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  1. Laurie Van Egeren
  2. Assistant Provost for University-Community Partnerships
  4. Michigan State University
  1. Christina Schwarz
  2. http://schwarz.wiki.educ.msu.edu/
  3. Associate Professor
  5. Michigan State University

Cluster Randomized Trial of the Efficacy of Early Childhood Science Education...

NSF Awards: 1119327

2015 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6

Despite increasing attention to the importance of science education in early childhood, preschoolers, particularly those from low-income families, receive few high-quality science experiences. To address these needs, our research group is evaluating the efficacy of an early childhood science program, Head Start on Science (HSOS), using a three-level cluster randomized longitudinal design. Eight Head Start programs serving a diverse group of children (72 classrooms) are participating in this five-year study, implemented in two cohorts. The intervention group attended workshops, used technology-based distance coaching, and participated in online learning communities; the control group received the curriculum guide and science materials, but no other supports. Analysis of data looks at effects of the intervention on several aspects including teacher attitudes about the value of science, the implementation of high-quality, active learning practices as well as child scientific reasoning and knowledge, language development, math achievement, and social competence.

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Discussion from the 2015 Teaching & Learning Video Showcase (9 posts)
  • Icon for: Iliya Gutin

    Iliya Gutin

    May 12, 2015 | 09:53 a.m.

    Great work! This looks like an amazing program that is truly making a difference. I noticed that your project places substantial emphasis on taking video to better understand both student and teacher behaviors. How exactly do you analyze these films – rather, what criteria do you use to create “data” and evaluate the progress? Thanks!

  • Icon for: Laurie Van Egeren

    Laurie Van Egeren

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Provost for University-Community Partnerships
    May 12, 2015 | 01:33 p.m.

    Thanks for your question! We are using video in multiple ways. First, video is used for coaching and feedback, and progress is assessed informally by coaches depending on what the assignment is for that month to identify opportunities for facilitating children’s science processes.

    For teachers, we conducted observations and videotaped the classroom at three points – before intervention and at the end of year 1 and 2, and are coding them for general classroom environment using the CLASS measure. We are also coding video of teachers doing small-group activities with the children, looking for the frequency with which teachers use (a) facilitation (supporting children to do the process, or (b) modeling (teacher does the process him/herself) for things like observation, prediction, exploration, experimentation, etc.

    We’ve done a few things with children, including having them predict, observe, and explain phenomena shown on a video on a tablet. We’re in the process of developing a coding system children looking at evidence while doing a rolling task.

  • Icon for: Tony Streit

    Tony Streit

    Senior Project Director
    May 12, 2015 | 11:10 p.m.

    Thanks for your submission. I really like the “behind-the-scenes” look at the project and your use of video to document the process and impact. I’d actually like to learn a little more about what you’re learning about outcomes for young people related to interest in science. Given their young age, it would seem that a basic outcome would be that young people find the experiences fun and want more. Is that in fact the case? Also, I would love to know if you are learning anything about residual impact on parents and/or families. That doesn’t seem to be a direct goal of your project, but I wonder if a change in care-givers’ attitude about STEM is in fact an unintended result.

  • Icon for: Laurie Van Egeren

    Laurie Van Egeren

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Provost for University-Community Partnerships
    May 13, 2015 | 01:56 p.m.

    Thanks for your interest! Actually, young children naturally find science activities fun; but it’s challenging for adults to figure out how to facilitate them to make discoveries and learn to systematically investigate and reason about what they observe. Additionally, once they go to elementary school, their experiences around science will be highly dependent on their teachers. Here, we are hoping to help teachers lay the groundwork in terms of scientific reasoning, their engagement in the activity itself (as you say), and factors associated with general school readiness including language and social skills through group interaction.

    We have developed pieces that are designed to help teachers connect parents/guardians to their children’s science experiences with mixed success. We do measure change parents’ attitudinal change about the importance and value of science for young children as well as science experiences that children get outside of the classroom through TV and other media, books, and visits. We look forward to reporting back on these results.

  • Elizabeth VanderPutten

    May 13, 2015 | 03:45 p.m.

    Very Interesting: good materials and good research

  • Icon for: May Jadallah

    May Jadallah

    Assistant Professor
    May 14, 2015 | 12:56 a.m.

    Wonderful work! Any plans on doing longitudinal data collection? How to low SES children compare to higher SES children in your study?

  • Icon for: Dilafruz Williams

    Dilafruz Williams

    Professor, Director/Principal Investigator
    May 14, 2015 | 01:09 a.m.

    I am thrilled to see you focusing on young children, especially those in need. Have you found any resistance to your program in the traditional head start classrooms (where we tend to often find rigidity). Kudos!

  • Icon for: Laurie Van Egeren

    Laurie Van Egeren

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Provost for University-Community Partnerships
    May 14, 2015 | 08:56 a.m.

    Hi, May- this study is actually longitudinal. We have two cohorts that each last 2 years, and study teachers three times over the two years and children and parents twice in the second year. We don’t currently have plans to follow children forward into elementary, but that’s always a possibility. All the children in this study are in Head Start programs, so they are all low-income. Other literature indicates that these children, even with the supports of Head Start, are likely to improve relative to children not in the program, but not necessarily to the degree of more affluent children; and gains may taper off in elementary school. That’s why we’re trying to work with processes, thinking, and social skills rather than knowledge.

  • Icon for: Laurie Van Egeren

    Laurie Van Egeren

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Provost for University-Community Partnerships
    May 14, 2015 | 08:59 a.m.

    Dilafruz – great question. Our HS classrooms have been quite engaged, but we see quite a bit of variation from program to program regarding the amount of support administrators actually provide, such as planning time and having supervisors attend the training in addition to teachers. Programs with these supports have better engagement and retention on the part of teachers. In addition, we find that teachers need a lot of support around the technology, even more than we anticipated, and that in some areas, it is still quite difficult to have satisfactory upload speeds for videos. This is a major barrier to be able to provide cost-effective distance professional development.

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