Instructional Freedom?

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As Early Childhood Educators we are constantly faced with ethical dilemmas. We have to find a balance between what we believe is right and what is being required of us. Consider the following scenario:


Tracy Hodgkin teaches a class of twenty- two three- and four- year- old children from diverse cultures in a school district wi√th a history of low achievement test scores. The new superintendent has promised the board of education that he will turn the district around in three years. The superintendent has hired a new preschool coordinator because he believes that one of the best ways to close the district’s achievement gap is to begin as early as possible. The new preschool coordinator has recommended the adoption of a skills based curriculum that includes the use of direct instruction, other teacher centered approaches, and a scripted curriculum. According to her, “There is only one way to teach children what they need to know, and that is to directly teach them. We can’t fool around with all this play and child-centered stuff.” Direct instruction of basic skills and teacher centered instructional practices are contrary to what Tracy learned in her teacher education classes at the university. In addition, these approaches do not fit with her view of child centered and developmentally appropriate practice. Tracy needs to decide how to respond. She could inform the preschool coordinator that she will not use the materials when and if they are adopted, or she could convene a meeting of other teachers and ask their opinions about the materials, or she could keep her thoughts to herself and vow to use the new curriculum only when she has to. Or she could adopt another plan?

In a one to two page paper with proper APA format and citations, respond to the questions listed below.

Concisely state:

a) What is your stance on teacher directed vs. child directed activity in preschool

b) What role do you think teachers need to play in making instructional decisions?

c) What role do you think administrators need to play in making instructional decisions?

d) Are there any larger issues that need to be addressed so this problem doesn't arise in the future? If so, describe them.

Be sure to answer all the question and cite information from your readings and other course materials, particularly the NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct, Developmentally Appropriate Practices and at least one additional resource Library website or Google Scholar


Case Study

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0.5-0 pts

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Incomplete in most respects; does not reflect requirements

Understanding

Demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the topics/issues

Demonstrates an acceptable understanding of the topics/issues

Demonstrates an inadequate understanding of the topics/issues

Analysis

Presents an insightful and thorough analysis of all issues identified

Presents a thorough analysis of most issues identified

Presents a superficial or incomplete analysis of the issues

Evaluation

Makes appropriate and powerful connections between the issues identified and professional expectations / research

Makes appropriate connections between the issues identified and professional expectations / research

Makes somewhat vague connections between the issues identified and professional expectations / research

