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Teachers’ instructional interaction mediates effects of targeted feedback on students’ school readiness skills

Sat, March 23, 8:00 to 9:30am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 3, Room 329

Integrative Statement

Coaching, taking a wide variety of forms, has become a primary focus for professional development of teachers (Herren, 2009) in efforts to improve their classroom practices (e.g., Bierman et al., 2008; Downer et al., 2012a; Pianta, Mashburn, Downer, Hamre, & Justice, 2008b; Powell, Diamond, Burchinal, & Koehler, 2010) and student learning (Bierman et al., 2008; Clements & Sarama, 2012). Recent reviews (see Snyder, Hemmeter, & Fox, in press) synthesize the fundamental aspects of coaching and identify common elements of observation/data collection and feedback on observed practice that repeat in cyclical form across a period of time.

The present study examined the extent to which the mediational process presumed to underlie all coaching models – that features of coaching improve teachers’ instruction which in turn improves student learning – is present and significantly accounts for student learning gains in direct assessments of school readiness skills. The study focused on 209 teachers in public pre-kindergarten programs enrolled in the National Center for Research on Early Childhood Education’s Professional Development Study. The majority (61%) worked in Head Start programs, had an average of 11 years of experience, and were diverse in terms of educational backgrounds (AA degree or less = 38%; BA degree = 46%; MA degree or higher =16%). Most were African American (47%) or White (33%), with a smaller number of Latino (9%), Asian (3%) and other ethnicities (8%). A total of 736 students (50% male) were drawn from participating classrooms. Students came from a variety of diverse backgrounds (13% White; 37% Latino; and 45% African American). Home language was English for 86% and the average years of maternal education was 12.7. The majority (73%) came from families with incomes below 1.5 times the Federal poverty threshold.

We find that for the MyTeachingPartner (MTP) coaching model, there is support for the premise that coaching can improve student learning as a function of improvements it induces in teachers’ behaviors with students. Results for the primary substantive analyses are presented in Figure 1. Overall fit of the model was adequate (RMSEA = .060; CFI = .958; TFI = .804; Chi Square = 7046.31(262), p < .000; SRMR within = .051, between = .111). Path analyses confirmed that as teachers were exposed to higher amounts of feedback in the area of instructional support, they were observed to demonstrate more effective teacher-student interaction in the areas of responsivity and cognitive facilitation. In turn, higher teacher responsivity was related to higher student scores in receptive language, literacy skills, and working memory. When teachers demonstrated higher levels of cognitive facilitation in their interactions, students scored higher on receptive language and literacy skills. Importantly, all these associations are independent of one another. Furthermore, there was support for significant mediation of the effects of MTP instructional support feedback on children’s receptive language, literacy skill, and working memory via both responsivity and cognitive facilitation aspects of teacher-student interaction. This mediated link confirms not only the hypothesized effects and theory of change associated with MyTeachingPartner, but also coaching more generally.

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