Bright Beginnings, a nonprofit organization that operates early childhood and family learning centers for children and families experiencing homelessness in Washington, D.C., has published exciting new results of their five-week pilot of LENA Grow.
Data analyses show that teachers who participated in the professional development program significantly increased interactions with the children in their classrooms. These interactions were measured by LENA’s “talk pedometer” technology and shown through key metrics such as the amount of adult words, conversational turns, child vocalizations, and near and clear speech.
Four classrooms participated in the study, with four teachers participating and 36 African-American toddlers (average age = 25 months) enrolled. Nearly 60% of the children’s families were experiencing homelessness at the time, and about 40% were unemployed.
“This data is special because there’s nobody else out there doing this type of research with African American infants and toddlers who are experiencing homelessness,” Keenan Woods, Data Management Analyst at Bright Beginnings, said. “Often, this technology doesn’t make it to African American children, let alone more at-risk populations. When it does, the research is often not coming from an African American perspective. This data is special because it’s done by African Americans with African Americans in the lower quartile of economics in the entire country.”
Woods discovered statistically significant results in key areas when analyzing the data. During the course of the program, children heard about 2,000 more words, participated in 55 more conversational turns, and vocalized 178 times more than they did in a comparable five-week baseline period:
“The fact that we did a modified intervention and still got statistically significant results says that something is going on here,” Woods said. He was excited to see the results, noting that the study is the start of filling many gaps in the literature. “This research is in so many lanes that have been undiscovered — we’re working with an African American population that is experiencing homelessness, using LENA Grow,” he explained.
Based on his conversations with the master teachers who helped to design the pilot, Woods attests much of the team’s success to the collaborative mindset of the teachers.
“There is a cultural theme unique to African American communities called communalism — everyone works together for the good of everyone else. Resources are used to help everyone,” he explained.
For the LENA Grow teachers, this translated into a collective effort by teachers to talk with every child they encountered during the day – whether on the playground, at lunch, or during a combined lesson.
“The kids were not just exposed to speech from their own teachers, but they engaged with the other teachers and talked to them, too, which is what led to such a significant increase in the numbers. The teachers banded together to create a communal group to increase language performance, and they could see the results in each other’s data reports,” he said.
Moving forward, Bright Beginnings will partner with LENA to continue this much-needed research and provide feedback on how the program can incorporate more group goal setting.