Recommen-dations

Presents detailed, realistic, & appropriate recommendations

Presents realistic or appropriate recommendations

Presents unrealistic or inappropriate recommendations

Childhood Education ISSN: 0009-4056 (Print) 2162-0725 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/uced20 A Teacher's Vision: A Friendly Teaching Environment that Supports Growth and Learning Kathryn Jenkinsm & Amelia Hewitt To cite this article: Kathryn Jenkinsm & Amelia Hewitt (2010) A Teacher's Vision: A Friendly Teaching Environment that Supports Growth and Learning, Childhood Education, 86:5, 316-320, DOI: 10.1080/00094056.2010.10521416 To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/00094056.2010.10521416 Published online: 25 Jul 2012. Submit your article to this journal Article views: 159 View related articles Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=uced20 P rofessional satisfaction can be derived from many sources within educational environments. Several factors make a significant impact on the motivation of educators and on their work. In equal fashion, multiple sources of stress and lack of support also affect professional growth and learning. In order for early childhood teachers to maintain a positive perspective,they need director support, interaction with colleagues, classroom balance, andopportunities for partnered professional development. First and foremost, teachers must have a firm foundation built with a constant level of emotional engagement. A teacher in the ultimate work environment should display involvement, personal satisfaction, and high levels of enjoyment. Throughout the day, teachers should take on varied roles and experience many emotions to create a balance of satisfaction and challenge. Early childhood educators particularly rely on positive relationships;they must pay attention to collaborations with families, warm and engaging relationships with their students, trusting dynamics with their administrators, and supportive friendships with their colleagues (Johnson, 2006). Teachers build confidence in their own abilities through the comfort they gain from these relationships. Such interactions encourage them to analyze and discuss their professional success and happiness on many levels. Teachers need to pay consistent attention to the bond between themselves and their professional environment. In focusing on themselves, they need a sense of satisfactionwith their cognitive abilities and with their emotional connections to their job. The cognitive aspect includes their knowledge, skills, and application of abilities to plan and to teach young children. The emotional sense involves their relationships with their director/principal, Kathryn Jenkins and colleagues, students, and families. Monitoring both these areas of teach- Amelia Hewitt ing will result in greater rates of retention and job satisfaction. Teachers Kathryn L. Jenkins and will be content if they believe that they work in a friendly and comfortable Amelia Hewitt are environment. The desire to leave the profession will be lessened if they are Assistant Professors of Early Childhood Education in the pleased emotionally and are feeling confident intellectually. So, the quesUrban Education Department, tion is not so much how to retain teachers, as it is how to support growth of Houston-Downtown, University and learning for teachers in friendly environments. Houston, Texas. Much of teachers’ self-satisfaction is derived from perceived success 316 Childhood Education with students and families and approval from directors Jenkins and Hewitt began the interview discussion and administrators. A recent study (Jenkins & Hewitt, with a prompt question, and the teachers participated 2009) examines the factors that early childhood teachers with their peers in the discussion format. The reperceive as pertinent to their comfort and satisfaction in searchers transcribed answers as they were stated and their own teaching. This study included many factors continued to provide prompts, based on their answers. that could be seen as contributing to teachers’ sense Questionnaires were given to the teachers to answer of fulfillment in the field, including interactions with within a one-month time frame. Questions ranged colleagues, classroom balance, and opportunities for from general feelings about the work environment to professional development on a collaborative level. specifics on strengths and weaknesses of support that teachers gain in the work environment. Revealing Teacher Beliefs Regarding Both the questionnaires and interviews covered the Professional Satisfaction physical setup of the school, the emotional climate While teachers spend most of their time as planners among peers, general perceptions about the role of the and assessors of curriculum and children within their administrator, and professional development. Each area classroom, they have three other important roles: reflec- was specifically written to gauge the impact each eletive practitioner, teacher/researcher, and professional ment had on the teacher’s overall feeling of confidence, and community collaborator (Jalongo& Isenberg, 2004). comfort, and motivation within the profession. The In order to fulfill the demands of all those jobs, teacher recurring themes of the data provided feedback that comfort and confidence is of utmost importance. Ad- guides the theory put forth in the remainder of this ditionally, teachers should be given opportunities to article regarding the impact of routine and relationself-reflectand feel supported in sharing their thoughts ships on teacher happiness and retention. about their work environment. As teachers investigate and analyze their environments, they also begin to be Creating a Physically and Emotionally more open to changing their environment and improv- Supportive Environment ing their teaching (Hill, Stremmel, & Fu, 2005). For the In most instances, teachers and administrators are dedibenefit of the entire field, it is essential to continually cated to ensuring a comfortable physical environment. collect and analyze the perceptions of teachers concern- Most teachers are more likely to speak up if they feel ing their motivation, the ways they gauge success, and their needs are not being met concerning the equiptheir explicit motivation to continue in the profession ment, safety, cleanliness, and/or aesthetic elements of (Kane, 2008). their work environment. The emotional aspect of the Jenkins and Hewitt (2009) recently collected case environment weighs just as heavily when it comes to studies concerning early childhood educators’ percep- job satisfaction and impact. The challenge in this area tions of their professional environments and revelations is that teachers rarely come forward to share concerns of what might encourage them to remain inspired. A or dissatisfaction with the emotional work environsmall group of urban educators served as the sample ment until they are already on their way to making a for this collection of case studies. The researchers had job change. In considering this, the study asked teachbeen involved in a professional partnership with the ers to take time to reflect equally on the physical and teachers at this particular school for the past three emotional environments. In discussing their satisfaction and comfort in their years, including collaborative projects for growth and development of both the teachers and their students. environments, the group of toddler and preschool teachThe teachers’ educational training varied from a CDA ers disclosed their needs for a sense of security, shared to taking graduate classes at an area university. The trust, and consistency in their relationships with their teachers’ years of experience ranged from first year of directors, colleagues, families, and students. They also revealed the feelings they experience when engaged in teaching to almost 20 years in the profession. Through questionnaires and interviews, the research- the physical space in which they work on a daily basis. ers gathered data from lead and support staff teachers The study investigated early childhood teachers’ beliefs of toddlers and preschoolers that focused on the physi- about their facilities, their routines, their relationships, cal and emotional professional environments. Each and their professional growth. Most of the teachers felt teacher completed a questionnaire and participated excited to be with the children in their classrooms. They in an interview that allowed them to reflect on and looked forward to beginning a new day and exploring provide information regarding their work environ- with their children. One of the teachers pointed out, ment, professional attitude, professional development ”When I feel at ease in the environment, it is easier to experiences, and their motivation to teach. Interviews focus on instructional events.” The Facility. The physical surroundings in which were conducted in a group discussion format in their own classrooms, a familiar setting for the teachers. teachers work on a daily basis have an impact on their Annual Theme 2010 / 317 happinessand satisfaction with their profession. It is not simply whether or not the walls are painted a soothing color or that their instructional materials come from the most popular supplier. The teachers’ views of how that physical environment is organized is critical. Teachers shared that the feelings they experience during their arrival on campus can directly determine their motivation to get their day started within their classrooms. Such elements as whether or not administrators and colleagues arrive before or with them to campus, general organization of the offices, and the cleanliness of their classrooms can cause comfort and/or stress. Teachers shared that a sense of teamwork was reinforced when they arrived at work at generally the same time as their peers and directors. They further elaborated that when they arrive later, they feel a sense of concern; when they arrive earlier, they feel a sense of resentment. In some situations, age-level teams agreed on time ranges to arrive at the campus. The participants shared that this agreement had a positive effect on their physical and emotional work environment. The ability to access materials or supplies that support their teaching leads to feelings of predictability, satisfying the need for routine in their professional days. The majority provided feedback that they felt materialsbeing available from secured and consistent locations within the school ensured they felt comfortable in planning varied experiences for their students. They also reflected that knowing ”more than basic teaching materials are available” motivated them to try new activities. Overall, several teachers indicated that their current facility, equipment, and classroom physical attributes enhanced job satisfaction. The Routiizc. Just as young children grow emotionally and cognitively stronger through repeated positive experiences, so do teachers. Early childhood teachers, in particular, thrive in situations in which adhering to a routine is held in high regard. If a teacher feels that same sense of security in the routine of her professional environment, it can offer new opportunities to strengthen trust she has in her own abilities and in the center or school in which she works. Teachers rely on their administrators, colleagues, and families to help maintain the routines. When routines stay consistent, with some appropriate flexibility, teachers share that they ”feel welcomed and respected.” If the routine is not respected, teachers explain that they “never know what is going to happen, so [they] are always apprehensive of the next aggravation.” It is fair to say that having a foundation of predictability and consistency helps early childhood educators feel secure in their attachment to their job and to their places of employment, thus decreasing the likelihood they will change schools or even professions. Teachers want to feel consistency in their job requirements, the balance of professional and personal 318 Childhood kdircdtion relationships with peers, the administrator’s leadership style and expectations, and the allowance for input and collaboration for professional growth and development. Educators value the feeling that their administrator respects them and shows it through consistent expectations for professional development. Specifically,teachers shared that routine choices and regular teacher training allows them to feel comfortable in predicting and meeting their director’s expectations. The Relationships. Teachers’ own relationships with other adults on campus, as well as with consultants and leaders of professional development, play a role in their perceptionsof both themselves and their peers. If teachers are trustworthy and consistent, they may feel that these traits make them valuable to others in their work environment. Some of these teachers view themselves as a key element in ”supporting [their] peers” at their site because of this trait. Yet personality traits also can cause stress and burnout in their relationships (Bullard, 2010). Educators who are more passive sometimes feel ”stressed about having to do things others are not willing to do.” In these instances, their personalities play a role in feeling “a lack of respect” from their relationships. Teachers who feel a connection to their peers are less likely to seek out professional opportunities elsewhere. Educators share that they need to feel that they are respected by their colleagues ”for what ideas they bring” and that they have the support to ”share my own skills” with other teachers on a regular basis. Teachers seek venues where they can grow on a personal level with their professional colleagues. They share that if they ”trust and enjoy” their colleagues on a personal basis, they feel more satisfied in their environment overall. Friendly and Supportive Professional Environments Impact Teacher Growth and Learning: The Administrator’s Role From an early childhood teacher’s perspective, the ideal environment isonein which she feelsacceptance, shared collaboration, and respectful responsiveness from her administration. When teachers are able to control the work that they do and the environment in which it is done, they often gain more satisfaction in their teaching and in the role they play in children’s lives. Administrators can easily provide this sense of control when they address their own attitudes, including their support of professional growth and shared decision-making. Director/principal attitude is a primary factor in the professional environment’s overall balance (Hirsch & Enierick, with Church & Fuller, 2007). Beyond pleasing their administrators, teachers need to feel as though their professional accomplishments are ”celebrated genuinely” by the entire school. It is essential that the school environment be one of support for all, and not of competition. Mistakes must be treated consistently (i.e.,no playing favorites) and be forgiven. Teachers want reassurance thattheirmistakeswillnotbe viewed as permanent inadequacies. They hope for an administrator who “encourages [them]just where [they are] . . . supporting [their] vision of future goals,” while accepting their present status and successes. Most educators have an innate sense of urgency to learn. Whether the teacher holds a CDA or a master’s degree, the majority of early childhood educators continue to learn throughout their profession, and enjoy it. Because they value the opportunities to build their knowledge and skills, they are likely to flourish in an environment that is directed by an administrator who also supports those opportunities. It is important that administrators provide teachers with a sense of empowerment in the professional environment. An environment that offers collaboration and allows teachers to have a voice is one that provides opportunities for teachers to practice the shared vision of the director/principal with her students and ultimately with the families. It is devastating to teacher morale when teachers feel that there is little or no support for their teaching (Center for Teaching Quality, n.d.). Teachers who believe that they are only useful when a director/principal wants to ”show them off” become easily frustrated in their role. Early childhood educators need to feel they have an effect on the environment and that their choices are valid and respected on a regular basis. The responsiveness of an administrator determines how valued a teacher feels. A valued teacher is one likely to remain in the profession. Many teachers express that their administrators ”urge and encourage [them] to go back to school” or to maintain an active professional development agenda, but do not provide the time or financial support to make this a reality. The Impact of Professional Development on Teacher Perceptions For quite some time, early childhood educators have been concerned that the approach to professional development, training, and overall teacher education needs revision. Given that the profession has so much job turnover, it is essential to zero in on those aspects of workshops, collaborations, or other training opportunities that are most effective. Several factors make a significant impact on the motivation of educators and the value of their work. Teachers need to feel a sense of satisfaction with their cognitive abilities and anemotional connection to their job. Ideal professionaldevelopment opportunities are those that improve knowledge, while changing behaviors and strengthening goals of individual teachers and whole centers/schools through positive approaches. The majority of urban educators involved in the Jenkins and Hewitt study revealed a desire for a work environment that offers “collaboration and partnerships” and allows teachers to “have a voice in training choices,” while supporting the shared vision of the school and ”meeting the requirements” that were outlined by the administrator. Through the partnership and ongoing collaboration that Jenkins and Hewitt formed with this particular group of early childhood teachers, they were able to implement an approach that is not typical of most trainings, workshops, or courses for educators. Their model actively engaged teachers in goals, interests, and planning throughout an entire year. They created and followed a partnered approach to topic selection and modeled those approaches in the actual settings in which those same educators teach. An analysis of that approach to professional growth and its impact on teacher perception of the work environment revealed what the teachers considered most important for such training: the selection of comprehensive concepts, ”not topic workshops”; the possible input they have, rather than it being ”just mandatory training”; and that the experiences were ”alwayshappening and always changing with familiar professors,” rather than a one-time ”sit and get with someone [they] don’t know.” The participants wanted more than just longitudinal training; they reiterated that having these individual and responsive relationships for professional development ”encourages [them] to see their role as important” and Annual Theme 2010 319 to feel “respected for [their] own goals and growth.” Some of the educators felt that because the professional development model was ongoing and long-term, it ”fit” with their school. They regarded it as part of the routine and evidence that what they value is part of something their administrator values and provides. One participant commented that because of the “consistencyof the partnered training,” she, in turn, felt a ”dedication to the center,” since she perceived her own professional growth to be a ”priority of the director.” The factors that helped make this positive impact on teacher perception in this particular preschool include cooperation,coordination, and collaboration.The model was based on a variety of factors, including the background and demographicof the center, developmentally appropriate practices (National Association for the Education of Young Children [NAEYC], 2009), and NAEYC standards (1993,2009). The teachers share information and recognize one another’s commitment. They focus on a specific project, and share some responsibilities and resources. They also have made a regular arrangement of dual observations, in which teachers observe and are observed. The longer-term projects have been shown to make changes leading to shared leadership, control, and a better use of resources. Maintainin a Supportive Professiona Environment To Retain Productive Teachers P Maintaining a supportive professional environment is imperative to recruiting and keeping good teachers. In the study reported on in this article, all of the teachers agreed that a friendly and supportive environment is crucial to remaining committed to the profession. One early childhood educator likened the lack of such an environment to a ”tire with no air-it just doesn’t work.” The participants all agreed that when the professional environment is supportive, it encourages you to “be the best you can at your job and remain committed.” Teachers revealed that support from colleagues and administrators calms their sense of stress or concern and lets them refocus on their job with the children. The teachers’ responses in their questionnaires and interviews uncovered some essential points that can guide teacher educators, professional development providers, and administrators. Essentially, educators need supportive and friendly environments through organization of the work space, consistent routines, and strong relationships with their administrators, colleagues, families, and students. In order to retain good teachers, directors/principals must discover ways to keep teachers positively focused in both the physical and emotional environments. Administrators can provide a positive climate in which to work by supporting a consistent routine of mutual 320 Childhood Education respect and shared collaboration. Additionally, they should allow teachers the time and budgetary support needed to plan and implement innovative strategies. Colleagues can maintain a friendly and supportive environment by sharing ideas and materials and through maintaining trusting relationships. Families and students can set the tone and determine teacher satisfaction in the bigger picture. An educator who feels respected and credited with student growth and learning will be more likely to succeed (Johnson,2006). All of these factors come together to create a friendly and supportive environment in which teachers thrive and view their role and themselves as important and irreplaceable. This is the goal of any high-achieving program, for both children and their teachers. References Bullard, J. (2010). Creating spaces for families and feachers. In J. Bullard, Creating errvironments for learning: Birth to age eight. