Proceedings from a Working Meeting on School Readiness Research: Guiding the Synthesis of Early Childhood Research. Building relationships between teachers and intervention staff

12/15/2009

All the intervention models reviewed above (e.g., MTP, REDI, CSRP) as well as most other models in the ISRC that are currently analyzing their data for evidence of treatment impact (led by Fantuzzo, Kupersmidt, Odom, Sheridan) have relied on significant investments in coaching of teachers in supporting gains in classroom climate. Similar levels of investment in training and coaching were found in all studies reviewed from the PCER consortium (e.g., Ramey et al., submitted; Assel, Landry, Swank, et al., in press; Cosgrove, Fountain, Wehry, Wood, & Kasten, submitted; Klein, Starkey, Clements, Sarama, & Iyer, in press).

Across all interventions using coaching or consultation approaches in the ISRC consortium, levels of coaching were commensurate with levels used in the language- and literacy interventions in the PCER group (e.g. N Florida ELLM used two days of intensive training followed by 1 hour weekly coaching sessions across the school year while training for Pre-K Mathematics included 2 4-day trainings and 15 on-site coaching sessions). Comparison of models across all ISRC and PCER studies that employed coaching suggests several commonalities, including emphasis on job embedded, collaborative models (including cycles of modeling, observation and feedback) between teachers and coaching staff (see Cosgrove et al., submitted; Raver et al., 2008). In short, intervention staff focused substantial levels of effort in building trusting, collaborative relationships with teachers (see Brown, Knoche, Edwards, & Sheridan, submitted for case study).

With variations on this coaching and training model, multiple teams demonstrated significant improvements in teachers classroom practices (see above). Building of positive, supportive coaching relationship may be particularly important given that interventions may be asking teachers to be reflective, self-critical, and willing to take the risk of trying new approaches in the ways that they run their classrooms. In one study, for example, teachers in the treatment group reported increasing levels of efficacy in implementing language stimulation techniques over the school year (Justice et al., under review). Importantly, teachers in the treatment group were also found to report lower, rather than higher levels of self-efficacy and comfort when compared to teachers ratings of self-efficacy in an untreated control group.  These findings, though drawn from a single intervention trial, are congruent with other studies that document the challenges that teachers face as well as the gains that they are capable of making in programs emphasizing professional development and quality improvement (see Li-Grining et al., submitted; Brown et al., submitted).  Extensive focus group and evaluation surveys conducted by Piantas team suggest that teachers generally reported feeling supported by consultancy services, even when they are web-based (Whitaker, Kinzie, Kraft-Sayre, Mashburn & Pianta, 2007).

An obvious next question is whether there is a threshold level to the amount of coaching needed to support improvements in the quality and quantity of instruction. Ramey, Ramey, and Stokes (in preparation) raise this by pointing to contrasting models of coaching in weekly versus monthly delivery schedules, with no clear evidence that more frequent coaching yields substantially greater benefit than less frequent coaching. This represents an important new direction for future research.

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