Ginny earned her BA in Psychology at New College of Florida and her PhD in Developmental Psychology at the University of Miami. Prior to joining the team at Teachstone, she spent a year at the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) at the University of Virginia as a research associate. At Teachstone, Ginny worked with partners to develop evaluation strategies and to maintain Teachstone's strong commitment to bringing research to practice. She is now bringing her policy experience back to the research arena with a move back to CASTL, but continues to advise Teachstone on research-to-practice and the latest research findings.
Twenty-five years ago, quality teaching in early childhood classrooms meant providing a safe place for children to play, with stimulating materials and books to read. Today, we have provided those basics in most early childhood classrooms, and our focus has shifted to the hows of quality—how teachers interact with children, how they use time and materials to get the most out of every moment, and how they ensure that children are engaged and stimulated.
With the recent launch of our new website, we’ve also launched a new CLASS research summary. This summary reviews the research on teacher-child interactions in classrooms serving children aged zero to eight. It also discusses effective professional development to improve interactions, as well as new directions for research into teacher-child interactions.
I recently attended the National Association of Family Child Care (NAFCC) annual conference in Orlando. I love going to provider-focused conferences like this one, because it’s great to stay grounded in the day-to-day experiences of child care providers. NAFCC is extra special because it feels like a big family reunion, with shared meals, award ceremonies, family activities, and even a dance on the last night.
I’ve been working with my colleague, Sarah Hadden, to put together a new Implementation Guide (coming later this summer), along with some resources for groups writing early childhood grants. Below is an excerpt—slightly modified for blog-post purposes—from the Implementation Guide section on improving teacher-child interactions. Let me know what you think!
Years ago I was visiting with a really wonderful teacher at a Head Start preschool classroom in Miami. As I was leaving, she said to me, “I’m getting these kids ready for the FCAT!” (The FCAT—Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test—is a high stakes test that’s administered starting in third grade.) I was so struck by that comment and what it said about how she viewed her job that it has stayed with me all these years.
Several years ago, the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services made a commitment to improve teacher-child interactions in preschools using the CLASS system. In consultation with Teachstone, they observed hundreds of classrooms across the city and provided teachers with in-person sessions introducing them to the CLASS tool. They also selected about 70 teachers to receive intensive professional development through MyTeachingPartner (MTP) Coaching, Teachstone’s one-on-one, CLASS-based coaching program.
First 5 California just released an evaluation report for their CARES Plus program. The results show that teachers who participated in MyTeachingPartner (MTP) Coaching significantly improved their Classroom Organization and--most important--their Instructional Support scores! To quote from the report:
There is an emerging consensus that dual language learners are best served by dual language classrooms. This ensures that their home language is accepted, preserved, and deepened, which has notable academic and social/emotional benefits for children. Dual language classrooms can range from settings in which the teachers work with children and do some translation in their home language, to two-way immersion classrooms that spend half the day in English and half in a second language.
Neuroscience research has repeatedly confirmed that exposure to toxic stress—inescapable, traumatic experiences, such as chronic abuse or neglect—disrupt the development of healthy stress response systems in the brain and can lead to serious long-term consequences for children. (See this excellent series from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child for more information.)
There’s nothing more frustrating for teachers and staff—coaches, directors, and administrators—than to work hard to improve interactions but not see much change in CLASS scores. It seems like that work was for nothing. Or is it just too early to pick up on changes?