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill. Center for Teaching Quality. (n.d.). Teacher zoorking conditions toolkit. Leaderslzipand professional derielopment resourcesfor teachers. Retrieved June 22,2007, from http://www.teacherworkingconditions.org/; http://www.teacherworkingconditions. org/leadership/teachers.html;and http://www.teacherworkingconditions.org/profdevelopment/index.html Hill, L. Stremmel, A., & Fu, V. (2005). Teachirig as inquiry: Rethirikiiig curriculum in early childhood education. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, Pearson Education. Hirsch, E., &Emerick, S. (withchurch, K., & Fuller, E.). (2007). Teacher zoorking conditions and student learning conditions: A report on the 2006 North Carolina teacher working conditions surz1e?y. Hillsborough, NC: Center for Teaching Quality. Retrieved June 24, 2009, from www.teachingquality.org/ pdfs/twcnc2006.pdf Jalongo, M. R., & Isenberg, J. (2004). Exploring your role: A practitioner% role to early childlzood education (2nd ed). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Jenkins, K., & Hewitt, A. (2009) [Study of how workenvironmentsaffectoverall successand retentionofearly childhood teachers]. Unpublished raw data. Johnson, S. M. (2006). The workplace matters: Teacher quality, retention, and effectizieiiess. Washington, DC: National Education Association. Retrieved June 24, 2009, from www. nea.org/assets/docs/mf-wcreport.pdf Kane, R. (2008). Perceptions of teachers and teaching: A focus on early cliildhood education. Report to the Ministry of Education. New Zealand. National Association for the Education of Young Children. (Adopted 1993; revised 2009). A conceptual framtworkfor early diildhwd profssiotml dtwelopment. Washngton, Dc: Author. National Association for the Education of Young Children. (Adopted 2009). Developmentally appropriatepractice in early clzildliood programs serziing children from birth tlirouglz age 8. Washington, DC: Author.
Early Childhood Research Quarterly 36 (2016) 145–156 Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Early Childhood Research Quarterly Child-centered versus teacher-directed teaching practices: Associations with the development of academic skills in the first grade at school Marja-Kristiina Lerkkanen a,∗ , Noona Kiuru a , Eija Pakarinen a , Anna-Maija Poikkeus a , Helena Rasku-Puttonen a , Martti Siekkinen b , Jari-Erik Nurmi a a b University of Jyväskylä, PO Box 35, 40014 Jyväskylä, Finland University of Eastern Finland, Tulliportinkatu 1, 80130 Joensuu, Finland a r t i c l e i n f o Article history: Received 19 December 2014 Received in revised form 28 December 2015 Accepted 29 December 2015 Available online 11 January 2016 Keywords: Reading Math Child-centered practices Teacher-directed practices Grade 1 a b s t r a c t This study examined the extent to which child-centered versus teacher-directed teaching practices predicted the development of children’s reading and math skills in the first year of elementary school. In addition, we investigated whether associations between teaching practices and children’s academic skills development in Grade 1 differed among children who had low, average, or high initial academic skills at the beginning of school. The reading and math skills of 1,132 Finnish children from 93 classrooms were assessed at the beginning and end of Grade 1, and the Early Childhood Classroom Observation Measure (ECCOM) was used to observe teaching practices in 29 classrooms. The results of multilevel modeling showed, first, that better reading skills upon entering school were associated with a higher level of childcentered teaching practices in the classroom. Second, a high level of child-centered teaching practices predicted children’s reading and math skills development during the first school year. Third, the results showed that child-centered teaching practices were equally beneficial for the academic skills development of children with varying initial skill levels. However, teacher-directed practices were found to be negatively associated with reading skills development, particularly among children who had average or high initial reading skills at the beginning of school. The results emphasize the importance of childcentered teacher practices in promoting children’s academic skills development also after kindergarten in elementary school. © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 1. Introduction A considerable body of literature indicates that early childhood education (ECE) classroom practices impact child outcomes (Burchinal et al., 2008; Burchinal, Peisner-Feinberg, Pianta, & Howes, 2002). The majority of this research has been conducted in preschools and kindergartens, but only a few studies have focused on the first school year in depth. For example, a wide range of documentation exists on the positive relationship between child-centered teaching practices and children’s social skills and academic pre-skills at the preschool age (Stipek, Feiler, Daniels, ∗ Corresponding author. E-mail addresses: marja-kristiina.lerkkanen@jyu.fi (M.-K. Lerkkanen), noona.h.kiuru@jyu.fi (N. Kiuru), eija.k.pakarinen@jyu.fi (E. Pakarinen), poikkeus@jyu.fi (A.-M. Poikkeus), helena.rasku-puttonen@jyu.fi (H. Rasku-Puttonen), martti.siekkinen@uef.fi (M. Siekkinen), jari-erik.nurmi@jyu.fi (J.-E. Nurmi). http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2015.12.023 0885-2006/© 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. & Milburn, 1995). However, children with poor academic skills seem to benefit from teacher-directed practices later on in kindergarten (Huffman & Speer, 2000) and at school age (Kikas, Peets, & Hodges, 2014). The present study examined the extent to which child-centered and teacher-directed teaching practices contribute to the development of Finnish children’s reading and math skills during their first school year at age 7, while controlling for the children’s initial skill level, parental education, and class size. ‘ 2. Child-centered versus teacher-directed teaching practices ECE literature, in particular, has focused on child-centered and teacher-directed practices when analyzing the effects of instructional approaches on children’s literacy and math skills development (de Botton, 2010; National Association for the Education of Young Children [NAEYC], 2009). The child-centered approach to instruction is close to constructivist theory, whereby 146 M.-K. Lerkkanen et al. / Early Childhood Research Quarterly 36 (2016) 145–156 children are viewed as active constructors of knowledge and the teachers’ role is mainly to facilitate their learning in the classroom; whereas the teacher-directed approach has its roots in traditional learning theory and didactics, which holds that basic academic skills are acquired through direct instruction and practice (Daniels & Shumow, 2003; Stipek & Byler, 2004). The practices are unalike in the amount and type of teacher instruction, management practices, and the level of socio-emotional support available in the classroom. The approaches differ to the degree by which the teacher facilitates learning by encouraging children’s active exploration and construction of their own knowledge, by including children in various discipline-related decision processes, and by scaffolding to create a positive social climate via individual support and encouragement of peer interactions in the classroom. Child-centered practices adhere to the principles and professional guidelines of ‘developmentally appropriate practices’ (DAP; NAEYC, 2009). In child-centered classrooms, teachers assist and facilitate children’s learning by providing them with guidance, opportunities, and encouragement to direct their own exploration of objects and academic topics, making teaching akin to a partnership between the teacher and the children (see meta-analysis by Cornelius-White, 2007). Child-centered practices are also characterized by active teacher support for the children’s learning efforts and social skills, and teaching practices that are sensitive to children’s needs and interests (Paris & Lung, 2008; Stipek & Byler, 2004). Child-centered practices are assumed to be beneficial for children’s learning, for example, according to self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2000), which proposes that when teachers are responsive to children’s needs, take into account children’s interests, and promote children’s autonomy in the classroom, they foster children’s motivation to learn, thereby resulting in better learning outcomes. Conversely, teacher-directed practices are typically characterized by emphasis on the provision of information, and the employment of structured group lessons (relying on oral recitation and worksheets), teaching discrete skills in small steps (c.f., drill and practice), and giving praise to children when predetermined goals are reached (Schweinhart & Weikart, 1988; Stipek, 2004). In teacher-directed practices, less emphasis is typically given to children’s own interests and ideas. In addition, children’s social skills development or the utilization of peer interactions for learning are not emphasized as much as the systematic teaching and acquisition of the content and basic skills (Stipek & Byler, 2004). 3. Teaching practices and academic outcomes The first school years have long-lasting effects on children’s subsequent achievement (Entwisle & Alexander, 1998; Jimerson, Egeland, & Teo, 1999). Thus, investigating the factors that promote successful development is of great importance. Reading and math are basic skills that children should acquire during the early school years. The developments of these skills have been shown to reveal substantial inter-individual differences over the early school years, as well as high inter-individual stability (Crosnoe et al., 2010; Parrila, Aunola, Kirby, Leskinen, & Nurmi, 2005). For example, Leppänen, Niemi, Aunola and Nurmi (2004) and Parrila et al. (2005) showed high stability in reading performance: Children who had manifested a higher level of reading performance in the beginning of Grade 1 also outperformed other children at the end of the school year. Moreover, the results for math skills (Aunola, Leskinen, Lerkkanen, & Nurmi, 2004; Crosnoe et al., 2010) have shown that children who enter school with high level skills continue to perform more highly than children who enter school with lower levels of skills. However, previous research has shown that the benefits of different teaching practices can vary depending on the skill domain and the age of the children. The benefits of child-centered practices for the development of children’s academic skills have been documented in various studies. For example, Marcon (1999) found that preschoolers (age four) showed greater mastery of reading and math skills in classrooms where the teaching practices were more often child-centered than teacher-directed. Perry, Donohue, and Weinstein (2007) showed that in classrooms where teachers deployed predominantly child-centered practices, students completed the first grade (age six) with higher levels of reading and math skills. Stipek et al. (1998) reported similar positive effects for child-centered teaching practices during the two years from kindergarten entry to the end of the first school year at the age of 6, while Huffman and Speer (2000) found that although letterword identification and applied problem-solving skills were better in the kindergarten classrooms with a child-centered emphasis, no differences were found with regard to calculation skills. Teacher-directed practices, in turn, have been shown to contribute positively to academic skills in the kindergarten and early school years, in particular. For example, the findings by Stipek et al. (1995) indicated that 5-year-old kindergarteners in classrooms that stressed teacher-directed practices and basic skills scored significantly higher in letter knowledge and reading achievement tests. Moreover, instruction with a high teacher-directed emphasis has been found to improve the basic skills development of low-income children and school-age children with learning disabilities (Adams & Carnine, 2003; Lovett, Barron, & Benson, 2003), as well as children with low academic skills or those who have difficulty staying focused in learning situations at Grades 1 and 2 (Kikas et al., 2014). In the present study, we were interested in how child-centered versus teacher-directed teaching practices contribute to the development of reading and math skills during the first school year in the Finnish school context when children are already seven years old. Recent studies have suggested that the effects of teaching practices on child outcomes may also depend on the child’s initial academic skills. For example, Connor, Morrison, and Katch (2004) showed that students who participated in first grade classroom instruction, which was optimally effective by being adapted to the child’s initial skill level (i.e., code focus for poor readers versus meaning focus for good readers), demonstrated greater reading growth than students in other classrooms. In another study by Kikas et al. (2014), first and second grade classrooms with a high teacherdirected emphasis were found to be beneficial for students with low initial literacy and math skills. In turn, Crosnoe et al. (2010) showed that initially least-skilled children made the most gains in math skills through fifth grade when enrolled in inference-based instruction and when the teacher–child relationship was warm and supportive (i.e. child-centered practices). Therefore, in the present study, the focus was on the extent to which children’s initial reading and math skills upon entering school can predict the teaching practices that teachers deploy in the first school year. Previous studies have emphasized that children’s academic skills influence teaching practices and the choices teachers make in terms of instruction (for a meta-analysis, see Nurmi, 2012). Furthermore, Cameron (2012) presented a transactional model of effective teaching and learning, according to which learning is the result of effective transactions between the teacher and the child. Transactions are seen as effective when the child’s attributes and current skill level and the teacher’s attributes and instruction (i.e., effective classroom management) are encountered in a specific domain. While a significant number of studies have focused on the influence of teaching practices on child outcomes, empirical studies on the role that children’s academic skills play in the teacher’s choice of teaching practices in the classroom are scant. A number of studies M.-K. Lerkkanen et al. / Early Childhood Research Quarterly 36 (2016) 145–156 have shown that children respond in different ways to the same type of instruction, and that the most gains are made when there is a match between the children’s skills and the teaching practices (Connor et al., 2004). Thus, it is essential to take into account children’s previous skill levels when investigating the effect of teaching practices on academic skills development. In the present study, we were interested in whether the associations between teaching practices and children’s academic skills development differ among children with low, average, or high initial academic skills at the beginning of Grade 1. 4. Gaps in the current literature Previous research on child-centered versus teacher-directed practices and children’s academic skills development is limited in several ways. First, most studies have been conducted in preschool and kindergarten classrooms, and only a few studies have been carried out at the elementary school level. Moreover, relatively little is known about the ways in which teaching practices contribute to the development of children’s reading or math skills in various cultural and educational settings. Teaching practices in each context are affected by historical background, educational traditions, the school system, teacher education programs, and the generally accepted curriculum aims for learning at school (Schoorman, Mayer, & Davis, 2007). A comparative study by Lerkkanen, Kikas et al. (2012), for example, showed that Finnish and Estonian teachers stress more child-centered than teacher-directed practices in kindergarten classrooms for 6-year-old children, compared to the United States (US), for example, where children are one year younger in kindergarten, but teaching practices are more teacherdirected and the curriculum is more focused on academic skills and assessments (Stipek & Byler, 2004). Moreover, recent studies have shown that the core curriculum in kindergarten and elementary grades can make a difference (de Botton, 2010), and the outcome of academic skills development in different cultural contexts is affected by the teaching practices. For example, Soodla, Lerkkanen, Kikas, Niemi, and Nurmi (2015) compared the effectiveness of first grade reading instruction in two neighboring countries, Finland and Estonia. They showed that despite the Estonian children clearly having better initial skills, the reading skills across both countries were at the same level by the end of the first grade. This finding indicates that the reading instruction provided during the first grade in Finland may have been more effective than in Estonia. However, studies concerning the effect of different mathematics instructions for young children’s math skills development are lacking. The present study was conducted in Finland where there is a very high-quality educational system. For example, Finland has high performance outcomes across the school years on the international comparative education studies of achievement, such as PISA (Program for International Student Assessment; OECD, 2013). Compared to many other countries, Finland has relatively equitable socio-economic circumstances for families, children start formal school one or two years later (at age 7), and class size is typically relatively small (on average, 18.5 students in Grade 1; OECD, 2011). Moreover, the kindergarten curriculum emphasizes developmentally appropriate practices; for example, more emphasis is placed on children’s personal and social development goals and learning through play, rather than the formal teaching of academic skills (Hännikäinen & Rasku-Puttonen, 2010). While in the first school year, the curriculum emphasizes basic academic skills, such as decoding, fluency, comprehension, number knowledge, and arithmetic skills. Although Finnish kindergarten practices are mostly child-centered (Lerkkanen, Kikas et al. 2012), no studies have examined the practices that are evident in the first grade. However, the Finnish national core curriculum has underlined smooth school 147 transition practices, whereby kindergarten and elementary school teachers are encouraged to jointly compile the local curriculum for 6- to 8-years-olds, in an effort to guarantee a smooth transition for each child. 