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Coaching in State Preschool Expansion: Effects of Intensity and Focus on Teacher-Child Interactions

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

Integrative Statement

As investments in early childhood education (ECE) continue to increase, ensuring that the design and delivery of professional development (PD) systems effectively support teacher practice and children’s learning is critical. Drawing on a model for the delivery of effective PD (Hamre, Partee, & Mulcahy, 2017), our current work is centered on understanding the influence of ECE programs on PD practices and the effects of PD practices on classroom teaching in the context of rapid preschool expansion.

The present study builds off previous descriptive work on coaching across eleven school divisions in Virginia (Hamre, L’Hospital, & Partee, 2018). It will address the following research questions: What does the intensity and focus of ECE coaching look like during the rapid expansion of a state PreK program? To what extent does variability in the dosage and focus of ECE coaching predict the quality of teacher-child interactions?

Data for this study come from approximately 14 coaches and 100 teachers who participated in the first three years of the Virginia preschool expansion grant (VPI+). Coaches completed online logs indicating the intensity and content focus of their coaching sessions with teachers. Additionally, classroom observations occurred in years 1 and 3 during which the quality of teacher-child interactions was assessed by Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) raters using the CLASS: PreK (Pianta, LaParo, & Hamre, 2008).

Descriptive analyses related to the first research question have already been conducted. We found the intensity of coaching to be quite low overall, but was variable across divisions. Figure 1 presents the number of one-on-one coaching contacts per teacher per month by division in fall 2017. Coaching intensity was generally higher in divisions with lower coach-to-teacher ratios, however, some divisions did not follow this pattern (e.g., low ratio and low intensity or moderate ratio and relatively high intensity). We also found that the focus of coaching was highly variable across divisions. As an example, Figure 2 breaks down by division the percent of coaching contacts that were focused on teacher-child interactions in fall 2017. Across divisions, focus on teacher-child interactions in fall 2017 ranged from 34% at the low end to 97% at the high end.

We have not yet analyzed whether variability in coaching intensity and focus relates to the quality of teacher-child interactions. To answer this research question, we will conduct regression analyses predicting associations between coaching intensity and focus in years 1 and 2 of the preschool expansion and teacher-child interactions in year 3 and change in teacher-child interactions from year 1 to year 3. Regarding the focus of coaching, we will look at the percent of teachers’ coaching contacts that addressed teacher-child interactions as well as domain-specific content including literacy and math.

Results from this study will extend the current research base on evidence-based PD models and provide insight into the elements of coaching that may be most important for improving the quality of interactions in preschool classrooms.

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