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Using Online Learning and Coaching to Increase the Competency of Early Childhood Educators to Impact School Readiness for Children Exposed to Trauma

Year: 2015
Name of Institution:
Oregon State University
Goal: Development and Innovation
Principal Investigator:
Lipscomb, Shannon
Award Amount: $1,499,997
Award Period: 4 years (9/1/2015-8/31/2019)
Award Number: R305A150107


Co-Principal Investigators: Melanie Berry (University of Oregon), Phillip Fisher (University of Oregon), Bridget Hatfield (Oregon State University)

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop an online course and coaching program to help early childhood teachers implement practices to improve both academic and social and behavioral outcomes for young children who have experienced trauma. Children exposed to trauma (e.g., abuse, neglect, exposure to domestic violence, parental mental health and substance use) are at elevated risk for difficulties in school. Interventions that help adult caregivers meet the needs of children exposed to early trauma have primarily focused on working with parents. To date, no interventions have been developed for use by early childhood educators to meet the developmental and learning needs of children who have experienced early trauma. The researchers will develop a program designed to provide instruction and individualized coaching to preschool teachers to improve teacher knowledge and classroom practices, and the social and academic skills of young children exposed to trauma.

Project Activities: The researchers will develop an online course and coaching program for early childhood teachers working with children who have experienced early trauma. They will conduct field tests to examine the usability and feasibility of implementing the intervention with teachers in remote locations and refine the program components based upon the findings. In the final year of the project, researchers will conduct a pilot study to evaluate the effects of the intervention on teacher knowledge, attitudes and practices, and children's school readiness skills.

Products: The products of this project include a fully developed online course and coaching program for preschool teachers working with children who have experienced trauma. Researchers will also produce peer- reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will take place in Head Start, preschool, and child care classrooms in Central Oregon.

Sample: Initial development will occur with 8 to 10 teachers (4 to 5 in year 2 and 4 to 5 in year 3). The pilot study sample will include 20 new Head Start and preschool teachers and 100 children (5 per classroom) with high risk for having experienced early trauma.

Intervention: The teacher professional development program will include an online course and web-based video coaching. The course will include six modules addressing different aspects of early trauma. Three modules were developed in prior work. Three additional modules will be developed in this project. Each module will include learning objectives, content (e.g., videos paired with reflection questions, interactive activities, vignettes, and assignments), and assessments to test teacher knowledge throughout the course. The coaching component will include ten individualized coaching sessions. Researchers will adapt the first five coaching sessions from the Filming Interactions to Nurture Development (FIND), a video coaching program that is used to promote positive parent-child interactions. Researchers will modify five sessions from the FIND program for use with early childhood teachers. The researchers will develop five additional sessions focused on promoting children's self-regulation skills.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers will adapt and modify existing intervention components, develop and refine new content, and conduct field tests to examine usability and feasibility of implementation with early childhood educators. In year 1, they will conduct focus groups with teachers and obtain input from expert consultants. The research team will use the feedback to revise and refine the program components. They will conduct two field tests, one in year 2 and one in year 3, to examine implementation of the course modules and coaching sessions. Researchers will use data collected in years 2 and 3 to refine and finalize the intervention in preparation for the pilot study. In year 4, they will conduct a pilot study to evaluate the effect of the intervention on teacher practices and child outcomes. Researchers will randomly assign teachers to treatment and control classrooms, collect teacher report data, conduct classroom observations, assess up to five target children from each classroom, conduct data analyses, and disseminate study findings.

Control Condition: For the pilot study, teachers in the control condition will engage in typical practice which includes a minimum of 15 hours of professional development training focused on self-selected topics.

Key Measures: Direct child assessments will include the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders measure and the Applied Problems and Letter Word Identification subscales of the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement III. Researchers will also collect salivary cortisol samples to assess children's stress and changes in stress throughout the classroom day. Teachers will complete the Social Skills and Behavior Problems subscales of the Social Skills Improvement System-Rating Scales for target children. Researchers will use the Classroom Assessment Scoring System to measure the quality of teacher-child interactions and the Individualized Classroom Assessment Scoring System to measure child engagement in classroom activities. Researchers will use the Student-Teacher Relationship Scale to assess the quality of teachers' relationships with target children in their classrooms. In addition, the research team will assess teacher knowledge of course content at the beginning and end of each module. Teachers will also complete the Stage of Change scale, a measure of teachers' readiness for behavior change and the Parent Daily Report, a measure of teacher stress in managing children's behaviors.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will conduct analyses to examine the effects of the intervention on teacher practices and child outcomes. For child outcomes, they will use hierarchical linear modeling to account for nesting of children within classrooms.