5. Aims and hypotheses The first aim was to examine the extent to which children’s initial reading and math skills upon entering school predict childcentered versus teacher-directed teaching practices that teachers deploy in Grade 1. It was expected (Hypothesis 1) that teachers would engage more in teacher-directed practices in classrooms with children who had poor initial academic skills (Kikas et al., 2014). The second aim was to examine the extent to which childcentered and teacher-directed teaching practices predict the development of children’s reading and math skills from the fall semester of Grade 1 to the spring semester of Grade 1. Based on earlier literature (Perry et al., 2007; Stipek et al., 1998), we expected that child-centered practices would positively predict children’s academic skills development (Hypothesis 2). Because previous findings concerning the contribution of teacher-directed practices on children’s academic skills development are less consistent, no hypotheses were set regarding the associations between teacher-directed practices and academic skills development. The third aim was to investigate whether the associations between teaching practices and children’s academic skills development in Grade 1 are different among children who have low, average, or high initial academic skills at the beginning of Grade 1. Based on prior evidence (Adams & Carnine, 2003; Crosnoe et al., 2010; Lovett et al., 2003), we expected that children with poor initial academic skills would benefit more from teacher-directed teaching practices when compared to children with average or high initial skills (Hypothesis 3). We also controlled for a number of potential confounding background variables. First, since it has been suggested that class size may influence the teacher’s choice of instructional practices (e.g., child-centered practices appear to be more prevalent in smaller groups; Copple & Bredekamp, 2009), and a smaller class size may have a positive effect on students’ reading and math performance (Blatchford, Bassett, & Brown, 2011), we controlled for the effect of class size in our analyses. Second, since parents’ educational qualifications have been shown to be associated with children’s reading and math performance (Lewis, 2000; McClelland & Morrison, 2003; Melhuish, 2010), we controlled for the parental educational level. Third, because numerous studies have documented higher levels of reading skills in the early school years among girls than among boys (Logan & Johnson, 2009; Phillips, Norris, Osmond, & Maynard, 2002), we also controlled for the effect of gender in our analyses. 6. Method 6.1. Participants 6.1.1. Children The present study is part of an extensive age cohort study from kindergarten to Grade 4 during the years 2006–2011 (Lerkkanen et al., 2006). The total number of children comprised 1132 children from 93 classrooms. The children were either seven years of age upon entering school or turned seven during the fall semester of Grade 1 (M = 85.77 months old, SD = 3.44 months). Ninety-nine percent of the children were Finnish-speaking. Parents were asked to give their written consent for their child’s participation in the study. If the child did not have parental consent to participate, the teacher or researcher gave her or him other things to do during the 148 M.-K. Lerkkanen et al. / Early Childhood Research Quarterly 36 (2016) 145–156 test situations. However, the students stayed in classrooms during the observation sessions unless parents requested that their child not be present during the observation sessions. 6.1.2. Teachers and classrooms All teachers (n = 93) in our sample provided their written consent before the study. Most teachers had at least a Master’s degree in Education (see Table 1), and the teachers’ teaching experience ranged from less than a year to more than 15 years (Mode = more than 15 years). The participating classrooms were in mainstream schools from two medium-sized towns and one municipality located in Central and Eastern Finland. Special education classrooms were not included in the present analyses. Although most of the classrooms were composed exclusively of Grade 1 students, the age composition was wider in some groups typically involving Grade 1 and Grade 2 students (18 classrooms), especially in small schools located in rural areas where mixed age grouping is rather common because every pupil is guaranteed access to a school within their own catchment area. A subsample of 29 teachers participated in classroom observations on a voluntary basis. We did not find any significant effects of nesting of classrooms within schools (i.e., interdependency of classrooms from the same school) in regards to parents’ socio-economic status, degree of vocational training, and family structure. Since classroom observations are time- and resourceconsuming, it would not have been feasible to conduct observations in all classrooms. The assumption of missing-at-random (MAR) was tested in two ways. First, we compared the teachers who participated in observations to those who did not participate in regards to a broad set of background variables. The results showed no statistically significant differences between the two groups of teachers in age, educational background, professional experience, number of students in the classrooms, age of the students, and number of personnel available. Furthermore, no differences were found for teachers’ self-reported stress, classroom management strategies, or efficacy beliefs. However, teacher-self-reported affection towards students was slightly higher among the observed teachers (M = 4.34, SD = 0.41) than among the teachers who chose not to participate in observations (M = 4.13, SD = 0.38, t(70) = 2.16 p < .05). Overall, the observed teachers did not differ considerably from the unobserved teachers. As a second step, we tested the MAR assumption in regards to the variables of this study, which are reading skills, math skills, parental education, classroom size, gender, and teaching practices. To accomplish this, we conducted Little’s tests of MissingCompletely-At-Random (MCAR; Little, 1988). Little’s MCAR test indicated that the data were missing completely at random: 2 (43) = 56.43, p > .05. The problem of missing data in level-2 predictors (in our case, observed teaching practices at the class level) has received relatively little attention in prior research (van Buuren, 2010). It has, however, been suggested that removing all the observations in a class when there is missingness in one class level predictor is not only wasteful, but can also lead to selection effects at level 2 (van Buuren, 2010). Two recommended alternative methods to handle missingness are using the full information maximum likelihood (FIML) estimation and multiple imputation (Enders, 2010; Schafer & Graham, 2002). Although researchers have indicated feeling more confident imputing their data, there is still no consensus about the maximum number of missing in multilevel data that can be safely imputed or handled by using FIML (van Buuren, 2010). Previous simulation studies show little change in findings based on MAR assumptions for levels of missing data to 50%, although beyond that level, there might be differences in the estimators using different missing data strategies (Johnson & Young, 2011; van Buuren, 2010). Since the missing data were consistent with the assumption of MAR in this study, statistical analyses were carried out using the FIML, which allows all available information to be used without imputing data (Muthén & Muthén, 1998–2015). Simulation studies show that FIML provides less-biased regression parameter estimates compared to other missing data procedures (Enders, 2001; Olinsky, Chen, & Harlow, 2003). The results of the study will, thus, be reported for the full sample. However, to ensure that the results would also be similar in the smaller sample, we also carried out some additional analyses using only the subsample of observed teachers. The pattern of the results using this subsample was quite similar to those including the whole sample, although the power to detect significant results somewhat decreased along with the decrease in sample size. 6.2. Procedure Children’s reading and math skills test were administered at the beginning (fall 2007) and at the end (spring 2008) of Grade 1. Also, information of background variables was available for Grade 1. Classroom observations were carried out in the early spring of Grade 1, four weeks before testing the children’s academic skills at the end of the first grade. 6.3. Measures 6.3.1. Classroom observations of teaching practices The Early Childhood Classroom Observation Measure (ECCOM; Stipek & Byler, 2004) was employed to observe the extent to which child-centered and teacher-directed approaches to instruction, management, and social climate were present in the classrooms. The ECCOM has been translated and successfully adapted for use in educational settings in Finland (Lerkkanen, Kikas et al., 2012). In the present study, the ECCOM also shows convergent validity with other observational measures of classroom practices, such as the CLASS (Salminen et al., 2012). The present analyses utilized the ECCOM ratings on both the Child-Centered practices and Teacher-Directed practices scales. Both of these two main scales were assessed along the following three subscales: (1) Management (4 items: child responsibility, management, choice of activities, discipline strategies); (2) Climate (4 items: support for communication skills, support for interpersonal skills, student engagement, individualization of learning activities); and (3) Instruction (6 items: learning standards, coherence of instructional activities, teaching concepts, instructional conversation, literacy instruction, math instruction). In Appendix A (as an online Supplementary material) has been included a Table A1 with a more extensive description of subscales and items. The 14 items were rated on a 5-point scale for both of the main scales (one code for Child-Centered practices and one code for Teacher-Directed practices for each item), for a total of 28 ratings. The rating scale is based on the percentage of time the described practices were observed on the observation day (1 = the practice was rarely seen, 0–20% of the time; to 5 = the practice predominated, 80–100% of the time). The ECCOM independently assesses the degree to which child-centered and teacher-directed approaches are observed in the classroom. Although to some degree one approach conflicts with the other, so that no classroom is likely to receive an equally high score on both scales, classrooms vary in the degree to which they are dominated by one approach or implement a mix of approaches (Stipek & Byler, 2004). Hence, concerning a specific item (e.g., child responsibility), an observed classroom practice might receive a score of 3 on the Child-Centered scale and a score of 5 on the Teacher-Directed scale. Because the ratings of the scale items forming the Management, Climate, and Instruction subscales correlate highly, Stipek (2004) has calculated a single Child-Centered score (the average of scale items rated on M.-K. Lerkkanen et al. / Early Childhood Research Quarterly 36 (2016) 145–156 149 Table 1 Descriptive statistics of children, family, teacher, and classrooms. Child characteristics Boys Girls Age Parental education Basic education Secondary education Vocational college Bachelor’s degree Master’s degree Higher university degree Family structure two-parent household single-parent families blended families divorced parents and the child had two homes Number of classrooms Class size Teacher’s education Master’s degree in Education BA degree in Education Observed teachers Female Male N % 1132 579 553 100 51 49 955 43 250 231 139 222 70 872 603 86 68 13 93 100 5 26 24 15 23 7 100 80 10 8 2 100 72 66 6 29 26 3 100 92 8 M SD Min–max 85.77 months 3.48 3.44 months 1.40 79–102 months 1–6 16.66 6.25 3–27 90 10 the Child-Centered dimension) and a single Teacher-Directed score (the average of scale items rated on the Teacher-Directed dimension). In the present study, the 12 observers, undergraduate and graduate students of education or psychology, were carefully prepared with 10 h of training and three hours of live observation practice over a two-week period. In cases where the ratings by a pair of observers showed a discrepancy of more than 1 point, extra rating practice in a live classroom situation was required and the interrater agreement was monitored again after this practice. Extra practice was needed by two pairs of observers. At the end of the training, intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs; McGraw & Wong, 1996) were used to measure the observers’ pairwise inter-rater reliability, which was .81, and subsequently, all observers who had completed the training were allowed to proceed with coding. Classroom observations included two visits to each classroom, conducted on two different days, approximately one week apart, and by one pair of observers. The dates were negotiated with the class teacher who was asked to select two typical school days including at least one literacy and one math lesson. Each observation session lasted three group lessons (three hours) and began when the school day started (in Finland, the school day in Grade 1 typically begins at 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. and lasts four to five hours). The observation times were consistent across classrooms. The observers took notes during each observation session. After the observation session, the pair of observers first marked their ratings individually. Next, based on their individual ratings, the observers first compared their ratings, discussed the session, and finally agreed on a consensus rating which was marked on a separate form. Inter-rater reliabilities between the pairs of observers based on the individual ratings were calculated using ICCs, and ranges from .69 to .97 were statistically significant (p < .001) for all subscales. The ICCs indicated that the independent ratings of the pairs of coders were very similar. Next, we calculated the mean scores of the consensus ratings across the items of the three subscales (4 items of Management, 4 items of Climate, and 4 items of Instruction) separately for ChildCentered (14 items) and Teacher-Directed (14 items) practices, and across the two different observation days. Since the ratings on the Management, Climate, and Instruction subscales were highly correlated with each other, we calculated overall mean scores for Table 2 Descriptive information and reliabilities for ECCOM scales and subscales. Variable n Min Max M Child-centered practices (CC) Management (CC) Climate (CC) Instruction (CC) Teacher-directed practices (TD) Management (TD) Climate (TD) Instruction (TD) 29 29 29 29 29 29 29 29 1.04 1.00 1.13 1.00 1.14 1.13 1.00 1.25 4.04 4.63 4.38 4.00 4.96 5.00 4.88 5.00 3.08 3.27 3.10 2.94 2.41 2.26 2.35 2.54 SD .76 .88 .80 .81 .83 .97 .83 .88 Cronbach alpha .94 .89 .78 .87 .94 .89 .84 .86 Child-Centered and Teacher-Directed practices (Stipek and Byler, 2004; Stipek, 2004). The Cronbach’s alpha reliabilities, means, and standard deviations for the ECCOM scores can be found in Table 2. 6.3.2. Reading skills A group-administered subtest of the nationally standardized reading test battery (ALLU; Lindeman, 1998) was used to assess word-level reading fluency. In this speed test, a maximum of 80 items can be attempted within a two-minute time limit. Each item contained a picture with four words next to it. The children were asked to read the four (phonologically similar) words and draw a line connecting the picture to the word that matched it semantically. Alternative forms of the subtest were used at the two points: Form B with capital letters in the fall of Grade 1, and Form A with lowercase letters in the late spring of Grade 1. The score used in the analyses was constructed by calculating the number of correct answers (the maximum value was 80). Because of the nature of this speed test, the score reflects both the child’s fluency in reading the stimulus words, and his or her accuracy in making the correct choice from among the alternatives. Reliable identification of the differences between the children’s rate of reading acquisition in the highly transparent Finnish language requires a timed test as one-fourth of the children learn to decode before entering school and measures of word reading accuracy without a time limit are very close to the ceiling at the end of Grade 1 (Lerkkanen, RaskuPuttonen, Aunola, & Nurmi, 2004). The Cronbach’s alphas were .93 in the fall and .95 in the spring, respectively. Alternate-form reliability between forms A and B was .84. No floor or ceiling effects were detected. 150 M.-K. Lerkkanen et al. / Early Childhood Research Quarterly 36 (2016) 145–156 6.3.3. Math skills Children’s arithmetic skills were assessed using the Basic Arithmetic Test (BAT; Aunola & Räsänen, 2007). This timed (threeminute time limit) test contains visually presented addition (14 items, e.g., 2 + 1 = ?, and 3 + 4 + 6 = ?) and subtraction (14 items, e.g., 4 – 1 = ?, and 20 – 2 – 4 = ?) tasks (total of 28 items). The performance in the test requires both accuracy and speed (automatization of basic calculation routines). This measure has been used in a number of earlier publications (Niemi et al., 2011; Zhang et al., 2014). The score used in the analyses was the total number of correct answers (the maximum value was 28). The Kuder–Richardson reliability coefficient was .96 in the fall and .84 in the spring. No floor or ceiling effects were detected. 6.3.4. Control factors Information on class size, child’s gender (0 = girl, 1 = boy), and the level of parental education was available in Grade 1 (see Table 1). The measure of the highest educational level in the family was used in the analyses. The sample was fairly representative of the Finnish population, although the parents had a somewhat higher level of education than the general population (Statistics Finland, 2007). Although the correlation between parents’ level of education is typically high, the mothers’ level of education in Finland is typically somewhat higher than the educational level of the fathers: 28.6% of mothers and 26.2% of fathers have a master’s or higher university degree. 