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Coaching, Teacher Instruction, and Early Childhood Development: Synthesizing the Conceptual Rationales and Empirical Effects

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Coaching, a professional development tool, aims to help an individual coached to gain a deeper understanding of current and future practices and acquire new abilities to renovate existing ones (Rush & Shelden, 2005). The focus on coaching and assessing its efficacy in early childhood settings is tied to the increasing attention to teachers’ professional development in the context of quality improvement in early childhood education and care (Aikens & Akers, 2011). However, the effects that coaching might work to improve teachers’ instructional practices and further promote children’s development in early childhood settings remain inconclusive. Factors that might contribute to the coaching efficacy also merit in-depth investigation. More importantly, the theoretical mechanism lying behind the coaching efficacy is understudied.

To fill the knowledge gaps, five online databases (i.e., ERIC, PsycINFO, Web of Science, Scopus, and ScienceDirect) were searched to thoroughly identify randomized controlled trials or (quasi-) experiments studying the effects of coaching-focused professional development approaches/programs on early childhood teachers’ instructional practices and/or the outcomes of young children’s development. We selected 34 eligible studies that met the criteria for inclusion (See Figure 1), and reported the analysis in five major categories: (a) the profile of studies, (b) the conceptual rationales underpinning the empirical investigations, (c) the specific ways in which coaching was employed in the intervention, (d) the impacts on teacher instruction, and (e) the impacts on young children’s developmental outcomes.

In the studies included in this systematic review (See Table 1), there were totally 2,715 teachers in the intervention group and 2,491 in the control group. Synthesis of evidence revealed that there was a robust positive effect from most of the coaching intervention on teachers’ instructional practices and children’s developmental outcomes. Various categories in assessing teacher instruction and child outcomes were respectively pooled and evaluated. Possible moderators of coaching effects, including the teacher qualification, duration of intervention, coaching dosage, fidelity of treatment implementation, and type of measures, were investigated. The moderator analysis showed that teachers’ professional qualification and coaching dosage were associated with the variation in effect sizes. Furthermore, core principles, models, strategies and the evaluation regarding coaching implementation were qualitatively, inductively compared and summarized. This research synthesis demonstrated coaching to be a burgeoning tool of early childhood professional development which could further enhance teacher instruction and early childhood development in meaningful ways. Many challenges still exist in using coaching for the enhancement of teaching and learning in early childhood settings. Based on our review of the literature, we proposed five guidelines that could help promote and scale up coaching-focused professional development programs with the aim of supporting early learning and development. We also identified several limitations of previous studies, and offered suggestions for future coaching-focused research and practice.

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