Field Initiated Evaluations of Education Innovations Research Grant Program

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University of Virginia Project Abstract
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Name of Institution: University of Virginia
Principal Investigator: Dr. Laura Justice
Title: Efficacy of Conversational Responsiveness Preschool Intervention

Purpose: Since the academic and social problems of disadvantaged students begin well before they enter elementary school, a key strategy for addressing the problems is to train preschool teachers to apply evidence-based solutions in the classroom. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the Hanen approach, a research-based technique for improving preschool teachers' interactions with children. The intervention is designed to improve instructional quality, thereby fostering children's language, literacy, and social skills in both the short and long term. At the end of the project, the results will show whether providing the professional development to 60 preschool teachers in one state improves instructional quality, children's cognitive achievements, and children's social skills.

Setting: Approximately 60 preschool classrooms administered by five Virginia organizations that span the rural counties and several small urban areas of mid-central Virginia to the Western Shenandoah Valley will participate in the evaluation.

Population: Participants will be four-year-old children in center-based care and their preschool teachers.

Intervention: The Hanen Approach specifically focuses on teaching educators to be more sensitive and responsive in interacting with young children. The training approach targets three sets of techniques: child-oriented techniques, interaction-promoting techniques, and language-modeling techniques. The approach's aim is to promote children's language and literacy skills, capacity for initiating conversations with peers, and self-regulatory processes.

Each teacher in the treatment group will complete a four-day summer training institute prior to implementation. Additional implementation supports will be provided via classroom observations, teacher submission of videotapes to the research team for analysis and written feedback, and conference calls with groups of teachers.

Hanen-affiliated researchers have conducted small-scale randomized trials that show evidence of promise.

Research Design and Methods: The study is a randomized controlled trial in which approximately early childhood teachers will be randomly assigned to the treatment (Hanen) group (N=30 teachers) or control (N=30 teachers) group. Approximately 6 four-year old children will be sampled from each classroom, for a total of 180 treatment children and 180 control children. Random assignment will take place over a two-year period. Instructional quality and implementation fidelity will be measured by two different classroom observation protocols.

Control Condition: Control teachers will receive training in something unrelated to language outcomes, such as art or movement, and use the curriculum they typically use.

Key Measures: The children will be pre-tested at the start of the pre-kindergarten, post-tested at the end of pre-kindergarten, and will receive follow-up assessments at the end of first grade. At the each of those points, assessments of oral language, phonological processing, and the structural complexity of spoken language will be administered. Print and alphabetic knowledge will be measured in fall and spring of pre-kindergarten. In addition, teacher ratings of children's school readiness and kindergarten adjustment will be collected in the spring of the pre-kindergarten year and spring of kindergarten year. A teacher survey measuring self-efficacy and attitudes towards teaching will be collected twice from pre-kindergarten teachers. Teachers will submit videotapes of themselves to the research team, which rate the data using two classroom observation protocols that capture both instructional quality and implementation fidelity.

Data Analytic Strategy: Analyses of student achievement data will be conducted to examine the impact of the Hanen approach on children's short- and long-term achievements in language, literacy, and social skills as well as school readiness and kindergarten adjustment. Growth curve analysis is the primary statistical school for measuring children's outcomes, nesting of children within teachers is taken into account.

In addition, the analyses of classroom observation measures will examine the impact of the Hanen approach on the quality of instruction by preschool teachers. The study will also examine whether classroom, teacher, and child characteristics moderate or mediate the effects the Hanen Approach on teacher implementation and child outcomes.

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Last Modified: 10/03/2005