6.4. Analysis strategy The present study examined the associations between observed child-centered and teacher-directed teaching practices and children’s academic skills, when accounting for a number of control variables (i.e., class size, gender, and level of parental education). The analyses were carried out along the following three steps. First, intraclass correlations (ICCs) were calculated both at the beginning (fall) and at the end of Grade 1 (spring) to determine what proportion of the variance in children’s reading and math skills is due to the classroom level (i.e., classroom differences, between-classroom variation) and what is due to the individual level (i.e., differences between individual children, within classroom variation) (Heck & Thomas, 2009; Raudenbush & Bryk, 2002). Statistically significant ICCs mean that the null hypothesis that the mean scores of the academic skills of all classrooms are equal is rejected, and that significant variability in a particular outcome variable exists between classrooms. This is an indication that there is sufficient variability between classrooms to proceed with multilevel modeling (Heck & Thomas, 2009). Second, classroom-level correlations between observed teaching practices and reading and math skills were calculated. Third, separate multilevel path models for the children’s reading and math skills were conducted. Since child-centered and teacher-directed teaching practices were highly negatively correlated (r = −.87, p < .001), the main analyses were also carried out separately for child-centered and teacher-directed practices. In the multilevel modeling, teaching practices were treated as classroom-level variables. In turn, children’s academic skills at the beginning (fall) and at the end (spring) of Grade 1 were analyzed at both the classroom and individual levels. In other words, academic skills measured at the individual level were allowed to vary between classrooms (cf. random intercepts). Predictor variables were grand-mean centered so that the means of the predictor variables would not impact the intercepts of the dependent variables. Observed teaching practices in the early spring of Grade 1 were predicted by the children’s initial academic skills in the beginning of Grade 1 (fall) (Research question [RQ] 1). Furthermore, the children’s academic skills at the end of Grade 1 (spring) were predicted by observed teaching practices in early spring, while controlling for the children’s initial academic skills in Grade 1 fall (RQ 2). In addition, cross-level interactions by introducing random slopes were tested to answer the question whether the association between teaching practices and children’s academic skills at the end of Grade 1 differs depending on the children’s initial academic skills at the beginning of Grade 1 (RQ 3). Class size, child’s gender, and the level of parental education were controlled for in all the analyses. Of these control factors, class size was treated as a classroom-level variable. In turn, the parents’ educational level (ICC = .08, p < .01) was analyzed at both between- and within-levels. The control factor of child’s gender was only analyzed at the individual level because of non-significance of the ICC at the classroom level (ICC = .001, p = .98). The analyses were performed using the Mplus statistical package (version 7; Muthén & Muthén, 1998–2015), and the standard MAR approach was applied (Muthén & Muthén, 1998–2015). The parameters of the models were estimated using the FIML estimation with non-normality robust standard errors (MLR estimator; Muthén & Muthén, 1998–2015). The goodness-of-fit of the estimated models were evaluated by four indicators: 2 -test, Comparative Fit Index (CFI), Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA), and Standardized Root Mean Square Residual (SRMR). 7. Results The results are reported in the following order. First, ICCs (and variance estimates at the between- and within-classroom levels) are presented to indicate what proportion of the total variance in academic skills is due to classroom differences. Second, classroomlevel correlations between child-centered and teacher-directed teaching practices and academic skills are reported. Finally, the results of the multilevel path models to investigate associations between observed teaching practices and children’s academic skills are presented. 7.1. Intraclass correlations The results of the ICCs and variance estimates at the betweenand within-classroom levels for reading and math skills (see Table 3) showed that differences between classrooms were statistically significant: in reading skills 5–7% (p < .01) and in math skills 7% (p < .01), and 11% (p < .001) of the total variance was due to classroom differences. The rest of the variance in academic skills was due to individual differences within classrooms. The results indicated that there were statistically significant classroom differences in children’s academic skills, which were slightly higher in the spring compared to their scores in the fall. Overall, the results suggested that there was sufficient variability in academic skills at the classroom level to proceed with multilevel path models (Heck & Thomas, 2009). 7.2. Correlations between the teaching practices and academic skills Next, we calculated the classroom-level correlations between child-centered and teacher-directed practices, and children’s reading and math skills. The results showed that child-centered teaching practices were positively associated with both reading (r = .48, p < .001) and math skills (r = .31, p < .05) typical of the classroom in Grade 1 spring, whereas teacher-directed teaching practices were negatively associated with reading (r = −.31, p < .05) and math (r = −.34, p < .05) skills typical of the classroom in Grade 1 spring. In addition, child-centered teaching practices were marginally significantly and positively associated with reading skills typical of the classroom in Grade 1 fall (r = .47, p < .10). Overall, the associations between the observed teaching practices M.-K. Lerkkanen et al. / Early Childhood Research Quarterly 36 (2016) 145–156 151 Table 3 Descriptive statistics and intraclass correlations (ICCs) for children’s reading and math skills at Grade 1, using classroom identification number as a clustering variable (Nwithin = 1132, Nbetween = 93). Variable ICC Between-variance (S.E) Within-variance (S.E) Mean Min. Max. Reading skills (fall) Reading skills (spring) Math skills (fall) Math skills (spring) .05** .07** .07** .11*** 1.84 (.77)* 5.48 (2.08)** .47 (.15)** 1.85 (.56)** 38.59 (2.78)*** 75.14 (3.73)*** 6.25 (.35)*** 15.18 (.73)*** 8.49 19.15 3.80 10.75 0 3 0 0 38 58 17 28 Note. *** p < .001, ** p < .01. and academic skills were somewhat stronger for reading than math, and stronger for the end of the school year assessment of skills than for the assessment of skills in the beginning of the school year. 7.3. The role of teaching practices on academic skills development Next, the results for our main research questions will be reported. Our hypotheses (H) were: (H1) teachers would engage more in teacher-directed practices in classrooms with children who had poor initial academic skills; (H2) child-centered practices would positively predict children’s academic skills development; and (H3) children with poor initial academic skills would benefit more from teacher-directed teaching practices when compared to children with average or high initial skills. 7.3.1. Child-centered teaching practices and academic skills The results for observed child-centered teaching practices in children’s reading skills development are shown in Table 4. Since no evidence of cross-level interactions was found (p > .05), this interaction was excluded from the final model. The final model containing only statistically significant paths fit the data well: [2 (7, Nwithin = 1132, Nbetween = 93) = 6.54, p = .48; CFI = 1.00; RMSEA = 0.00; SRMRbetween = 0.06, SRMRwithin = 0.02]. The results showed, first, that initial reading skills typical of the classroom predicted child-centered teaching practices in Grade 1: the better the initial reading skills typical of the classroom in Grade 1 fall, the more child-centered teaching practices the teacher typically deployed in spring of Grade 1 (see RQ1). Second, child-centered teaching practices predicted reading skills development from Grade 1 fall to Grade 1 spring: the more child-centered teaching practices a teacher typically deployed, the more the children’s reading skills increased in that particular classroom (see RQ2). Third, the result of non-existent cross-level interactions indicated that the association between child-centered teaching practices and children’s reading skills development does not differ according to a child’s initial reading skills (see RQ3). In other words, a high level of child-centered teaching was equally beneficial for the reading skills development of children with varying initial reading skills at the beginning of Grade 1. The results for control variables indicated at the classroomlevel that the higher the parental educational level typical of the classroom was, the better the children’s reading skills in that classroom (Unstandardized estimate = 1.04, s.e. = 0.35, p = .003). In turn, class size predicted child-centered teaching practices: The smaller the class size, the more child-centered teaching practices the teacher typically deployed (Unstandardized estimate = −0.07, s.e. = 0.02, p = .01). Background variables predicted a child’s reading skills also at the individual-level: the higher the parental educational level, the higher the child’s initial reading skills (Unstandardized estimate = 0.53, s.e. = 0.14, p < .001). Girls showed better initial reading skills than boys (Unstandardized estimate = −1.59, s.e. = 0.37, p < .001). Next, multilevel models for observed child-centered teaching practices and math skills were carried out. The results are shown in Table 4. Since no evidence of cross-level interactions was found (p > .05), this interaction was excluded from the final model. The final model, containing statistically significant paths only, fit the data well: [2 (6, Nwithin = 1132, Nbetween = 93) = 11.09, p = .09; CFI = 0.99; RMSEA = 0.03; SRMRbetween = 0.06, SRMRwithin = 0.03]. The results showed, first, that initial math skills typical of the classroom did not significantly predict child-centered teaching practices in the spring of Grade 1 (see RQ1). In turn, child-centered teaching practices predicted math skills development from Grade 1 fall to Grade 1 spring: the more child-centered teaching practices a teacher typically deployed, the more the children’s math skills increased in that particular classroom (see RQ2). Third, the result of non-existent cross-level interactions indicated that the association between child-centered teaching practices and children’s math skills development does not differ according to the child’s initial reading skills (see RQ3). In other words, a high level of child-centered teaching was equally beneficial for math skills development for children with varying initial math skills at the beginning of Grade 1. The results for control variables indicated that the higher the parental educational level typical of the classroom, the better the math skills of the children in that classroom (Unstandardized estimate = 0.40, s.e. = 0.18, p = .02). Furthermore, the smaller the class size (Unstandardized estimate = −0.06, s.e. = 0.02, p = .02), the more child-centered teaching practices the teacher typically deployed. Furthermore, the background variables predicted children’s math skills also at the individual level: Higher parental education predicted higher initial math skills (Unstandardized estimate = 0.21, s.e. = 0.06, p < .001) and boys’ initial math skills were somewhat higher than those of girls (Unstandardized estimate = 0.34, s.e. = 0.15, p = .03). 7.3.2. Teacher-directed teaching practices and academic skills Finally, multilevel models for teacher-directed teaching practices and academic skills were carried out. The results showed, first, that initial reading skills typical of the classroom did not predict teacher-directed practices (p > .05) (see RQ1). Second, teacherdirected practices did not have a main effect on children’s reading skills development (see RQ2). Third, however, a significant crosslevel interaction was detected: Estimate = −0.14, S.E = 0.07, p < .05 (see RQ3). The follow-up analyses revealed that when children’s initial reading skills at the beginning of Grade 1 were poor (below1 SD), the direction of the effect from teacher-directed teaching practices on children’s reading skills development was positive but non-significant (Standardized ˇ = .21, p = .34). In turn, when children’s initial reading skills were average (between-1 SD and +1 SD), teacher-directed teaching practices were marginally significantly and negatively associated with children’s reading skills development (Standardized ˇ = −.78, p < .10). Moreover, when children’s initial reading skills were high (above +1 SD), teacher-directed teaching practices had a strong and negative effect on reading skills development (Standardized ˇ = −.93, p < .05). In other words, teacher-directed teaching practices are detrimental for reading skills development to some extent among children with an average initial level, but particularly among children with a high initial level of reading skills. Otherwise, the results for control variables 152 M.-K. Lerkkanen et al. / Early Childhood Research Quarterly 36 (2016) 145–156 Table 4 Unstandardized Estimates (standard errors in parenthesis) of final multilevel path models for observed child-centered teaching practices and children’s academic skills. Multilevel path model for child-centered teaching practices and reading skills Multilevel path model for child-centered teaching practices and math skills Within-level (individual level) Within-level (individual level) Regression coefficients Regression coefficient from grade 1 fall reading skills to grade 1 spring reading skills Residual variances Reading skills (grade 1 spring) R2 within : model explained 50% of individual level variance of grade 1 spring reading skills Between-level (classroom level) Intercepts Reading skills (grade 1 spring) Child-centered teaching practices Regression coefficients Regression coefficient from grade 1 fall reading skills to grade 1 spring reading skills Regression coefficient from child-centered teaching practices to grade 1 spring reading skills Regression coefficient from grade 1 fall reading skills to teaching practices Residual variances Reading skills (grade 1 spring) Child-centered teaching practices R2 between : model explained 16% of the class level variance in grade 1 spring reading skills, 39% of variance in child-centered teaching practices Est (s.e) .99(.04)*** 27.25(1.97)*** 19.76(.38)*** −.21(.19) 0* 1.20(.62)* .34(.13)* 4.53 (1.32)** .38(.15)* Regression coefficients Regression coefficient from grade 1 fall math skills to grade 1 spring math skills Residual variances Math skills (grade 1 spring) R2 within : model explained 30% of individual level variance of grade 1 spring math skills Between-level (classroom level) Intercepts Math skills (grade 1 spring) Child-centered teaching practices Regression coefficients Regression coefficient from grade 1 fall math skills to grade 1 spring math skills Regression coefficient from child-centered teaching practices to grade 1 spring math skills Regression coefficient from grade 1 fall math skills to teaching practices Residual variances Math skills (grade 1 spring) Child-centered teaching practices R2 between : model explained 53% of the class level variance in grade 1 spring math skills Est (s.e) .86(.04)*** 10.54(.57)*** 10.77(.18)*** .08(.12) 1.23(.30)*** .77(.39)* 0* .93(.30)** .48(.13)*** Note. 0* fixed to zero; 0 = girl, 1 = boy; *** p < .001, ** p < .01, * p < .05; effects of gender, class size, and parental education were controlled for in the models. were the same as for child-centered teaching practices, except that class size positively predicted a level of teacher-directed teaching (p < .05): the larger the class size, the more teacher-directed teaching practices the teacher typically deployed. As the last step, a multilevel model for teacher-directed teaching practices and math skills was estimated. The results showed, however, that children’s initial math skills in Grade 1 fall did not predict teacher-directed practices in spring of Grade 1 (p > .05) (see RQ1). Moreover, the association between teacher-directed teaching practices and the development of children’s math skills was not significant (p > .05) (see RQ2). Finally, no evidence for crosslevel interactions was found (p > .05); that is, children’s initial math skills did not moderate the association between teacher-directed teaching and math skills development (see RQ3). 8. Discussion The present study set out to contribute to the literature by investigating the extent to which child-centered versus teacherdirected teaching practices predicted the development of children’s reading and math skills in the first year of elementary school in Finland, and whether these associations differed among children who had low, average, or high initial skills at the beginning of school. The results showed, first, that children’s higher initial reading skills, at entry to school, were associated with higher levels of child-centered teaching practices in their classroom. Second, a high level of child-centered teaching practices contributed positively to children’s reading and math skills development during the first school year, and the effect did not depend on children’s initial skills. Third, teacher-directed teaching practices had no effect on academic skills development. However, an emphasis on teacherdirected practices in the classroom was negatively associated with reading skills development among children who had average or high initial reading skills. 8.1. Initial academic skills predicting teaching practices The first aim was to examine the extent to which children’s initial academic skills predict teaching practices at Grade 1. The results were partly contrary to our first hypothesis: Poor initial skills did not predict more teacher-directed practices in the classroom. However, the higher the initial reading skills in the classroom at school entry, the more child-centered teaching practices the teacher typically deployed. This result adds to previous research by showing that teachers adapt their instruction according to the students’ skill level in the early school years (Kikas et al., 2014; Pakarinen, Lerkkanen, Poikkeus, Siekkinen, & Nurmi, 2011). A teacher who emphasizes constructivism and child-centered practices in the classroom is a supporter and sensitive facilitator of children’s academic skills development and views children as active contributors to their own learning (Woolfolk Hoy & Weinstein, 2011). In childcentered classrooms, teachers provide a wide array of literacy experiences and instructional choices, including phonics-based and meaning-based tasks, to facilitate each child’s individual literacy learning based on the previous knowledge and skills the child had when he or she entered the school (Stipek & Byler, 2004). This kind of sensitivity to each child’s skills and needs is important in every classroom, but especially in language contexts where the differences in pre-reading skills between children are very high and the learning to decode will happen with most children a few months after entering school (Lerkkanen et al., 2004). This is usually evident in transparent languages. For example, in the context of the highly transparent Finnish language where one-fourth of the children can decode accurately, two-fourths can recognize some words, and the remainders are non-readers when they enter school (Soodla et al., 2015), it is necessary for the teacher to adapt the reading instruction and tailor the program according to each child’s initial skill level. In child-centered classrooms, children typically also have more autonomy over their learning, and they can choose activities and texts according to their personal interests, which will keep their motivation high toward reading practices and further foster their reading skills. M.-K. Lerkkanen et al. / Early Childhood Research Quarterly 36 (2016) 145–156 In contrast, math skills did not predict teaching practices. This may be due to the fact that, at least in Finland where the teacher’s effort is typically placed strongly on language and literacy skills in the first grade, they seem not to adapt their teaching practices in the classroom according to the children’s initial math skills. However, a number of studies have shown great differences between initial math skills in school beginners and how these differences between children increase over time (Aunola et al., 2004; Crosnoe et al., 2010). This is a serious message to the elementary school teachers that they also need to be more sensitive to the initial math skills of each child entering school and adapt the instruction on the basis of the children’s skills and understanding of math concepts. 