Teacher Quality: The Role of Teacher Study Groups as a Model of Professional Development in Early Literacy for Preschool Teachers
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop a professional development intervention for preschool teachers using the Teacher Study Group (TSG) approach as the basis for enhancing teacher knowledge, beliefs, and practices in the areas known to be most critical to children's early literacy success.
Project Activities: The research team will develop, test, revise and retest curriculum guides, lesson planning materials, and other accompanying materials focused on early literacy that are required for the implementation of the TSG. A TSG will include preschool teachers and a facilitator. A district literacy leader will facilitate the biweekly TSG sessions. TSGs will be implemented and revised four times over the first two years of the award. An expert panel will examine multiple sources of outcome and process data to understand how the intervention is promoting teacher and student growth, and which aspects of the intervention may be impeding success and require revisions. Project documents, which include the triangulated results of all analyses, will inform the panel's recommendations about revisions. In Year 3, the final preschool TSG model will be piloted on a small scale with groups of new teachers facing slightly different work circumstances to examine the feasibility of the model and gather some preliminary data on its effects.
Products: The products of this project will included a fully developed teacher professional development program that will provide opportunities for preschool teachers to acquire the knowledge and practices intended to support early reading success for all students. At the end of this study, the research team will have prototypes of the following: (1) comprehensive curriculum guides that are designed to scaffold teachers' and literacy leaders' implementation of the TSG intervention, including the model and content guidelines, an expanded video library which can be used to demonstrate exemplary teaching practices, lesson planning materials, a reading library of materials, and suggestions for possible adaptations to the program; (2) a professional development manual; and (3) final versions of the measures that are needed for pre/post assessment of teachers' knowledge, beliefs, and practices.
Setting: The study will take place in state preschool programs and child development centers in an urban area of California.
Population: The study sample will be drawn from a large urban multi-ethnic, high-poverty school district in California. The research team will work with public prekindergarten programs and child development centers on the development of the proposed intervention and preschool teachers from the same types of sites will be recruited to participate in the study. The study sample will also include children whose families are income-eligible for the preschool programs.
Intervention: The research team will develop a preschool TSG professional development model. The TSG model will be based on effective components derived from multiple K–3 studies and a previous preschool field study conducted by the principal investigator. The TSG model will be guided by content focus, coherence, duration/ intensity, and collective participation, and will create opportunities for teachers to have interactive, reflective, and context-sensitive conversations to foster teachers' knowledge, beliefs, and practices in ways aligned with research-based early literacy development and instruction. The fully developed TSG professional development program will provide opportunities for preschool teachers to acquire the knowledge and practices necessary to ensure early reading success for all students. The preschool TSG model will emphasize phonological awareness/alphabetics and oral language instructional practices for preschool teachers.
Research Design and Methods: In Years 1 and 2, the TSG model will be implemented and revised four times utilizing a design experiment framework. Four groups of five to six preschool teachers teaching in public prekindergarten programs will participate in the TSG over the 2-year develop, test, revise period. Child outcome data will also be gathered during this iterative process in order to inform the ongoing development effort. An expert panel will examine multiple sources of outcome and process data to understand how the intervention is promoting teacher and student growth, and which aspects of the intervention may be impeding success and require revisions. Project documents, which include the triangulated results of all analyses, will inform the panel's decisions.
In Year 3, the final preschool TSG model will be piloted on a small scale with groups of new teachers facing slightly different work circumstances to examine the feasibility of the model and gather some preliminary data on its effectiveness. Child outcome data will also be gathered from a subsample of children in order to ascertain if participation in the TSG is associated with improved child outcomes.
In addition to the development of a preschool TSG professional development program, the research team will also conduct a psychometric sub-study to refine existing preschool teacher knowledge measures. The research team will use Item Response Theory analyses to examine the psychometric properties of the teacher measures, determine the validity and reliability of the measures, and add to the current psychometric evidence for these measures. With teacher data from Years 1-3 of their study, the research team will use ConstructMap, a software program that will allow them to examine the reliability and validity of their teacher knowledge instruments using the sample from the current study.
Control Condition: There is no control condition.
Key Measures: The research team will examine changes in teachers' knowledge and beliefs through previously employed surveys and changes in teachers' practices via a validated classroom observation protocol measure. The Teachers' Knowledge of Language Structure, Teachers' Knowledge of Children's Literature, Teachers' Literacy Background Knowledge, Test of Reading Development, Teachers' Knowledge Calibration, Teachers' Pedagogical Beliefs, Teachers' Knowledge of Child Development and Learning, Teacher Knowledge and Attitude Survey, Emergent Literacy Knowledge Survey, and the Professional Development Survey will measures will be used to examine teachers' knowledge and beliefs.
Child outcomes in phonological awareness/alphabetics and oral language will be evaluated by standardized measures and informal assessments. The Test of Preschool Early Literacy, the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Fourth Edition, the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals Preschool-2, and the Letter-Word Identification and Word Attack subtests from the Woodcock-Johnson III will be administered to participating study children. Teachers and district personnel will collect additional child-level data using the Open Court curriculum-based assessments, kindergarten readiness tests, and the Desired Results Developmental Profile assessments. During the TSG sessions, teachers will utilize the TSG student assessment cards to provide teacher-reported profiles of student learning.
On an ongoing basis, process data will be collected by surveying the teachers and facilitator on their perceptions of the model and their needs, videotaping the TSG sessions, and conducting focus groups as necessary. The TSG Immediate Follow-up Survey, the TSG Immediate Follow-up Facilitator Survey, the Pre-TSG Needs Assessment Form, TSG Post-Implementation Follow-up Survey, coding of discussions from videotaped TSG meetings, and the Concerns-Based Curriculum Survey will be used to collect process data.
Data Analytic Strategy: Basic t-tests will be used to examine if teachers and their students have shown significant differences between their pre- and post-test scores on outcome measures. Hierarchical linear models (HLM) will be used to test the expectation that the model will generate increasingly more growth over each cycle and year and that teachers' participation and growth will predict their student's growth in aligned content. HLM will also be utilized to examine which of the model's components, according to ratings of effectiveness across multiple sources of feedback, predict the most variance on outcome measures. A discourse analysis will be conducted on the TSG meeting footage, which will also be more quantitatively coded for themes. Descriptive statistics and correlational analyses will also be run on the quantitative process data.
Cunningham, A.E., and Zibulsky, J. (2013). Book Smart: How to Support Successful Motivated Readers. New York: Oxford University Press.
Cunningham, A. E., and O'Donnell, C. R. (2015). Teachers' Knowledge About Beginning Reading Development and Instruction. The Oxford Handbook of Reading, 447.
Journal article, monograph, or newsletter
Cunningham, A. E., Etter, K., Platas, L., Wheeler, S., and Campbell, K. (2015). Professional Development in Emergent Literacy: A Design Experiment of Teacher Study Groups. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 31, 62–77.