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Volume XI, Number 4, Winter 2005/2006
Issue Topic: Professional Development
Evaluations to Watch
Nancy Clark-Chiarelli from Education Development Center, Inc. describes an evaluation of two approaches to early literacy professional development—one with a traditional face-to-face mode of delivery and one with a technology-enhanced component.
To plan an effective literacy-related curriculum for young children, teachers must know enough about child development and possess the necessary content knowledge to establish worthwhile goals and create relevant, engaging activities. Unfortunately, there exists a “great disjunction between what is optimal pedagogically for children's language and literacy and development and the level of preparation that currently typifies early childhood educators.”1
Typically, the professional development provided for early childhood teachers is characterized by episodic workshops that do not reflect research-based knowledge about effective learning2 or build on teachers' current practice.3 Consequently, teachers cannot connect the ideas and approaches explored in professional development to their own practice. When professional development focuses on curriculum, it does so in a largely process-oriented way not connected to content. Despite the importance of pedagogical content knowledge,4 such knowledge is not the focus of established professional development programs.
Examining the Efficacy of Two Models of Preschool Professional Development in Language and Literacy, an evaluation funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences, is examining two approaches to implementing empirically based early literacy professional development in West Virginia. Over 4 years, Education Development Center (EDC), in collaboration with the West Virginia Department of Education, Concord University, and early childhood leaders and staff from six counties, will implement and research two content-rich professional development programs. An estimated 110 early childhood teachers will participate in these credit-bearing courses, potentially impacting the language and literacy learning of over 2,000 children.
One version of the course, Literacy Environment Enrichment Program (LEEP), uses a traditional face-to-face mode of delivery. The other, Technology-Enhanced Literacy Environment Enrichment Program (T-LEEP), is delivered through interactive television, Web-based instruction, and face-to-face instruction and draws on the technological infrastructure in place in all schools across West Virginia. The LEEP course will be taught by EDC staff and West Virginia Higher Education faculty in a central location. T-LEEP participants will attend sessions, broadcast from EDC in Newton, Massachusetts, at two remote locations in West Virginia. Both approaches to professional development are delivered in three intensive, 2-day sessions.
The LEEP and T-LEEP course content incorporates six over-arching topics: book reading, children's conversations and personal narratives, phonological awareness, understanding print, writing, and integrating literacy into the curriculum.
Beginning in fall 2005, teachers and their students in West Virginia's universal pre-K classrooms in three counties will be recruited and randomly assigned to three conditions: LEEP, T-LEEP, and control. In this 1st year of the study, teachers in both intervention conditions will engage in LEEP and T-LEEP. In the 2nd school year, we will provide on-site, content-based mentoring. Prior to the first of four mentoring visit, teachers will be asked to videotape a lesson of their choosing related to a core literacy topic (e.g., book reading). Mentors will view videotapes and engage teachers in reflection on the teaching practices presented in the tapes. In the 3rd and 4th school years, LEEP and T-LEEP will be delivered to teachers in three additional counties.
We are using a pre/post experimental design to assess the interventions' impact on teacher and child outcomes; assessments will be administered each year in both the fall and spring. Teacher measures will include the Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation Toolkit (ELLCO) to assess the quality of the classroom environment and instruction in language and literacy. The project will also assess teachers' implementation of the curriculum through videos, review of teacher logs, and two observations per year of each participant's classroom. To guide these observations, we will employ a rubric-based protocol that uses criteria such as dosage, use and type of materials, and delivery. Child outcome measures will include several standardized and observational measures of language and literacy development such as the Test of Early Reading Ability, Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test, and Get It, Got It, Go.
Qualitative methods (e.g., observation and interview) will also be used to construct detailed case studies and provide additional contextual in-formation important to the examination of intervention efficacy, such as the degree to which teachers incorporate the language and literacy instructional strategies discussed in the professional development into their daily practice.
Although previous studies of LEEP and T-LEEP have resulted in positive teacher and child outcomes, the proposed study will allow us to replicate these findings using a more rigorous research design. The study will also address the field's needs for high quality, research-based profes-sional development for early childhood education teachers.
1 Bowman, B., Donovan, M. S., & Burns, M. S. (Eds.). (2001). Eager to learn: Educating our preschoolers (p. 13). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
2 Darling-Hammond, L. (1996). The quiet revolution: Rethinking teacher development. Educational Leadership, 53(6), 4–10; Hyson, M. (2001). Better futures for young children, better preparation for their teachers: Challenges emerging from recent national reports. Young Children, 56, 60–62.
3 Darling-Hammond, L., 1996.
4 Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations for the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 1–22.
Nancy Clark-Chiarelli, Ed.D.
Education Development Center, Inc.
55 Chapel St.
Newton, MA 02458