TOWARDS CONCEPTUALIZING TEACHER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: A DETERMINATION ON COMPONENTS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE IN-SERVICE TRAINING FOCUSED ON EMERGENT LITERACY
Villarreal, Leticia Christine
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Early childhood educators often lack the essential knowledge and skills for teaching emergent literacy and for creating a classroom environment that promotes literacy. Without such knowledge, early childhood educators are unable to effectively teach emergent literacy to their students. One way that in-service teachers acquire knowledge and skills is through the professional development they receive from their schools. On-going professional development is essential to ensuring educators’ ability to teach reading (Snow, Griffin, & Burns, 2005). This study answered the following two research questions: (1) How does professional development provided through the C³Coaching Academy rate in impact in the literacy knowledge, skills, and confidence, specifically in the areas of phonological awareness and alphabetic principle, as perceived by early childhood educators who participated in the C³Coaching Academy? (2) How do materials created for use during the C³Coaching Academy rate in effectiveness when assessed using a research-based, professional development rubric? To answer the first research question, a self-reported survey based on a Likert-like scale was administered to 419 early childhood educators who participated in the C³Coaching Academy. The purpose of the survey was for participants to rate their perceived impact of the professional development on their knowledge, skills, and confidence level. This study focused on the literacy component of the survey that inquired about phonological awareness and alphabetic principle. The survey included 10 items related to phonological awareness and 9 items related to alphabetic principle. The results of the survey items related to phonological awareness and alphabetic principle indicated an extensive impact on the knowledge, skills, and confidence level of the majority of the 419 participants. On average, the majority of the participants reported a substantial impact on their ability to create new activities and their knowledge of activities to improve students’ knowledge of both phonological awareness and alphabetic principle. To answer the second research question, four documents were analyzed using a research-based performance rubric. The documents were previously created in response to the needs of participants attending the C³Coaching Academy and were used during subsequent professional development as part of the training materials. The four documents consisted of one lesson on thematic learning and another on environmental print and corresponding PowerPoints for each lesson. The rubric was developed as a result of the literature review that focused on components of highly effective professional development. The results of the document analyses indicated that the majority of the lessons and PowerPoints provided during training met high-quality standards established by the research-based performance rubric. Specifically, the lessons and PowerPoints involved active learning, focused on content, aligned with state standards, and offered opportunities for educators to practice newly acquired concepts and skills. The overall results of this study clearly demonstrated a need for highly effective professional development related to emergent literacy. The professional development provided was effective as it substantially impacted the literacy knowledge, skills, and confidence level of the majority of the participating educators. Additionally, the results concurred with previous research that suggested that educators who receive quality professional development learn how to create quality instruction that engages their students (Darling-Hammond & Richardson, 2009). This study contributed to fulfilling a need for the evaluation of quality professional development that is aligned with national and state standards for emergent literacy. Additionally, both the results of the survey and document analyses contributed to an action plan for professional development proposed as part of this study. It is hoped that the professional development action plan would prove equally effective in providing quality training to many more early childhood educators and that their students would benefit from the overall impact of receiving quality professional development.