Title

Coaching to Support Preschool Teacher Professional Development

Date of Completion

January 2011

Keywords

Education, Adult and Continuing|Education, Early Childhood|Education, Teacher Training

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

Approximately 50 states have early learning standards for preschool age children. The intended use of these standards is to inform preschool teachers' instructional practices to assure children make progress toward educational goals. Accountability practices, such as using standards and measuring performance, are not new to the K-12 education system: however, the practices have a shorter history in pre-K education. Because measuring young children's progress may conflict with preschool teachers' beliefs regarding developmentally appropriate practice, preschool teachers are challenged to integrate accountability standards into their practice. This study explored professional development for preschool teachers that addresses this challenge. ^ Current literature regarding professional development for preschool teachers indicates that coaches can have a positive impact on helping preschool teachers address the challenges they face. Specifically, coaches can provide timely and focused feedback, enable teachers to develop skills to self-regulate their learning, and support teachers to become more mindful practitioners. In these roles, coaches can facilitate a shift in teachers' practice paradigm to accommodate current accountability expectations. ^ The empirical study was a longitudinal (9-month) qualitative study of how coaches (n = 7) supported preschool teachers (n = 12) in adopting a cycle of intentional teaching associated with accountability expectations. Data collection included a series of three teacher interviews, teacher reflective records, coach's observations of teachers in practice, and researchers observations of coaching conferences between the coach and teacher. ^ Findings indicated that coaches used authentic materials and resources familiar to teachers as well as timely and focused feedback to help teachers identify gaps between current practices and goal skills. During the same time, the mental models teachers used to guide their practice became more complex and they demonstrated more behaviors consistent with accountability expectations. The findings are discussed in terms of the interrelationships between coaching strategies and changes in teachers' thinking and behaviors, and the power of coaching conversations to support preschool teachers' success serving children in this era of accountability. ^