Like any other dedicated and skilled professionals, early childhood educators benefit from investments in their career development. Yes, there’s such a thing as having a knack for teaching young children. And there’s certainly such a thing as natural talent and intuition. But being a successful early childhood teacher also depends on learning new techniques, staying current with new developments, receiving encouraging and constructive feedback, and appreciating the science behind children’s development.
That’s part of why we offer LENA Grow participants the opportunity to become formally LENA-certified, a process involving participation requirements, successful completion of a quiz, and documentation of goals for implementing LENA Talking Tips in the classroom. LENA Grow certification is an important acknowledgment of teachers’ willingness to, well, grow.
The power of LENA Grow certification
LENA’s research team recently completed an analysis of the kinds of early language environments certified Grow teachers are nurturing. We asked whether they produce better outcomes than non-certified teachers. That is, do they achieve greater numbers of conversational turns with the children in their care, interactions that peer-reviewed research has linked to improved brain function, socioemotional development, and executive functioning?
The short answer is a resounding yes.
At both the classroom level and the level of the individual child, teachers who become Grow-certified knock it out of the park.
“I definitely grew from this experience as a professional. ... I didn’t realize the degree of language and learning that could happen if things were more intentional on my part.”
-Bridgette Willis, a family child care provider and LENA Grow advisor
First, a higher percentage of classrooms with certified teachers (77%) had children who met evaluation criteria than classrooms without certified teachers (45%). Those evaluation criteria are strict standards that LENA’s research team uses to determine whether a Grow classroom can be included in impact reports. This means that Grow-certified teachers are completing the program with fidelity and consistency, and it suggests that the prospect of formal certification motivates them to do so.
Second, looking at the level of the individual student, we see that children in teacher-certified classrooms experienced significantly higher gains than children in non teacher-certified classrooms. On average, the former experienced an increase of 3.9 conversational turns per hour, while the latter experienced an increase of 1.5 conversational turns per hour. That means children in classrooms with Grow-certified teachers gained 2.6 times more conversational turns over the course of the program.
Seemingly small numbers can make a big difference
These are far from inconsequential differences. In their Inside Early Talk report, published in March of 2021, LENA’s researchers reported that every gain of two conversational turns per hour early in life correlates to a one-point increase in Full Scale IQ in middle school.
More than that, though, you can see it in the teachers’ enthusiasm for making their classroom a model of quality interactions.