Supporting teachers’ enrichment of children’s language environment in early childhood education and care settings

Supporting teachers’ enrichment of children’s language environment in early childhood education and care settings

First Author: Veslemøy Rydland -- University of Oslo
Abstract / Summary: 

Over the past decade of more ecologically valid observational and intervention studies in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) settings, it has become increasingly evident that we need more knowledge about how Professional Development models lay the foundation for endorsing evidence-based practices among staff in a way that connects to child outcomes. It is particularly important to understand how teachers can offer children more cognitively challenging and language-rich interactions with individualized support. The four papers in the present symposium address this issue, with the first connecting assessments of US teachers’ knowledge and skills in supporting dual language learners to child outcomes, and the three subsequent papers presenting intervention work with teachers in China, Norway, and the US, respectively. The overarching aim is to discuss how effective language interventions in ECEC settings can attune to the diversity of learners as well as to local and national educational contexts.

Symposium Papers: 

How Are Early Childhood Teachers Equipped to Support Dual Language Learners?

First Author/Chair:Lulu Song -- Brooklyn College CUNY
Additional authors/chairs: 
Mayra Baldi; Eva Liang; Rufan Luo

Purpose
Given the increasing number of dual language learners (DLLs) in early care and education (ECE) programs in the U.S., understanding how the ECE workforce is equipped to address DLLs’ needs is a critical issue. Using a teacher questionnaire, we examined how ECE teachers were equipped to support Chinese DLLs’ development.

Method
In a northeastern city of the U.S., 29 lead teachers of 3- to 4-year-old Chinese DLLs were recruited from 2 public (English-only) and 4 community (mixture of English-only and bilingual) programs. Teachers completed a questionnaire in the middle of the school year. DLLs’ language skills in English and Chinese were also assessed.

Results
All teachers had received at least bachelor’s degrees (73% had master’s degrees) and 72% had obtained additional certification from the state. However, only 10% of the teachers could speak, read, and write in Chinese. Teachers’ knowledge of dual language development and best practices to support it was significantly correlated with their educational background and certification status. Preliminary analysis also suggested an association between teachers’ knowledge and DLLs’ language outcomes. As indicated by the teachers, supports for Chinese DLLs’ development in Chinese such as classroom interactions, environmental print in classroom, and books as well as other learning and play materials were all inadequate.

Conclusions
The questionnaire identified both strengths of and challenges faced by teachers of Chinese DLLs. The data highlight areas for improvements for administrators, teacher educators, and policymakers who should work together to better support and cultivate a diverse ECE workforce for Chinese DLLs.

Intelligence Built Into the Curriculum: How Can Curriculum Support Low-Resource Early Childhood Education Teacher’s Development in Rural China?

First Author/Chair:Si Chen -- Harvard Graduate School of Education
Additional authors/chairs: 
Catherine E. Snow

Purpose
To support teacher’s professional development is the core of quality improvement of early education (EC) program. In low-resource settings, when intensive coaching or other teacher training program is not available, to help EC teachers in the most remote villages of China, we designed a picture-book-based curriculum package (CEREC curriculum) that contains: (1) 120 picture books for each classroom; (2) 100 class plans based on the topics of the picture books; and (3) 2-day face-to-face training and full-semester online progressive coaching.

Method
To detect the effectiveness of the CEREC curriculum, we recruited 80 classes (90 teachers and 2317 children) of village-level kindergartens in Xichou County, which is a national-level poverty-stricken county in Southwestern China. After the pretest, 40 classes were randomly assigned as the treatment group and received the CEREC curriculum for four months (a whole semester).

Results
Posttest showed that compared to the business-as-usual control group, the CEREC curriculum improved the treatment group teachers’ frequency of open-ended question asking and vocabulary teaching. The treatment teachers were scored higher in the evaluation using Measuring Early Learning Quality and Outcome (MELQO) – Module of Early Learning Environment Model (MELE).

Conclusion
We will discuss the cost-benefit and the value of the CEREC curriculum for low-cost EC education settings in high poverty areas.

Supporting Teachers' Book-Sharing Practices: An Intervention Study Addressing Second-Language Learners in Norwegian Preschool Classrooms

First Author/Chair:Vibeke Grøver -- Department of Education, University of Oslo
Additional authors/chairs: 
Veslemøy Rydland

Purpose
This paper aims to consider how to support teachers’ skills and knowledge in providing effective language-enhancing strategies in their interactions with young second-language learners in preschool settings. More specifically, we investigate whether teachers who had participated in a yearlong book-sharing intervention used more language-enhancing strategies compared to the control group.

Method
We utilized a cluster-randomized-controlled study of a researcher-developed loosely scripted shared reading intervention in multiethnic preschool classrooms in Norway called the Extend program. Teachers in 123 different preschool classrooms serving 464 DLLs (3–5 years old) were randomly assigned to intervention and control groups. The Extend program offers supplemental material and teacher coaching, which were developed to align with the Norwegian preschool context of emphasizing informal learning and teacher autonomy.
Towards the end of the yearlong intervention, all teachers read the same unfamiliar picture book with the target children in their class. Interactions were audiotaped, transcribed, and coded (by assessors who were blind to the condition) for teacher use of language-enhancing strategies.

Results
Teachers in the intervention group contributed significantly more diverse vocabulary and extended word explanations in a transfer situation compared to the control group. Moreover, children who were exposed to more of these language-enhancing strategies also demonstrated slightly steeper vocabulary learning trajectories over the year, even when the strong intervention effect on children’s second-language vocabulary was considered.

Conclusion
The findings suggest that a loosely scripted intervention approach offering supplemental material and teacher coaching was effective in supporting both child vocabulary learning and teacher practice.

Child and Teacher Talk in Prekindergarten Classrooms: Which Learning Opportunities are Associated With More Teacher and Child Talk?

First Author/Chair:Carol Connor -- University of California, Irvine
Additional authors/chairs: 
Ashley Adams ; Deborah Vandell; Susan Sheridan ; Lisa Knoche ; Laura Justice; Jennifer Bostic

It is well established that discourse and teacher-child interactions in prekindergarten (PK) classrooms are highly predictive of children’s language and early literacy development (Justice et al., 2008). However, less is known about which learning opportunities specifically support child and teacher talk. In this presentation, we use the new Optimizing Learning Opportunities for Students (OLOS) observation system that captures content and context of learning opportunities coupled with amounts and types of child and teacher talk. OLOS is designed to be used live in classrooms by practitioners, and to support effective instruction. We examined the types of talk that children use, from simple non-verbal gestures to answering questions that require thinking and reasoning and asking questions, and the learning opportunities that appear to support higher level discourse. Using data collected as part of the Early Learning Network in 58 PK-3rd grade classrooms with 555 students in California, Nebraska, and Ohio, preliminary results reveal that children are more likely to use more talk overall during literacy, mathematics, and science instruction compared to other learning contexts, such as play. Moreover, children who shared the same classroom had different learning opportunities, with implications for achievement. We will present results with the entire data set and in more detail. Suggestions for research and practice will be discussed.

References:
Justice, L. M., Mashburn, A. J., Hamre, B. K., & Pianta, R. C. (2008). Quality of language and literacy instruction in preschool classrooms serving at-risk pupils. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23, 51-68. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2007.09.004

DISCUSSANT

First Author/Chair:DISCUSSANT Deborah Vandell -- University of California, Irvine