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Interdisciplinary teaching across multiple domains: Efficacy of the C4L (Connect4Learning) Curriculum

Fri, March 22, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 3, Room 330

Integrative Statement

Although the importance of young children gaining competence in all core curricular domains¬—social-emotional, language and literacy, mathematics, and science—is well established (IOM/NRC, 2015; 1998, 2009; 2000), research results on the efficacy of comprehensive curricula is dismal, with no measurable effects in comparative studies (PCER, 2008). Based on the hypothesis that it is possible to provide high-quality learning experiences for young children across all critical domains, we have created and piloted an interdisciplinary preschool approach to early learning and development with funding from NSF. Connect4Learning (C4L) integrates empirically-tested practices in each of these four domains.
The C4L approach assumes all four domains are critical to later school success and that current approaches provide superficial or distorted STEM experiences that neither support the richness within these domains nor their interconnectedness. Our hypothesis is that C4L classrooms will outperform control classrooms on measure of each of the four domains, due to the interdisciplinary focus and grounding in research-based learning trajectories (Greenfield et al., 2009; NRC, 2009) and the synergistic interdisciplinary approach.
Study Population
We developed C4L based on the Curriculum Research Framework (Clements, 2007), including five phases of research and development. Phase 6 were quasi-experimental involving 27 classrooms (15 C4L) in 15 schools in three sites (New York, Michigan, Colorado). The demographics for the 258 children (131 C4L) are provided in Table 1.
Classrooms were matched within schools. Comparison classes used “business as usual” district curriculum, training, and coaching. Children were pre-and posttested across all four domains using the Social Skills Improvement System Rating Scales (SSIS) (Gresham & Elliott, 2008), Tools for Early Assessment in Mathematics (TEAM, number, geometry, and measurement, and reasoning processes, Clements, Sarama, & Liu, 2008; Clements, Sarama, & Wolfe, 2011), the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) PreK (Invernizzi, Sullivan, Swank, & Meier, 2004), Lens on Science (D. Greenfield, personal communication, August 2013), and a C4L-specific vocabulary test. These pilot studies were formative evaluations and because the classroom was the unit of analysis, the small number of classrooms prevent valid inferential statistical analyses.
Data in Tables 2 and 3 indicate that the C4L curriculum increases children’s learning in all four domains; children in C4L classrooms outperformed comparison children on social-emotional development; one of two measures of math; literacy and language; and science. Considering that other projects struggle to raise scores in one domain, these are particularly encouraging results.
Often, curricula for preschool teachers show a lack of connection, such as a general curriculum into which a specific reading curriculum/approach and another for math are infused, leaving it up to the teachers to attempt to schedule integrate. C4L boosts teacher quality and leads to gains in student skills in specific domains, suggesting it is a promising and forward-thinking option for theoretically and empirically coherent development of the whole child.