Understanding and Promoting Effective Teacher-Child Interactions in Preschool: Bridging Research, Practice, and Policy

Partee, Ann, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Williford, Amanda, CU-Human Svcs, University of Virginia

A critical challenge for the early childhood field is understanding and implementing the specific components of preschool programs that are essential for achieving short- and long-term outcomes for children (Foundation for Child Development, 2020). The quality of teacher-child interactions is consistently identified as one of the most critical classroom features for promoting preschool children’s school readiness, yet much work remains to improve the quality of interactions at scale. This dissertation includes three studies that address pressing questions along a research, practice, and policy continuum, to ultimately promote effective teacher-child interactions in preschool programs. Study 1 is a basic research study that aimed to understand how child and teacher characteristics jointly contribute to the quality of teacher-child interactions in the classroom. Study 2 is an applied research study that investigated the role of two dimensions of the consultant-teacher alliance (the quality of the relationship between the consultant and teacher and teachers’ investment in the consultation) for shaping the quality of dyadic teacher-child interactions. This study examined the extent to which these dimensions of consultant-teacher alliance operated directly to influence dyadic interactions and indirectly through teachers’ fidelity of implementation. Finally, study 3 describes a professional development (PD) measurement and feedback process implemented in Virginia’s state preschool program. First, basic and applied research on effective PD was translated into a PD Rubric, which was used to systematically assess the quality of PD across 121 school divisions. Next, school division leaders were supported to apply knowledge of their PD strengths and weaknesses, identified via the rubric, toward the selection and delivery of PD that research suggests is most likely to improve teacher-child interactions. Only by engaging in the process of conducting rigorous and relevant research and bridging accumulated knowledge to practice and policies can we expect science to make meaningful contributions to advancements in early childhood education.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
preschool, teacher-child interactions, implementation science
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