Development of an Online Course to Improve Teachers' Use of Effective Teacher-Child Interactions During Delivery of Early Literacy and Language Instruction
Purpose: Research has shown that the quality of preschool teachers' interactions with their students contributes to children's school readiness. Teacher professional development interventions that support teachers' use of effective instructional practices may be one way to promote children's development of preacademic skills that are related to later school success .Few studies have systematically tested the effects of coursework on teacher-child interactions or child outcomes. The purpose of this study is to develop and document the feasibility of an online course designed to build teachers' content knowledge about and use of effective teacher-child interactions, particularly those interactions known to support early literacy and language development.
Project Activities: The research team will develop, refine, and pilot test an online professional development course for early childhood teachers. The course will be based on an in-person course developed by the National Center for Research on Early Childhood Education. The research team will develop and field test the course in the first two years of the study. In the final year of the project, the research team will conduct a pilot study to examine the feasibility of online course implementation and the potential impact of the course on teachers' instructional practices and children's language and literacy skills.
Products: Products will include a fully developed online teacher professional development course with a supplementary group facilitation component, as well as published reports.
Setting: The study will be conducted at three research sites: rural areas of Virginia (state prekindergarten programs); urban and suburban areas in California (mix of preschool programs); and urban areas of New York City (Head Start programs).
Population: The population will include a diverse sample of teachers (over 50% non-white) with varying educational backgrounds. Most teachers will work in Head Start or state prekindergarten programs that include large numbers of children from low-income backgrounds. The majority of the children in the study will be African-American or Hispanic.
Intervention: The online course will provide approximately 40 hours of instruction on effective teacher-child interactions. The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) will be used to focus teachers on delivering the types of classroom interactions that are expected to be positively related to children's literacy and language development. The course format will include lecture, presentation of video examples, online assignments requiring analysis of video examples, reading materials, writing assignments, and classroom based assignments. A group facilitation supplement will also be developed .For the group facilitation component, teachers who take the online course will have the option of working with an instructor and a cohort of students to promote their own learning and engagement.
Research Design and Methods: The team will develop the course content, technology, and the group facilitation component in three phases, working with an equal number of teachers in each research site at each phase. In Year 1, the research team will develop the course module. The Module version of the course will be tested with 15 teachers over a six week period. Teachers will provide feedback through focus groups, interviews, and questionnaires. In addition, two experts will review the course materials. Revisions will be made to the course content and the technology components based on feedback from teachers and content experts. In Year 2, the research team will develop and test the revised version of the course. The Field Test version of the course will be tested with 30 teachers over a four month period. Teachers will be asked to complete all online coursework, readings, homework assignments and assessments. Three to four teachers at each site will participate in the group facilitation component. All teachers will participate in focus groups and interviews, and complete questionnaires to provide feedback on the Field Test version of the course. The research team will use data from the field test to revise the online course materials and the group facilitation component. In Year 3, the research team will conduct a pilot study. One hundred teachers will take the online course over a 3- to 4-month period. Thirty teachers will be randomly assigned to participate in the facilitated component. The research team will collect classroom, teacher, and child level data. Analyses will be conducted to examine the potential impact of the online course and the facilitated component on teachers' beliefs, knowledge, and practices, as well as children's academic and social skills.
Control Condition: There is no control condition.
Key Measures: The research team will collect data from teachers and children and conduct classroom observations. The Teachers' Attitudes Towards Computers, Beliefs about Intentional Teaching, Beliefs about the Importance of Specific Skills, the Teacher Knowledge Assessment of Early Language and Literacy Development, and the Teachers' Knowledge of Effective Teacher-Child Interactions-Overall Assessment measures will be administered to teachers. Observational data will be collected using the CLASS. Teachers will be asked to report on children's academic, behavioral, and relational skills using the Academic Rating Scale, the Preschool Learning Behaviors Scale, and the Student-Teacher Relationship Scale.
Data Analytic Strategy: Qualitative analysis will be conducted to analyze data from the interviews and focus groups. The research team will use repeated measures analysis of covariance to assess the degree to which teachers' beliefs and practices changed before and after the course. The researchers will also test the degree to which the scope of these changes were similar to those of teachers from an earlier in-person course and a comparison group of teachers who received no treatment. The research team will use data from a large randomized control trial of an in-person version of the teacher professional development course to draw two comparison groups: a group of teachers that took an in-person version of the course and another group of teachers who did not take any course. Results from the online course pilot will be compared to findings from the two groups of teachers who participated in the randomized control trial.
Journal article, monograph, or newsletter
Jamil, F.M., and Hamre, B.K. (2013). Teacher Reflection in the Context of an Online Professional Development Course: Applying Principles of Cognitive Science to Promote Teacher Learning.