Proceedings from a Working Meeting on School Readiness Research: Guiding the Synthesis of Early Childhood Research. An Underlying Logic Model

12/15/2009

The federally-funded projects have been designed to test curricula, improve the quality of instruction, and promote one or more aspects of school readiness (e.g., early language/literacy, mathematics, or science skills, social-emotional development, general school readiness, and parent involvement; see Appendix C.2). But, most of these studies share a common assumption: PD (in the form of in-service teacher training) affects teacher practices in the classroom, and those practices in turn result in benefits for children.

The logic model below (Figure 1) represents the common assumptions underlying these projects and illustrates that workplace and teacher characteristics can affect the results. We use this logic model as a framework for this paper. Our review focuses more on changes in teacher behavior and practices and less on changes in children because other papers will address child outcomes, but we do highlight those studies that connect changes in instructional practices or specific PD strategies with changes in children.

As illustrated in Figure 1, most of the projects reviewed in this paper included training of teachers (an exception was LA EXCeLS) to help the teachers improve their teaching practices and the overall quality of their classrooms and/or to help teachers implement a specific curriculum. Programs typically employed trainers to work with the teachers initially, and, sometimes those or other individuals also served as ongoing coaches or mentors to help the teachers implement the skills they had been taught. In some projects, the training for the coaches/trainers was described. Presumably, such training would improve the coaching delivered to teachers. Changes in teacher behavior/instructional practices, therefore, were either a direct result of the training that the teachers received or resulted from the better training of the teachers delivered by the coaches. The effects of training could be moderated by workplace or teacher characteristics. Changes in instructional practices are hypothesized to result in better outcomes for children.

Figure 1.
Logic Model

Logic Model. See text for brief explanation. See Long Description for complete description.

The logic model in Figure 1 illustrates relationships among professional development, teacher characteristics, workplace characteristics, coaching practices, changes in teacher behavior and instructional practices, and enhanced child skills, achievement, and development. In this model, professional development is divided into three types of training — training to improve teaching practices, training to implement a curriculum, and training of coaches that provide individualized support for teachers. According to the model, professional development training is hypothesized to affect changes in teacher behavior and instructional practices. In the case of training for coaches, the training is hypothesized to contribute to improvement in coaching practices, which in turn are believed to result in changes in teacher behavior and instructional practice. For all three types of professional development training, teacher characteristics and workplace characteristics are assumed to affect the relationship between training and changes in teaching. According to the last phase of the model, the resulting changes in teacher behavior and instructional practices are hypothesized to contribute to enhanced child development, skills, and achievement.

This paper begins by describing the projects included in the review and what insights they have to offer about PD.  Many of the projects were not developed as tests of PD strategies, to draw lessons about PD, so there are limits to the conclusions we can draw based on this body of work.  Next, project results are summarized in two ways:  (1) with a focus on the sub-set of the projects that directly tested different PD approaches; and then (2) across all projects, with findings reported in relation to the logic model.  We conclude by offering suggestions for future research.

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