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A wealth of evidence indicates that young children benefit from high quality preschool experiences (Phillips, et al., 2017). Research has highlighted the impact of quality of teacher-child interactions, and findings indicate that teacher interactional style is more consistently and strongly associated with child outcomes, above and beyond the effects of other, more distal, indicators of quality (Howes, et al., 2008; Mashburn, et al., 2008). However, associations among global classroom quality and child outcomes are often quite small in magnitude, leaving researchers considering additional methods to measure children’s classroom experiences. To this end, this paper examines associations between global classroom quality as measured by the experience of the average child and a measure assessing the individual experiences of children within the same classrooms.
Data were collected as part of a larger evaluation study of a large Early Head Start / Head Start program in a Midwestern state. Participants included preschoolers (n = 231) who were enrolled in Head Start classrooms (n = 66 classrooms). Classrooms were observed in the winter using the Individualized Classroom Assessment Scoring System (inCLASS) as well as CLASS Pre-K. Child level data were also collected in the fall and spring using the Student Teacher Relationship Scale, Woodcock-Johnson Letter Word and Applied Problems, Pencil Tap and Digit Span.
Preliminary findings indicate that global classroom quality is weakly and inconsistently associated with features of children’s individual experiences with teachers (all correlations r < .1). Even children in high quality classrooms may experience interactions with teachers that have low levels of positive engagement and moderate levels of conflict. Thus, global measures of quality may not be representative of children’s individual experiences. Instead, it appears that individual experiences vary widely and are associated with various child characteristics. For example, of 11 dimensions measured on the inCLASS, boys had lower quality interactions in 5 areas. Similarly, experiences differed by child’s home language on 4 of the 11 dimensions. Other associations were found with fall scores on child assessments and inCLASS ratings. Prior to time of presentation, additional analyses are planned to examine links among children’s individual classroom experiences and their growth in academic, social emotion, and executive function skills. Analyses will examine whether and to what extent the children’s individual experiences predict growth above and beyond global quality measured by the CLASS in this sample.
This study will provide insight into the evolving approaches to assess children’s experiences in the classroom, highlighting features that are most associated with children’s growth. This information will be helpful to researchers as we refine out measurement approaches, as well as to policy and program professionals seeking to support the most impactful preschool programs possible.
Sherri Castle, University of Oklahoma Tulsa
Kyong-Ah Kwon, University of Oklahoma
Shinyoung Jeon, University of Oklahoma-Tulsa
Lieny Jeon, Johns Hopkins University
Ji Young Choi, Iowa State University
Diane Horm, University of Oklahoma, Tulsa