8.2. Teaching practices predicting skill development The second aim of the study was to examine the extent to which teaching practices predicted children’s academic skills development during the first school year. In addition, we investigated whether the associations between teaching practices and children’s academic skills development differed depending on children’s initial skills. The major finding of the present study was that child-centered practices positively predicted children’s reading and math skills development. The result is in accordance with our second hypothesis (Perry et al., 2007; Stipek et al., 1998): The more child-centered the teaching practices were, the more the children’s academic skills developed in those particular classrooms. The results showed further that the positive effect of child-centered teaching practices did not depend on the children’s initial skills at the beginning of school. The results suggest that child-centered teaching practices were equally beneficial for reading and math skills development in Grade 1 of children with varying initial skills. There are many possible mechanisms that may explain why child-centered teaching practices were positively associated with children’s academic skills development. First, in line with selfdetermination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000), it can be suggested that when teachers are responsive to children’s needs, take into account their skill level and interests, and promote children’s autonomy in a classroom, they foster the children’s motivation to learn. The children’s motivation will then be related to their better skills. Second, Connor et al. (2004) have indicated that most gains in learning are seen when there is a match between the children’s skills and the teacher’s practices (Cameron, 2012). Accordingly, it can be suggested that child-centered practices, where the teacher’s role is an active facilitator of child’s learning, are related to better child outcomes (Hamre, 2014). These practices can be seen to satisfy a child’s needs for relatedness and competence (Deci & Ryan, 2000) and, therefore, are beneficial for child development. Most of the previous studies in the preschool and kindergarten context have shown the benefits of child-centered practices for child outcomes. Our results contribute to the literature by showing that child-centered practices are beneficial for academic skills development still in the elementary school context, at least with children aged seven. However, the indicators for the quality of education and effectiveness of the teacher may vary between countries and educational systems. Our results showed the beneficial influence of child-centered practices in Finland, a country with equitable socio-economic circumstances for families, highly educated teachers, and cooperative school transition practices between kindergarten and elementary school teachers in curriculum planning, which might have some effect on the results. However, in light of the results, encouragement, sensitive and flexible instructional activities and tasks connected to a child’s previous skills and knowledge, and a supportive social classroom climate seem to be beneficial for academic skills development in the first grade. The results for teacher-directed teaching practices revealed no main effects on children’s reading and math development in 153 Grade 1. We expected that children with poor initial academic skills would benefit more from didactic-oriented, teacher-directed teaching practices when compared to children with average or high initial skills (Hypothesis 3). On the contrary, our findings indicated that such practices do not optimally support children’s reading or math growth in the first grade. Instead, our results suggest that 7year-old first graders in Finland may not significantly benefit from lessons focusing on discrete skills, mechanic drill-and-practice, emphasis on the correctness of answers, and strict teacher-directed didactic activities. Instead, opportunities to make one’s own choices and cooperative activities with one’s peer group are more important for motivating practices (Deci & Ryan, 2000; Lerkkanen, Kiuru et al., 2012), which, in turn, will increase children’s academic skills (Morgan & Fuchs, 2007). 8.3. Background factors Several possible confounding variables were controlled in the present study. The results for these background factors showed that class size predicted the extent to which the teachers employed child-centered teaching practices. The smaller the group, the more child-centered teaching practices were observed, and the bigger the group, the more teacher-directed teaching practices took place in the classroom (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). According to our findings, opportunities for more individualized and effective teaching practices are higher in smaller groups. For example, Blatchford, Bassett, Goldstein, and Martin (2003) demonstrated that in smaller classes, teachers engage in more individual interactions with students and take more time for individual tutoring which, in turn, supports students’ learning. The results concerning the other background factors showed that the higher the parental education typical of the classroom, the better the academic skills of the children in that particular classroom at the beginning of school. This result is in agreement with previous studies showing that the level of parental education predicts their children’s academic performance (McClelland & Morrison, 2003; Melhuish, 2010). Parental education is presumed to be associated with the quality of the home learning environment, as well as parental action and investment in resources that promote the child’s development (Guo & Harris, 2000; Sylva, 2010). Our findings suggest that even in an educational system such as Finland’s, which highly emphasizes educational equality, there may be some selection effects which lead to differences in the initial skill levels of children in the classroom. Our findings also indicated that girls performed better than boys in reading at the beginning of the first school year. Previous studies have documented that girls tend to outscore boys in reading performance throughout the school years (Logan & Johnson, 2009; Phillips et al., 2002; Robinson & Lubienski, 2011). Although there is no simple explanation for the gender gap in literacy skills, using PISA data (OECD, 2013), for example, girls score on average higher than boys in reading, and boys have more difficulties and lower interest in reading in every country. We also found boys’ initial math skills to be higher than those of girls. One possible explanation for this finding is that boys tend to have a higher level of math-related motivation (Eccles, Wigfield, Harold, & Blumenfeld, 1993; Lerkkanen, Kiuru et al., 2012) and higher competency beliefs in math (Herbert & Stipek, 2005) than girls in the first grade, which might contribute positively to boys’ math skills development. 8.4. Practical implications The debate about whether to use a child-centered or a teacherdirected approach for the effective education of young children is ongoing. In most countries, ECE borrows from both traditions and for example de Botton’s (2010) findings suggest that effective early 154 M.-K. Lerkkanen et al. / Early Childhood Research Quarterly 36 (2016) 145–156 education programs might emphasize a balance between childcentered and teacher-directed activities. However, the results of the present study showed that child-centered practices are beneficial for children’s reading skills despite their initial skill level, suggesting that teachers and teacher training should emphasize the importance of child-centered and adaptive teaching practices in early elementary school. Cameron (2012) has proposed that teaching promotes learning effectively when teacher-child transactions are targeted at the child’s current skill level; therefore, teachers should apply their time and effort to observing and assessing each child’s individual needs and current skills. Child-centered reading instruction, for example, engages children in meaningful activities and provides a broad range of literacy experiences, including phonics embedded in meaningful text, whole language focusing on understanding, and activities designed to develop language skills and comprehension strategies (Stipek & Byler, 2004). The results regarding math skills and teaching practices call teachers’ attention to the need for better awareness of children’s initial math skills to close the gap between poor beginners and other children. Namely, it was found that child-centered practices promoted the development of math skills, but teachers adapted their practices only according to children’s initial reading skills. In child-centered math instruction, the teacher is sensitive to child’s knowledge and gives children encouragement and guidance to understand mathematical processes by integrating math problems into everyday routines and children’s experiences (Stipek & Byler, 2004). To close gaps between children in math skills, we should provide intensive support to teachers to improve their child-centered practices in math lessons, complemented by curriculum materials with suggested activities, lesson plans, and schemes of work linked to specific learning and developmental objectives (de Botton, 2010). Therefore, interventions should be targeted to increase teachers’ awareness of the effect of their teaching practices and the benefits of child-centered practices for academic skills development. 8.5. Limitations and direction for future research Some limitations need to be taken into account with any attempts to generalize the findings of the present study. First, although the missing data concerning classroom observations was large, various simulation studies have shown little change in the findings, based on MAR assumptions, for levels of missing data to 50%; although, beyond that level, there might be differences in the estimators using different missing data strategies (van Buuren, 2010; Johnson & Young, 2011). However, the small sample size of the observed teachers is likely to have diminished the power of our statistical testing. Second, although no differences in background or self-reported teacher variables were found between the teachers who voluntarily participated in the observations and those who did not participate, it might be possible that teachers who chose to participate might still differ in some sense. This needs to be addressed in further studies. Third, the ECCOM may contain a bias towards emphasizing the benefits of child-centered practices on child outcomes, because child-centered practices tend to be operationalized along the lines of a positive emotional climate, whereas characterizations of teacher-directed practices tend to imply a less positive emotional climate. An important future direction would be to employ person-oriented methods (Bergman, Magnusson, & El-Khouri, 2003) to identify subgroups of teachers characterized by different relative levels of child-centered and teacher-directed practices. Fourth, other characteristics of teachers (e.g., teacher experience, teacher beliefs, self-efficacy) and children (e.g., motivation to reading and math), which were not studied in the present study, might be important as well and need to be taken into account in further studies. Moreover, the consistent orthography of the Finnish language makes the paths of literacy development differently paced than in language contexts of a less consistent orthography and may affect the instructional choices. 9. Conclusions The results of the present study add to previous research by showing that child-centered teaching practices play an important role in the development of children’s academic skills in elementary school. In the first grade classrooms in which the teachers deployed a high degree of child-centered teaching practices, defined as sensitivity to children’s interests, scaffolding learning according to individual needs, and creating opportunities for active peer engagement, children showed greater skills development during the academic year than in classrooms characterized by less childcentered teaching practices. Teacher-directed practices were even detrimental for the development of reading skills for those children with high initial skills at entry to school. 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JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS 2003, 36, 133–136 NUMBER 1 (SPRING 2003) EFFECTS OF TEACHER-DIRECTED VERSUS STUDENT-DIRECTED INSTRUCTION ON SELF-MANAGEMENT OF YOUNG CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES DEIRDRE K. MITHAUG AND DENNIS E. MITHAUG TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY In this study, students worked independently by setting goals, selecting assignments, and recording and evaluating their results after receiving one of two different types of selfmanagement training. During teacher-directed training, the teacher set goals, assigned work, and recorded and evaluated results for students. During student-directed training, students performed those tasks themselves. The results indicated that students engaged in the self-management behaviors more frequently during independent work following student-directed instruction than following teacher-directed instruction. DESCRIPTORS: teacher- versus student-directed instruction, self-management Instructing students to set goals, selfmonitor, self-evaluate and self-reinforce has improved behavior and academic performance in a wide range of treatment and educational situations. Several studies have shown that these improvements also are maintained and generalized. For example, Stevenson and Fantuzzo (1984, 1986) reported that when the four self-management behaviors were included in the same instructional intervention, improvements in academic performance generalized across behavior, subjects, settings, and time. One reason for these robust effects may be that the training and independent performance situations were similar in that both were student directed. During training and performance situations, for example, students chose the goal they expected to meet and then wrote it down independently. Students also decided when to record a behavior and then recorded it independently. During self-evaluation, they decided whether a behavior met a standard and then recorded their evaluation inThis research was part of a dissertation submitted by the first author in partial fulfillment of requirements for the PhD degree from Columbia University. Address correspondence to Deirdre K. Mithaug, Division of Human Services and Counseling, St. John’s University, 8000 Utopia Parkway, Jamaica, New York 11439 (e-mail: Mithaugd@stjohns.edu). dependently, and during self-reinforcement, students determined whether their behavior met a standard and then selected reinforcers independently. The current study evaluated the importance of the student-directed component of self-management training by determining whether independent goal setting, self-monitoring, and self-evaluation were higher after student-directed instruction than after teacher-directed instruction. METHOD Participants and Setting Alice, a 5-year-old girl, and Bob, a 6-yearold boy, had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Carter, a 6-year-old boy, had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Edward, a 6-yearold boy, had been diagnosed with emotional disturbance. They were enrolled in a school for young children with severe learning and behavior problems. Alice and Bob could identify a few words and count to five; Carter and Edward could read and count at a kindergarten level. At the time of the study, none of the students worked independently during unsupervised periods. 133 134 DEIRDRE K. MITHAUG and DENNIS E. MITHAUG Materials and Response Measurement Materials included a self-record card and five color-coded folders, each with two worksheets in math, reading, science, social studies, and writing. On the four-column self-record card, students circled pictures of subject areas to work in the ‘‘Subjects to Work’’ column, wrote the number of worksheets to be completed in the ‘‘What I Will Do’’ column, and recorded the number completed in the ‘‘What I Did’’ column. When the number in the ‘‘What I Will Do’’ column matched the number in the ‘‘What I Did’’ column for the circled subject, students circled a ‘‘Yes’’ in the ‘‘Completed Assignments’’ column. A correct self-management response was scored by a teacher assistant when (a) the number of completed worksheets recorded in the ‘‘What I Did’’ column matched the number assigned in the ‘‘What I Will Do’’ column, (b) the number of assignments in the ‘‘What I Did’’ column matched the number completed, and (c) the ‘‘Yes’’ or ‘‘No’’ circled in the ‘‘Completed Assignments’’ column was consistent with the numbers recorded in the previous columns. Therefore, a ‘‘Yes’’ was correct when there was a 0 for number completed and a 0 for the number assigned, and a ‘‘No’’ was correct when there was a 1 for the number completed but a 0 for the number assigned. A total of five correct responses were possible for each session, given that there were five subject assignments per card and one card used per session. A second teacher assistant independently recorded the number of correct responses during 50% of sessions. Percentage agreement was calculated by dividing the number of agreements for each correct response on the self-record card by the number of agreements plus disagreements and multiplying to 100%. The average agreement was 98% across training and independent work sessions. Procedure Teacher- or student-directed instructional sessions were conducted daily each morning in the classroom, and independent work sessions were conducted in the same location 2 hr later. The type of instruction (i.e., teacher- vs. student-directed instruction) was the independent variable. The self-management behavior that occurred during the subsequent independent work session was the dependent variable. During teacher-directed instruction, the teacher demonstrated the self-management skills to the student by setting goals, assigning work, and recording and evaluating results on the self-record card for the student. During student-directed instruction, the teacher prompted the student to set goals, assign work, and record and evaluate results on the card. In both conditions, students selected an item from the prize box for each correct ‘‘Yes’’ response circled on the card. Prize items included pencils, posters, stickers, buttons, stamps, bookmarks, and mazes. During baseline, students received no instructions, feedback, or reinforcers. During independent work sessions, students worked alone and did not receive any prompts, feedback, or reinforcers. The folders containing the self-record card and worksheets were available during all instructional and independent work sessions. To control for possible preference effects, each student’s folder contained only two sheets per subject for a total of 10 sheets per session. A multiple baseline and reversal design was used to compare the effects of studentand teacher-directed instruction on selfmanagement behavior during independent work sessions. The order of instruction was counterbalanced across participants. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION The number of correct self-management responses during independent work was higher following student-directed instruction INSTRUCTION OF SELF-MANAGEMENT 135 Figure 1. Number of correct self-management responses during independent work following student-directed instruction and teacher-directed instruction for all participants. than following teacher-directed instruction for all students (see Figure 1). This finding suggests that students are more likely to exhibit independent self-management in nontraining situations when teachers use a student-directed approach to self-management training. One possible explanation for this outcome was the degree of similarity between student-directed instruction and independent work. In both conditions, students were required to choose a goal and a behavior to monitor and evaluate and then to respond to those choices independently. Another possible explanation is that selfmanagement responses were more reinforcing under student-directed instruction than under teacher-directed instruction because students had more opportunities to make choices under student-directed instruction. Choice opportunities alone have been found to increase responding in some situations (Fisher, Thompson, Piazza, Crosland, & Got- 136 DEIRDRE K. MITHAUG and DENNIS E. MITHAUG jen, 1997). It is unlikely, however, that the findings were due to greater access to reinforcers or preferred work assignments under student-directed instruction because the number of reinforcers earned and assignments completed were similar under the two conditions. Assignment completion rates during independent work also were compared across the two training conditions, but the results were inconclusive, perhaps because the students were limited to two assignments per subject. Another limitation of the study is that self-management behavior was not maintained when instruction was discontinued in the final baseline phase. The sequence of instructional conditions also may have influenced self-management behavior during independent work. Research on these effects is needed to evaluate further the results of this study. REFERENCES Fisher, W. W., Thompson, R. H., Piazza, C. C., Crosland, K., & Gotjen, D. (1997). On the relative reinforcing effects of choice and differential consequences. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 30, 423–438. Stevenson, H. C., & Fantuzzo, J. W. (1984). Application of the ‘‘generalization map’’ to a self-control intervention with school-aged children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 17, 203–212. Stevenson, H. C., & Fantuzzo, J. W. (1986). The generality of social validity of a competency-based self-control training intervention for underachieving students. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 19, 269–276. Received November 2, 2001 Final acceptance November 5, 2002 Action Editor, Dorothea Lerman
Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues RESEARCH POLICY PRACTICE 1 Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues In 2012, the National Association for the Education of Young Children recognized that the Common Core State Standards presented cause for both opportunity and concern. But as early educators implemented the standards in classrooms, they expressed concern that the standards are not appropriate for young children. This brief considers how implementation of the Common Core State Standards aligns with developmentally appropriate practice (DAP). We propose that educators’ concerns about the standards can be captured by three primary questions about content, instruction, and assessment: n Is the content of the Common Core State Standards appropriate for young children? n Will the Common Core State Standards change how I teach? n Will the Common Core State Standards lead to the inappropriate use of assessments for young children? Mapping the specific drivers of concerns about the Common Core State Standards will ultimately be the only way to adequately ensure that DAP continues to guide classroom instruction in early childhood education and that developmentally appropriate practices are extended through the primary school years. We conclude by noting that these specific concerns originated before the Common Core State Standards were introduced, so regardless of the fate of that effort, our focus should remain on ensuring that young children’s experiences are grounded in developmentally appropriate practice. Suggested citation: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). 2015. Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues. Research brief. Washington, DC: NAEYC. This brief was prepared by the NAEYC Center for Applied Research. An earlier draft of this paper was reviewed by Sue Bredekamp, early childhood education consultant and author; Jacqueline Jones, president, Foundation for Child Development; Sam Meisels, founding executive director, Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska; and Martha Zaslow, director, Office for Policy and Communications, Society for Research in Child Development. Their comments greatly improved the quality of this paper, but the views expressed here are solely the responsibility of NAEYC. Copyright © 2015 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. All rights reserved. Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues I n 2012, the National Association for the Education of Young Children recognized that the Common Core State Standards presented cause for both opportunity and concern.1 The early childhood field was encouraged that for the first time a set of national, common learning standards articulated shared expectations (at least in English language arts and mathematics) for children’s achievement in the early elementary grades. But as the standards are starting to be implemented in classrooms, early childhood educators have raised three primary questions about content, instruction, and assessment: n Is the content of the Common Core State Standards appropriate for young children? n Will the Common Core State Standards change how I teach? n Will the Common Core State Standards lead to the inappropriate use of assessments for young children? The purpose of this brief is to consider how implementation of the Common Core State Standards (frequently referred to as “the Common Core”) aligns with developmentally appropriate practice (DAP). While this examination is motivated specifically by implementation of the Common Core, it is not limited to schools using these new academic standards. Standard setting and developments throughout K–12 education are ongoing issues facing early childhood educators, including those working outside of the context of the Common Core. NAEYC’s 2009 position statement on DAP summarizes the general concerns: Preschool educators have some fears about the prospect of the K–12 system absorbing or radically reshaping education for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds, especially at a time when pressures in public schooling are intense and often run counter to the needs of young children. Many early childhood educators are already quite concerned about the current climate of increased high-stakes 1 Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues testing adversely affecting children in grades K–3, and they fear extension of these effects to even younger children. (p. 4) Mapping the specific areas of concern about the Common Core will ultimately be the only way to adequately ensure that DAP continues to guide classroom instruction in early childhood education and that appropriate practices are extended through the elementary school years. Standards, developmentally appropriate practice, and the Common Core State Standards In many ways, standards are central to DAP. Early educators explicitly acknowledge that teachers should be guided in their practice by standards that are challenging but attainable for the children they serve (see inset). Standards provide meaningful What is developmentally appropriate practice? Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) describes a researchbased approach to teaching young children from infancy through third grade. A full review of the principles of DAP is beyond the purpose of this brief. Interested readers can find additional resources at www.naeyc. org/DAP. The central ideas of DAP are n Developmentally appropriate practice requires both meeting children where they are—which means that teachers must get to know them well—and enabling them to reach goals that are both challenging and achievable. n All teaching practices should be appropriate to children’s age and developmental status, attuned to them as unique individuals, and responsive to the social and cultural contexts in which they live. n Developmentally appropriate practice does not mean making things easier for children. Rather, it means ensuring that goals and experiences are suited to their learning and development and challenging enough to promote their progress and interest. n Best practice is based on research and expert knowledge—not on assumptions—of how children learn and develop. The research base yields major principles in human development and learning (this position statement articulates 12 such principles). Those principles, along with evidence about curriculum and teaching effectiveness, form a solid basis for decision making in early care and education. Taken from NAEYC’s “Key Messages of the Position Statement” about developmentally appropriate practice (available at www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/ positions/KeyMessages.pdf). 2 Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues goals for learning—the degree to Ideally, well-conceived standards or which they are attainable will be a learning goals (as described previfunction of each child’s unique comously) are in place to guide local bination of past learning experiencschools and programs in choosing or es and current opportunities. In this developing comprehensive, approway, standards provide goals close priate, and effective curriculum. The to where children at a given age and curriculum framework is a starting range of learning opportunities are place, then teachers can use their expected to be, while DAP provides expertise to make adaptations as needed to optimize the fit with the an array of tools and considerations children. Further, such curricular guidthat early educators use to reach 2 ance gives teachers some direction these goals. Importantly, DAP conin providing the materials, learning siders the range of standards that experiences, and teaching strategies guide early education. These include that promote learning goals most state early learning and state K–12 effectively, allowing them to focus on standards, and the Head Start Child instructional decision making without Development and Early Learning having to generate the entire curricuFramework that guides Head Start lum themselves. programs.3 Each of these defines —NAEYC Position Statement expectations for children. Each “Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children should guide curriculum and asFrom Birth Through Age 8” (pp. 5–6) sessment choices, but none of these prescribes the approaches teachers must take to support these goals. Because implementing DAP can robustly incorporate learning standards in the years before kindergarten, teachers should be able to do so in the early elementary years (K–3) through the Common Core. However, the NAEYC position statement on DAP warns about an overreach: “Standards overload is overwhelming to teachers and children alike and can lead to potentially problematic teaching practices. At the preschool and K–3 levels particularly, practices of concern include excessive lecturing to the whole group, fragmented teaching of discrete objectives, and insistence that teachers follow rigid, tightly paced schedules” (p. 4). COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS IN CONTEXT T he Common Core provides standards in only two areas—English language arts and mathematics. In early childhood, standards have been developed that speak to multiple domains of child development and learning—typically including early literacy and mathematics, but also including social skills, emotional development, approaches to learning, and physical and motor development. A focus limited to reading and math is concerning not just to the early education community, but also to advocates for social and emotional learning (SEL) and a “whole child” approach in K–12 education.4 3 Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues It is important, however, to NAEYC and NAECS/SDE take the evaluate the Common Core stanposition that early learning standards dards on their own merits. That can be a valuable part of a comthese standards focus only on two prehensive, high-quality system of seracademic subjects is a limitation vices for young children, contributing of the educational system, not the to young children’s educational exspecific content of standards being periences and to their future success. implemented. Thus, the challenge But these results can be achieved is in encouraging states to develop only if early learning standards (1) emphasize significant, developadditional standards to provide a mentally appropriate content and more holistic view of what children outcomes; (2) are developed and need. As noted earlier, some groups reviewed through informed, inclusive are already developing standards in processes; (3) use implementation SEL that could be adopted by states and assessment strategies that are (and encouraged in the ways the ethical and appropriate for young Common Core standards have been children; and (4) are accompanied encouraged). In addition, standards by strong supports for early childhood in other areas may already exist that programs, professionals, and families. could be highlighted (e.g., for arts —NAEYC & NAECS/SDE Position Statement and physical education, social stud“Early Learning Standards: Creating the Conditions for Success” (p. 2) ies, and science). Across all these areas, the articulation of learning and development in these domains also must follow known patterns of growth and development. COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS LANGUAGE IS GENERALLY SUPPORTIVE OF DAP U ntil the Common Core standards are fully implemented, how they align with DAP is largely speculative. But by looking at the language of the standards themselves, it is possible to anticipate the degree to which they may tend to encourage or discourage use of DAP in the early elementary years. Throughout the Common Core documentation (website, standards documents, webinars), the point is made that the standards address intended child learning outcomes, not teaching practices. In addition, the writers of the standards specifically say a range of teaching strategies can be used. Play is specifically mentioned in the early grades. Although the standards are generally silent on instructional approaches (appropriately so), the few references generally tend to be supportive of the use of DAP. These references tend to be restricted to either general background material or to specific standards for kindergarten only. English Language Arts (ELA). The ELA standards documents5 offer broad guidance that is generally consistent with developmentally appropriate practice for teaching young children. Underscoring that the standards address desired learning 4 Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues outcomes without dictating instructional strategies, the introduction to the ELA standards states (p. 6) that “The Standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach. For instance, the use of play with young children is not specified by the Standards, but it is welcome as a valuable activity in its own right and as a way to help students meet the expectations in this document.” In addition, throughout the standards, specific instructional approaches are either not mentioned or are mentioned collectively, including small group and large group lessons. The standards also acknowledge the diversity in how children develop and learn. First, this is recognized broadly (p. 6): “No set of grade-specific standards can fully reflect the great variety in abilities, needs, learning rates, and achievement levels of students in any given classroom.” This point is reiterated when introducing the reading standards for foundational skills (p. 15): “Instruction should be differentiated: good readers will need much less practice with these concepts than struggling readers will. The point is to teach students what they need to learn and not what they already know—to discern when particular children or activities warrant more or less attention.” In addition, some of the language used in the Common Core standards themselves, especially for kindergarten reading, is consistent with basic ideas of DAP. For example, within the reading standards, the phrase “with guidance and support from adults” appears frequently for kindergarten (but then does not appear for first grade and later). Similarly, in the writing standards for kindergarten children are expected to meet certain benchmarks through “a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing. . . .” The inclusion of such language underscores that (at least in kindergarten) how young children learn and express their learning may be different from older children, and may be demonstrated either with some support from teachers or in a variety of developmentally appropriate ways. Mathematics. As with the English language arts standards, documentation6 for the mathematics standards also provides some support for DAP ideas. The introduction to the mathematics standards recognizes that development occurs according to a progression (p. 5): “What students can learn at any particular grade level depends upon what they have learned before.” The authors note, however, that existing research cannot yet account for variations in how quickly children progress, nor can research conclude that only one specific progression applies to all children. As a result, the authors note (p. 5), “One promise of common state standards is that over time they will allow research on learning progressions to inform and improve the design of standards to a much greater extent than is possible today.” Although the mathematics standards (like those for ELA) are organized around themes, the authors note that these are not intended to suggest a specific sequence of topics for teachers. They encourage teachers to connect topics in their instruction. While providing teachers with instructional autonomy is commendable, more DAP-rich guidance may urge teachers to use their understanding of where children are progressing and where children’s interests and attention should help guide instruction. 5 Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues While the kindergarten math standards do not include the same attention as the reading standards to the potential for children to demonstrate understanding with support from adults, they sometimes recognize the developmental variation in how children can demonstrate learning and understanding. For example, in the standard for operations and algebraic thinking (p. 11), children are expected to “represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers, mental images, drawings, sounds (e.g., claps), acting out situations, verbal explanations, expressions, or equations.” Likewise, in the geometry standard (p. 12), children engage in manipulation of objects to demonstrate an understanding of shapes encountered in their environment: “Model shapes in the world by building shapes from components (e.g., sticks and clay balls) and drawing shapes.” In both English language arts and mathematics, there are explicit examples or references to developmentally appropriate practice in the kindergarten standards, as noted earlier. However, it is important to note that these elements are not present in the standards after kindergarten. This underscores the importance of considering how DAP applies throughout the early elementary school years, including first and second grade, in addition to kindergarten. Indeed, there is already evidence that teacher use of DAP drops between kindergarten and first grade, so language supporting DAP would be especially important during these grades.7 Is the content of the Common Core State Standards appropriate for young children? Although the text of the Common Core standards suggests support for the fundamental principles of DAP, poor implementation can quickly undermine the best intentions. The primary concern about the content of the Common Core standards is that focusing on only two domains of child development (ELA and math) will restrict the curriculum. While this is an important limitation, those decisions will be resolved at the district and school levels, not by the standards themselves. Local education leaders should not limit their curriculum to only the Common Core, but should build a curriculum to include standards that touch on other important domains of child learning and development. CONDUCT VALIDATION STUDIES O f course, any standards that expect children to demonstrate learning in ways that run contrary to what is known about the sequence of learning will inherently be inappropriate and could undermine DAP. Concerns will continue until the standards are subjected to formal, data-driven validation studies based on implementation. Two types of studies should focus on a number of key questions: n Age validation: Are the expectations, as articulated for each point in time (gener- 6 Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues ally the “end of” a specified school year), realistic for children, based on all we know about child development and learning? Are the expectations too high (or too low) for children at a certain age? n Content validation: Do the expectations capture developmentally important aspects of learning? Do they reflect known patterns of development? Do they appear to be biased against any group, such as racial, ethnic, and linguistic minorities, or children with special needs? While the authors of the Common Core cite research and the work of validation committees during the development of the standards,8 the content will need to be closely evaluated as teachers start to work with the standards in classrooms.9 This ongoing review process should be open and inclusive, including an expectation that early childhood experts and especially teachers are included with their K–12 peers in reviewing the early grade standards. The standards, and over time aligned assessments, can be built using the best research on child learning and development, but ultimately validation requires data on child performance in the context of the actual instruction. This process can work best if it is informed by high-quality child outcome data—collected not to evaluate children or teachers but to evaluate the standards. In other words, policy makers should delay using standards-aligned assessments to make decisions about children and teachers until the data are used to make decisions about the standards themselves. This is critical in understanding the data that will come from child assessments. For example, would a very high proportion of children showing proficiency via a new test reflect an easy standard, or an easy assessment? Likewise, would a very low percentage of children showing proficiency reflect a toohigh standard, or a too-hard assessment? The standards and the aligned assessments can be validated with pilot data drawn from assessments in development. Data on children’s performance on the items can be used to refine assessments and revise standards (if necessary) to ensure that the standards are indeed achievable. ASSURE ALIGNMENT WITH EARLY LEARNING STANDARDS A s the Common Core State Standards for K–12 are implemented, we must consider how they align with state early learning standards.10 Every state has learning standards for 4-year-olds, and more than half have learning standards for younger children. While there is variability across states in their content, early learning standards generally address multiple domains of child learning and development.11 To create a fully aligned, comprehensive birth-to-college continuum, these standards systems must also be aligned. Not only must expectations for children be sensible developmentally within domains, but to the extent that standards articulate what is valued in learning, these values should also be consistent. As a practical matter, the work of early educators in prekindergarten programs and those serving younger children should be aligned with the work of early educators in K–3 to ensure continuity of learning for children. 