Centering Educator Psychological Factors to Understand & Improve Teacher and Child Experiences in Early Childhood Education

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Clayback, Kelsey, Education - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Williford, Amanda, ED-CASTL, University of Virginia

To fully support educators and ultimately improve early childhood education, researchers, policymakers, and practitioners must better understand teacher experiences and specifically how to address stress and improve well-being. However, most early childhood research to date has focused on child or classroom factors, and relatively little work has focused on teacher factors, including psychological well-being. In this three-paper dissertation, I add to the existing literature on early childhood educator psychological well-being. The first paper considers factors related to teacher psychological well-being, namely stress. Teacher anger, child behavior, and presence of classroom support staff (such as a classroom aide or teaching assistant) were consistently related to teacher’s experience of stress in the classroom, over and above teacher’s personal and professional backgrounds. The second paper considers how teacher psychological well-being is related to implementation of a comprehensive curriculum. Across teacher dosage, classroom dosage, and teacher responsiveness, teachers with more positive initial perceptions of the curriculum had higher implementation. Teacher stress, self-efficacy, and perception of center climate were inconsistently related to implementation fidelity. Finally, the third paper examines how an often-overlooked aspect of teacher psychological well-being, attributions about behavior, are related to teaching strategies and children’s behavior. We found that teachers’ responsibility attributions were related to their reports of the frequency of their use of exclusionary practices, but not proactive practices. Contrary to hypotheses, attributions were not directly or indirectly related to their reports of selected children’s challenging behavior at the end of preschool. Taken together, findings from the three papers can guide future intervention development and implementation to support educators and young children by furthering the field’s knowledge of teacher psychological well-being.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Early childhood, Teacher well-being, Preschool, Challenging behavior, Teacher stress, Teacher attributions, Implementation fidelity
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