In the world of early childhood education, where teachers are facing unprecedented challenges and families are struggling to find and afford reliable, high-quality care, we need solutions. Really, we need a web of interconnected solutions.
At LENA, we’ve long seen our language-based professional development program for early educators, LENA Grow, as an important part of this web. Now, with the completion of two independent evaluations of the program, we’re eager to bring LENA Grow to as many early childhood education classrooms as possible.
LENA Grow helps educators focus on the importance of serve-and-return interactions, or conversational turns, in early education classrooms. These interactions form the foundation of trusting, responsive relationships between teachers and the children in their care, leading to positive outcomes across the board.
LENA Grow Program Evaluations
The SproutFive Center for Early Childhood Innovation and Next Door Milwaukee tested LENA Grow’s success at moving the needle on several key metrics, including:
- Children’s TS GOLD® language and literacy scores.
- Teachers’ self-efficacy and job satisfaction.
With remarkably positive results, LENA Grow is now officially an evidence-based professional development tool for early childhood educators.
Below are highlights of the recent webinar where we discussed the results of the program evaluations.
Robert Duncan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science and the Department of Public Health at Purdue University, kicked things off with a presentation of his research that used LENA technology to establish a link between conversational turns in preschool classrooms and children’s vocabulary skills.
The power of data and the importance of individual experience
Duncan’s study is among the first to highlight the importance of adult-child interactions specifically in preschool settings. At the time of the paper’s publication, Gilkerson dubbed it a “call to action,” saying, “We must recognize the tremendous potential to amplify the importance of conversational turns and to provide professional development opportunities for early educators that put responsive interactions front and center.”
Why a “call to action”?
Because Duncan’s research shows not only that early interaction is associated with vocabulary abilities, but also that many individual children are missing out on those interactions, even in classrooms where other children are experiencing lots of conversational turns. That’s why Michael McConeghy, Child Care Partnership Manager at Next Door, thinks LENA Grow’s data is its key to success.
Increased TS GOLD® Literacy Scores: “One of the more surprising findings”
Jaclyn Dynia, Senior Director of Innovation and Research at SproutFive, was particulary encouraged by LENA Grow’s association with higher literacy scores on the TS GOLD® child assessment. Children who participated in LENA Grow saw pre/post average scaled score increases of 39 points, compared to a loss of 2 points from children who did not participate in LENA Grow.
Benefits beyond language development: “For the teachers, a blessing”
While Next Door’s LENA Grow participants achieved higher language and literacy scores, McConeghy also homed in on something altogether different: LENA Grow’s positive impact on behavioral issues in the classroom.
Increased CLASS® scores: “Building on the tools we already use”
In addition to individual child assessments, Next Door also compared CLASS® assessment scores between Grow and non-Grow classrooms. The result: increases in key dimensions such as Behavior Guidance, Quality of Feedback, Facilitation of Learning, Language Modeling, and Regard for Child Perspectives.
Increased job satisfaction: “A game changer”
Teachers who participated in LENA Grow experienced increases in 11 of 14 items on the Teacher Perception Survey. Among the most intriguing results: Teachers who participated in LENA Grow experienced a significant positive change in the domain of job satisfaction, while non-Grow teachers did not.
“To see that there is this professional development opportunity that would help potentially ease some of that stress or burden and increase job satisfaction for teachers,” Dynia said, “was just really kind a game changer for us.”
Immediate impact: “Advocacy in the arena of early childhood education has a long way to go”
Early childhood education — as a sector, a profession, an idea, an everyday reality — is struggling. As potential policy changes and fundamental public investments are debated, we need immediate solutions.
“While we’re fighting that good fight,” McConeghy said, “we have to live in the reality of our world of early childhood education.” He counts LENA Grow as among the ways to immediately improve that reality for teachers, families, and children.
LENA Grow: Evidence-based professional development with proven results
The last word went to Gilkerson, who reflected on what it means to have established LENA Grow as an evidence-based program. At its core, the program succeeds because it “evens the playing field for children and keeps teachers engaged and satisfied with the extremely important work that they do.”