Supporting Literacy in Preschool: Using a Teacher-Observation Tool to Guide Professional Development

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [University of California Santa Cruz]On: 09 October 2014, At: 19:29Publisher: Taylor &amp; FrancisInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Journal of Early Childhood TeacherEducationPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:</p><p>Supporting Literacy in Preschool: Usinga Teacher-Observation Tool to GuideProfessional DevelopmentShelly McNerney a , Diane Corcoran Nielsen a &amp; Phyllis Clay ba University of Kansas , Lawrence, Kansas, USAb Youth Policy Research, Inc. , Kansas City, Kansas, USAPublished online: 23 Feb 2007.</p><p>To cite this article: Shelly McNerney , Diane Corcoran Nielsen &amp; Phyllis Clay (2006) SupportingLiteracy in Preschool: Using a Teacher-Observation Tool to Guide Professional Development, Journal ofEarly Childhood Teacher Education, 27:1, 19-34, DOI: 10.1080/10901020500528838</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp;Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p></p></li><li><p>19</p><p>Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 27:1934, 2006Copyright National Association of Early Childhood Teacher EducatorsISSN: 1090-1027 print/ 1745-5642 onlineDOI: 10.1080/10901020500528838</p><p>UJEC1090-10271745-5642Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Vol. 27, No. 01, January 2006: pp. 00Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education</p><p>Supporting Literacy in Preschool: Using a Teacher-Observation Tool to Guide </p><p>Professional Development</p><p>Supporting LiteracyS. McNerney et al. SHELLY MCNERNEY, 1 DIANE CORCORAN NIELSEN,1 AND PHYLLIS CLAY2</p><p>1University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA2Youth Policy Research, Inc., Kansas City, Kansas, USA</p><p>Teachers involved with professional-development opportunities inevitably differ intheir content knowledge, access to resources, and instructional practices. The purposeof this study was to investigate how a standardized assessment observation tool,selected to gather summative information for grant-evaluation purposes about pre-school teachers early literacy instruction environment and practices, could be used toguide the implementation of an early literacy peer-coaching professional-developmentprogram involving 23 teachers in 5 preschools. Data were obtained from threesources: baseline and end-of-project data for each teacher on the standardized obser-vation tool, interviews with codirectors and coaches, and documents provided by codi-rectors and coaches. Results indicate that a standardized observation tool can be usedformatively in three ways: (1) to guide decisions about materials purchases; (2) toadjust professional-development workshop sequence and delivery; and (3) to guidecoaches as they work one-on-one with teachers.</p><p>While students at all levels of school need knowledgeable teachers, the need for teacherswho are knowledgeable about early literacy is especially great (Snow, Burns, and Griffin,1998). Research on the variables that impact reading achievement has found that early lan-guage competency promotes achievement in reading, when reading is defined as skillfulcomprehension (Tabors, Roach, &amp; Snow, 2001). Students in literacy-rich environmentsthat focus on the development of oral language and phonemic and print awareness willenter later grades with a solid base on which to build higher level literacy skills (Snowet al.). In order to maximize their students potential, teachers must have the knowledgeand skills to create learning environments and to provide instruction that fosters languageand literacy development (Neuman &amp; Roskos, 1997). Additionally, these teachers mustrely on classroom-management techniques that provide students with the safe, stable arenanecessary for both social and cognitive growth (Edwards, 1993; Killin &amp; Williams, 1995).</p><p>Many children face daily challenges, such as poverty and neglect, which affect theirsocial, language, and cognitive developmentthe roots of success in later aspects of con-ventional literacy (Hart &amp; Risley, 1992; Snow et al., 1998). Consequently, preschoolteachers must be prepared to meet the varied needs of their students in relation to early</p><p>Received 8 November 2005; accepted 2 December 2005.This study was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Early Child-</p><p>hood Educator Professional Development Program (S349A020017-02).Address correspondence to Diane Corcoran Nielsen, 446 J.R. Pearson Hall, 112 West Campus</p><p>Road, Lawrence, Kansas 66045-2340. E-mail:</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f C</p><p>alif</p><p>orni</p><p>a Sa</p><p>nta </p><p>Cru</p><p>z] a</p><p>t 19:</p><p>29 0</p><p>9 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>20 S. McNerney et al.</p><p>literacy development. Traditionally, preschool teachers have not focused on language andliteracy, and their preservice education varies greatly. Some preschool teachers are well-prepared in early childhood education and hold masters degrees, while many others havelittle or no education beyond high school, much less education in early childhood literacy.According to Fitzgerald and Hunt (2004), only one third of child care teachers holds a collegedegree. Urban schools especially must grapple with high turnover rates, and administra-tors often accept emergency-certified teachers who do not have the same content and ped-agogical knowledge that traditionally certified teachers receive during their degreeprograms (Cooter, 2003; Darling-Hammond, 1994). Compounding this challenge is thefact that urban schools often have limited access to print materials (McGill-Franzen &amp;Allington, 1993), further separating the teachers from valuable learning resources andcontributing to classroom climates that do not support early literacy development.</p><p>With the variety of certification options available for preschool teachers, providinghigh quality professional-development opportunities for teachers can support their effortsto implement appropriate literacy-related instruction and classroom environments.According to Guskey (2003), not every teacher, every school, or even every district willhave the same professional-development needs. Teachers involved with professional-development opportunities inevitably differ in their content knowledge, access toresources, and instructional practices. Effective professional-development programs mustaddress these differences. Research suggests that professional development is more likelyto change educational practice when it is focused, occurs over time, and involves a varietyof approaches, such as presentation, modeling, videos, observation of others, and peerinteractions about problems and solutions (Fullan, 1991; Stallings, 1989; Stoll &amp; Fink,1996). Effective professional development incorporates opportunities for teachers to takemore ownership of their learning and reflect on their practice (Anders, Hoffman, &amp; Duffy,2000). Effective professional development also requires resources to support adult learn-ing and collaboration (Wilson &amp; Berne, 1999). One possible source of this support is peercoaching. In conjunction with seminars/workshops, peer coaching has been shown toincrease the effectiveness of professional development (Joyce &amp; Showers, 1995) and is afactor in reducing teacher turnover (Cooter, 2003). Peer coaches work with individualteachers to model techniques introduced in group sessions, adapt lesson ideas to meet theindividual needs of teachers and their students, and provide feedback to teachers in a non-threatening way (Lapp, Fisher, Flood, &amp; Frey, 2003). A 1995 peer-coaching study of pre-school teachers found that 75% of the teachers demonstrated more procedural changesduring the coaching phase of the experiment than during the baseline phase and that afterthe coaching program ended, these teachers maintained the changes in their classroompractice (Kohler, Crilley, Shearer, &amp; Good, 1997). One possible reason for the effective-ness of peer coaching is that it allows professional development to be personalized to meetthe needs of individual teachers. As peer coaching becomes more widely recognized as aneffective means of providing professional development, the need for qualified peercoaches will only grow. However, since peer coaching is so new and preparation pro-grams for literacy coaches are in their infancy, schools looking to include coaching as partof a comprehensive professional-development program have few if any experienced peercoaches to include in their program. The reality is that although many newly hired peercoaches may be highly qualified master teachers, they still must develop their coachingskills on the job.</p><p>The authors of this paper wanted to learn how a standardized assessment observationtool, selected to gather summative information on preschool teachers early literacyinstruction environment and practices for grant-evaluation purposes, could be used for</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f C</p><p>alif</p><p>orni</p><p>a Sa</p><p>nta </p><p>Cru</p><p>z] a</p><p>t 19:</p><p>29 0</p><p>9 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>Supporting Literacy 21</p><p>formative purposes as well. The purpose of this study was to explore how the codirectorsand coaches of a grant-funded project involving five preschools located in a high-povertyurban environment could use the information obtained from the standardized teacher-observation tool, the Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO)(Smith &amp; Dickinson with Sangeorge &amp; Anastasopoulos, 2002), to guide the implementationof an early literacy peer-coaching professional-development program that included bothgroup and individualized professional-development opportunities. Additionally, the researchteam investigated how the four inexperienced literacy coaches could use the ELLCO to helpguide their peer-coaching activities. The ELLCO was chosen for this project because it is astandardized literacy observation tool developed specifically for use in prekindergartenthrough third-grade classrooms. Additionally, the development processs extensive fieldtesting helped ensure that the tool had high validity and reliability (Smith et al.).</p><p>Method</p><p>Context</p><p>This study is an outgrowth of a federally funded project designed to provide professionaldevelopment in language and literacy to 23 preschool educators in 5 preschools located in ahigh-poverty city. Two preschools were under the auspices of the local school district, whicheducates approximately 20,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, and three pre-schools were community preschools. The children in these five schools resided in the high-est-poverty quadrant of the city, where more than 90% of the students qualified for free orreduced lunches and more than 50% of the students were recent immigrants. The teachershad a range of education levels (from high school diplomas to masters degrees), wereethnically diverse, and English was the second language of two of the teachers. Professional-development opportunities for the teachers were outlined as part of the grant-writing pro-cess. In-services were organized into modules on topics including print-rich environments,phonological awareness, and storybook interaction, and were delivered through workshops.On-site support also occurred, with approximately one peer coach for every six teachers.</p><p>Participants</p><p>Of the 23 teachers, 9 were employed by the school district and 14 by the community-basedpreschools. There were 22 females and 1 male. The teachers ranged in age from 24 to 64(mean: 44 years) and varied in years of experience from 2 to 34 years (mean: 15 years).Their ethnic backgrounds were also diverse. Eleven teachers were African American, 4 wereHispanic, and 8 were Caucasian. Additionally, 2 of the 23 were bilingual, with Spanish astheir first language for 2 teachers. The educational levels of the 23 teachers varied as well.Across the 13 teachers in the three community sites, 5 held high school diplomas, 5 obtainedchild care certificates in addition to their high school diploma, 2 had completed their Associ-ates degrees, and one had a Bachelors degree from another country but not in education.None of the teachers in the community sites held early childhood certification from the state.All 9 teachers in the two district preschools held state certification in early childhood, 5 hadearned bachelors degree/and 4 held a masters degrees in early childhood special education.</p><p>Working closely with these teachers were 4 literacy coaches, who were selected onthe basis of their experience in preschool classrooms and their knowledge of and effec-tiveness in aspects of early language and literacy instruction. The coaches ranged in agefrom 30 to 48 (mean: 39 years) and varied in years of experience from 6 to 22 years</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f C</p><p>alif</p><p>orni</p><p>a Sa</p><p>nta </p><p>Cru</p><p>z] a</p><p>t 19:</p><p>29 0</p><p>9 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>22 S. McNerney et al.</p><p>(mean: 13 years). Their teaching experiences were varied. Two had more experiencewith typically developing preschool and primary-grade students and the other two withspecial-needs students. Three of the four had masters degrees (two in early childhoodspecial education) one held state endorsement in teaching English as a second language(ESL). In terms of ethnicity, one coach was Hispanic and the others, Caucasian. Thecoaches were responsible for attending professional-development workshops with theteachers and for providing ongoing, on-site support to help the teachers implement ideasfrom the workshops. They met weekly with teachers, set goals, modeled teaching behaviors,and helped with room design, and organization of materials, as well as with...</p></li></ul>


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