Early childhood teachers’ knowledge regarding children’s language and literacy skills

Early childhood teachers’ knowledge regarding children’s language and literacy skills

First Author: Rachel E. Schachter -- University of Nebraska
Additional authors/chairs: 
Gloria Yeomans-Maldonado; Shayne B. Piasta
Keywords: Assessment, Preschool, Teacher Knowledge
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Current initiatives emphasize using language and literacy (LL) data to inform early childhood (EC) instruction (Lonigan et al., 2011); yet little is known about the knowledge teachers gain about children’s LL skills from data. We used mixed methods to examine what teachers knew based on data collected through informal interactions, documented observations, and standardized measures.

Method: EC teachers (n=106) representing a variety of EC settings, experience levels, and educational backgrounds completed an online survey with fixed-choice and open-comment questions. Data were analyzed using correlational and thematic analyses and interpreted in tandem following mixed-methods procedures (Creswell, 2018).

Results: Teachers reported a fair amount of knowledge regarding children’s overall LL skills (M=4.03; scale 1 to 5), mostly gathered through informal interactions (96%) and documented observations (94%). They reported knowing significantly more about alphabet knowledge (M=4.40) and writing (M=4.29) than their general LL knowledge. Conversely, their knowledge of phonological awareness (M=3.84) and oral language (M=3.61) was significantly lower; with no differences between their print knowledge (M=3.99) and overall LL knowledge. In open-responses, only 17% of teachers described learning about specific skills from data (e.g., “Which students know what about letters, concepts of print and letter sounds as well as knowledge about text.”). Most (51%) reported gaining general knowledge regarding children’s skills (e.g., “Where they are on the LL scale”); 32% did not report any knowledge regarding children’s skills.

Conclusions: Although teachers reported knowing a good deal about children’s LL skills, few articulated specific skills learned via data. Additional training may be necessary.