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‘Intentional’ teaching has big impact on preschoolers


November 16, 2017
Dave Shaw
Futurity

The instructional practices of preschool teachers may have the largest effect on young children’s social and academic skills, a new review of research on several measures of the quality of early childhood education suggests.

The comprehensive review helps untangle a complicated knot of factors that affect young children.

“High quality preschool is one of the most effective means of preparing all children to succeed in school,” says Margaret Burchinal, senior research scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “However, this review of research indicates the need to expand our definitions of quality.”

Burchinal says her review of the science suggests the field should continue to measure the quality of relationships of preschool teachers and children, especially the sensitivity and warmth of the teachers. In addition, the review suggests factors such as the levels of education of program directors and teachers and the teacher-child ratio also influence outcomes.

However, the areas with the strongest connection to beneficial results for young children involve what teachers teach and how they teach it.

“The largest effects on child outcomes involve curricula,” Burchinal explains. “Some of the biggest impacts on literacy, math, and other skills involved curricula focused on those specific skills with accompanying coaching or training for teachers.”