We began our research in 2002. Our research efforts included teacher effectiveness and increasing child outcomes in early childhood classrooms. The research was conducted in public schools, Head Start, and private Child Care Centers, both in urban and rural areas. The goals centered on creating classrooms of educational excellence, erasing achievement gaps, and school readiness, especially in the area of early language and literacy.
We found that the majority of teachers and child care providers lacked knowledge of current research and best practices in the area of early language and literacy. Our original professional development model developed for the research included the following components:
- appropriate environment
- research-based curriculum
- on-going, intensive whole group professional development in early language and literacy
- “mentors” who worked with teachers to help them implement the curriculum by getting materials, making copies, and working with small groups of children
Not included in the original research design was a systematic monitoring of children’s progress or explicit, targeted, meaningful, and differentiated instructional coaching to help teachers implement instruction. We soon realized that providing professional development that targets environment and curriculum alone is not sufficient for closing achievement gaps (Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research Consortium (2008). It was at that point we modified our design and included another aspect of professional development – the instructional coach.
Because staff development literature (Guskey, 1995, Joyce and Showers, 2002, Raikes, 2006) indicates that teachers need support for implementation of new learning through ongoing professional development that includes opportunities for reflection, discussion, and observation of others, we developed a coaching protocol that includes each of those opportunities. Our differentiated coaching techniques and strategies were developed based on research by Kame’emui et al, (2006), who discussed the need to tailor instruction to individual needs using a process of screening, diagnosis, progress monitoring, and outcome evaluation.
The teachers in our study needed to have conditional and procedural knowledge – the how, the when and the why- to implement instruction that would accelerate progress for the children. It is through instructional coaching that we have been able to guide the teachers’ use of children’s progress monitoring data to make curricular decisions and transfer new knowledge into their instruction.
The information below is pre/post data collected after the original model was modified by including instructional coaching and progress monitoring. The other charts display the closing of the achievement gap between treatment and comparison sites.
Further validation of our research is ongoing and continues to target both instructional coaching and progress monitoring.
When we began our journey in 2002, we didn’t set out to construct a professional development system and model, but that is what happened. Our research included an action research cycle – planning, acting and observing, reflecting, and revisiting, which led to more focused instructional coaching.
We encourage you to learn more about the benefits of our instructional coaching program and the positive difference it can make in the lives of teachers, children, and students.The Instructional Coaching Innovations program was established by OU’s Center for Early Childhood Professional Development to provide foundational professional development and training for instructional coaches.