7 Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues Much of this alignment is now being done in a top-down manner as states align their early learning standards with the Common Core. While this may prove a valuable start, even if successfully done it would still only create a continuum of learning in ELA and mathematics. The alignment process can, and should, also move from early childhood into the later grades. Nationally, states’ early learning standards (at least for 4-year-olds) include multiple domains, above and beyond ELA and math. These can be used as a starting point to articulate standards for K–12 in other critical areas of learning and development, including social and emotional skills, learning behaviors (e.g., approaches to learning), physical and motor development, the arts, and other areas of content knowledge. States have also developed (or are in the process of developing or revising) kindergarten entry assessments (KEAs) as called for under federal education policy. The KEAs, like early learning standards, focus on multiple domains of child learning and development, and can provide an additional means of aligning standards. States should capitalize on this policy-driven move toward comprehensive standards in K–12, creating a comprehensive set of standards from birth to high school completion. Will the Common Core State Standards change how I teach? While there is a separation between the content of instruction and the process (the “what” versus the “how”), one of the five guidelines for developmentally appropriate practice (“teaching to enhance development and learning”) explicitly notes that “ in developmentally appropriate practice, it is the teacher who takes responsibility for stimulating, directing, and supporting children’s development and learning by providing the experiences that each child needs.”12 These experiences include multiple teaching strategies and formats: teacher- and child-guided activities; individual, small group, and large group instruction; encouragement; giving specific feedback; modeling; instructing; and scaffolding. In other words, DAP encourages a range of instructional models. Teachers are encouraged to use these tools intentionally, building on their experience and understanding of each child, and child development generally, to nurture children’s learning and development.13 Although still somewhat limited, a growing body of work provides practical instructional activities and guidance to meet the Common Core for young children.14 GUARD AGAINST A ONE-SIZE APPROACH TO INSTRUCTION W hile DAP supports a range of teaching approaches, many educators are concerned that the Common Core will encourage the use of directive, teacher-led instruction, probably in a large-group format, over all other approaches. 8 Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues However, as noted earlier, there is nothing specifically in the standards in the early grades themselves that would lead to this. So where would this pressure come from? There are several possibilities: n Common Core-aligned products—curricula, assessments, and other educational and classroom materials—may be more readily used through a directive, large group approach to teaching. n Professional development around implementation in the classroom may be driven by trainers who have a more directive approach. n If the Common Core and aligned assessments are used as part of school evalu- ation and accountability systems, administrators who may not understand DAP can impose expectations for instruction. Under No Child Left Behind, for example, many teachers were required to offer targeted reading instruction for extended periods. n Teachers may lack the knowledge or expertise in using DAP’s full range of in- structional approaches to meet the expectations of the Common Core. In this context, what can teachers do to ensure they use DAP with children in K–3?15 First, teachers who receive professional learning and development specifically in early childhood education are more knowledgeable about, and more likely to use, DAP.16 So ensuring a complete understanding of DAP, especially the breadth of instructional approaches and when and how to use them, is critical. Second, teachers with principals who are supportive of their use of DAP tend to use DAP in the classroom more than teachers without such support.17 Teachers can work to educate or demonstrate to principals, many of whom may not have extensive experience in early childhood education, what DAP is. A number of resources from the National Association of Elementary School Principals (www.naesp.org) and NAEYC (www.naeyc.org/DAP) may be useful.18 Finally, kindergarten teachers who are given more freedom to make instructional choices tend to use DAP,19 so teachers need to be their own advocates (alone and as grade-level teams) and school leaders need to empower teachers to make their own instructional choices. Will the Common Core State Standards lead to the inappropriate use of assessments for young children? As states have begun to implement the Common Core, more attention is being paid to the expected assessments, both summative and formative, aligned with the new standards. What these assessments will look like, and how they will be used in the early grades, is not yet clear. However, concern is growing about the potential use of assessment practices that are not appropriate for young children. For example, n The Common Core may lead to more assessment in classrooms, detracting from 9 Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues instructional time, and/or they may take inappropriate forms, like pencil-andpaper or computer-driven assessments like those used for older children. n The results from Common Core-aligned assessments may be used inappropri- ately and in high-stakes ways, including accountability systems for teachers and programs. n Decisions about students, especially retention in grade, may be based largely on the results of Common Core assessments. The role of assessment within the Common Core is a hot topic for early educators teaching children in K–3. The early education field tends to connect assessment to standards as a means of monitoring children’s learning and development to inform future teaching. Indeed, assessment is an essential component of DAP: “Assessment of young children’s progress and achievements is ongoing, strategic and purposeful . . . [assessment information is used by teachers] in planning curriculum and learning experiences and in moment-to-moment interactions with children—that is, teachers continually engage in assessment for the purpose of improving teaching and learning” (NAEYC, p. 26).20 But the introduction of assessments aligned with the Common Core could increase the burden on teachers and children, especially if they are just layered on top of other assessments already being used (such as ongoing assessment to guide instruction, kindergarten entry assessments, etc.). Teachers and administrators will need to examine their assessment approaches so that testing continues to add to, rather than detract from, teaching young children. Even in this context, assessment is a valuable tool for teachers. The 2003 NAEYC position statement on curriculum and assessment provides guidance on how to employ high-quality assessments appropriately.21 There is also concern that the models of teacher accountability being used in upper grades, where standardized student assessment data are available and included, will be applied to early educators. The early childhood field agrees that assessments should not be used for such high-stakes purposes, at least until third grade.22 To date, it appears that high-stakes assessments will not begin until at least third grade, as they did under No Child Left Behind. States are deploying a range of alternative models when early educators are included in their teacher accountability systems.23 The introduction of common assessments envisioned under the Common Core model can be seen as one step in imposing a consistent approach to using child assessments within a teacher accountability model across all grades for which the Common Core applies. Long before the Common Core, pressure had been building for using student assessment data for high-stakes decisions. This issue extends beyond the Common Core, and the field must not be misled into thinking that a push for more assessment will dissipate if the Common Core State Standards go away. The field must continue to advocate for the appropriate use of assessment in early childhood, regardless of the status of the Common Core implementation. 10 Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues Recommendations In response to the concerns addressed earlier, early educators can take a number of steps to encourage the use of developmentally appropriate practice. n Build and maintain your skills in developmentally appropriate practice —Use print resources and trainings from NAEYC —Attend local, state, and national early childhood conferences —Take courses in child development and early childhood education n Effectively communicate the basics of developmentally appropriate practice and advocate for its use with colleagues, administrators, and families n Share resources from NAEYC, the National Association for Elementary School Principals (www.naesp.org/llc), and the CAYL Institute (www.CAYL.org/ publications) n Read and understand the content of the Common Core State Standards n Work with the Common Core State Standards, standards from other areas of child development, and professional knowledge of child development to build experiences that meet children’s needs across multiple domains n Work with other teachers in your school or community, including professional and digital communities, to develop plans for meeting the Common Core standards through DAP n Participate in field testing and/or in providing feedback to the Common Core assessment consortia (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) on the nature of the assessments they are developing Developmentally appropriate practice provides a research-based framework for instruction that can help teachers be more effective with young children. Bringing DAP into classrooms, and keeping it there, requires training and practice. It also requires administrators to recognize what DAP looks like in the classroom. Within DAP, children may be engaged in active play, small group work, and directive instruction as part of an intentional and skilled teacher’s repertoire of approaches and strategies in working toward meeting standards, even as specified in the Common Core. Teachers need to be willing to learn DAP and then demonstrate the benefits, especially to skeptical administrators and parents. In short, using and building support for DAP is both essential and challenging, and would be so with or without the Common Core. 11 Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues ENDNOTES 1. NAEYC. 2012. “The Common Core State Standards: Caution and Opportunity for Early Childhood Education.” Research brief. Washington, DC: NAEYC. 2. See, for example, Goldstein, L.S. 2008. “Teaching the Standards Is Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Strategies for Incorporating the Sociopolitical Dimension of DAP in Early Childhood Teaching.” Early Childhood Education Journal 36 (3): 253–60. 3. Office of Head Start, US Department of Health and Human Services. 2011. “The Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework.” Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services. 4. As of this writing, groups have come together to draft common standards for science. Standards for arts education, social studies, and physical education have also existed but not been promoted as common standards across states. ASCD has developed the Whole Child Initiative to underscore the need to consider the breadth of child development (see www.ascd.org/whole-child.aspx). 5. The English language arts standards can be read here: www.corestandards.org/wpcontent/uploads/ELA_Standards.pdf. All page references in text refer to this document. 6. The mathematics standards can be read here: www.corestandards.org/wp-content/ uploads/Math_Standards.pdf. Page numbers used in text refer to page numbers in this Common Core document. 7. See La Paro, K.M., S.E. Rimm-Kaufman, & R.C. Pianta. 2006. “Kindergarten to 1st Grade: Classroom Characteristics and the Stability and Change of Children’s Classroom Experiences.” Journal of Research in Childhood Education 21 (2): 189–202. 8. The findings of the validation committees can be found in National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) & the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). 2010. Reaching Higher: The Common Core State Standards Validation Committee. A Report from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Washington, DC: NGA Center & CCSSO. Available online at www.corestandards.org/assets/CommonCoreReport_6.10.pdf. 9. There have been some efforts to examine the content of the standards for the youngest students. See Hiebert, E.H., & H.A.E. Mesmer. 2013. “Upping the Ante of Text Complexity in the Common Core State Standards: Examining Its Potential Impact on Young Readers.” Educational Researcher 42 (1): 44–51 and Cobb, P., & K. Jackson. 2011. “Assessing the Quality of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.” Educational Researcher 40 (4): 183–85. 10. Of course, alignment must also occur within states across standards in areas not included in the Common Core. See Porter, A., J. McMaken, J. Hwang, & R. Yang. 2011. “Common Core Standards: The New U.S. Intended Curriculum.” Educational Researcher 40 (3): 103–16. 11. See, for example, Scott-Little, C., J. Lesko, J. Martella, & P. Milburn. 2007. “Early Learning Standards: Results From a National Survey to Document Trends in State-Level Policies and Practices.” Early Childhood Research and Practice 9 (1). www.ecrp.illinois.edu/v9n1/ little.html. 12 Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues 12. This quote is from page 22, NAEYC. 2009. “Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth Through Age 8.” Position statement. Washington, DC: NAEYC. 13. Copple and Bredekamp (2009, “To Be An Excellent Teacher,” chap. 1 in Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children From Birth Through Age 8, 3rd ed., eds. C. Copple & S. Bredekamp, 33–50, Washington, DC: NAEYC) describe the “excellent teacher” as one who uses the full range of practices and formats, oftentimes using multiple combinations to support children’s learning. Biggam and Hyson (2014; see endnote 14) provide examples of how this approach can be used to meet the Common Core standards. 14. See, for example, McLaughlin, M., & B.J. Overturf. 2012. “The Common Core: Insights Into the K–5 Standards.” The Reading Teacher 66 (2): 153–64 and Biggam, S.C., & M.C. Hyson. 2014. “The Common Core State Standards and Developmentally Appropriate Practices: Creating a Relationship,” chap. 5 in Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Focus on Kindergartners, C. Copple, S. Bredekamp, D. Koralek, & K. Charner, eds., 95–112. Washington, DC: NAEYC. 15. For a good summary, see McDaniel, G.L., M.Y. Isaac, H.M. Brooks, & A. Hatch. 2005. “Confronting K–3 Teaching Challenges in an Era of Accountability.” Young Children 60 (2): 20–26. 16. Ivrendi, A., & J.E. Johnson. 2002. “Kindergarten Teachers’ Certification Status and Participation in Staff Development Activities in Relation to Their Knowledge and Perceived Use of Developmentally Appropriate Practices (DAP).” Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education 23 (2): 115–24. 17. See Goldstein, L.S. 2007. “Beyond the DAP Versus Standards Dilemma: Examining the Unforgiving Complexity of Kindergarten Teaching in the United States.” Early Childhood Research Quarterly 22 (1): 39–54. 18. See NAESP (National Association of Elementary School Principals). 2014. “Leading Pre-K–3 Learning Communities: Competencies for Effective Principal Practice.” Executive summary. Alexandria, VA: NAESP. http://bit.ly/1Fizrv6. 19. See, for example, Goldstein, L.S. 2008. “Kindergarten Teachers Making ‘StreetLevel’ Education Policy in the Wake of No Child Left Behind.” Early Education and Development 19 (3): 448–78. 20. This quote is from page 26, NAEYC. 2009. “Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth Through Age 8.” Position statement. Washington, DC: NAEYC. 21. See NAEYC & NAECS/SDE (National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education). 2003. “Early Childhood Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation: Building an Effective, Accountable System in Programs for Children Birth Through Age 8.” Position statement. Washington, DC: NAEYC. Available at www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/pscape.pdf. 22. See Snow, C.E., & S.B. Van Hemel, eds. 2008. Early Childhood Assessment: Why, What, and How? Washington, DC: National Academies Press. http://1.usa.gov/18GPBkZ. 23. See Connors-Tadros, L., & M. Horowitz. 2014. “How Are Early Childhood Teachers Faring in State Teacher Evaluation Systems?” Policy report. New Brunswick, NJ: CEELO. http://bit.ly/1n4ProI 13 Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Common Core State Standards: Framing the Issues National Association for the Education of Young Children 1313 L Street NW, Suite 500 Washington, DC 20005-4101 202-232-8777 800-424-2460 www.naeyc.org RESEARCH 14 POLICY PRACTICE

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Kindly find attachment.Thank you.

Running Head: INSTRUCTIONAL DECISION-MAKING FREEDOM

Instructional decision-making freedom
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INSTRUCTIONAL DECISION-MAKING FREEDOM
Teacher-directed vs. child-directed activity in preschool
This has been a contentious issue in early childhood education policy and discussions.
Teachers have always believed in the importance of ensuring art and other school activities are
age-sensitive and child-oriented but parents, on the other hand, seem to differ on this. A child
comes home with a nice piece of art that she drew in school. The mother looks at the art and it is
pretty messy and she knows the art will never make it to any of the house’s walls. It is evident
that there is a conflict of interest between teachers and parents....

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