synergistic effect of the two interventions together. Additional analyses will be conducted to examine potential moderators of the expected intervention effects (i.e., teacher education, beliefs and attitudes about child development, and professional development).  For the parent intervention, maternal education, beliefs, attitudes about child development and their role in the child’s reading development and school readiness will be examined.  The researchers will also conduct a cost effectiveness analysis to determine if web-based implementation of the interventions is less costly or comparable to the face-to-face models.