unlimited access with print and download

Free

Continue searching

Implementing preschool curriculum: Mentoring and coaching as key components to teacher professional development

Dissertation
Author: Carmen Sherry Brown
Abstract:
Preschool education plays an important role in increasing school readiness and closing achievement gaps for children at risk. With public schools facing heightened accountability requirements, pre-kindergarten is one of the fastest growing sectors of public education (Preschool Yearbook, 2005). High-quality preschool programs include teachers who have been trained in early childhood education and have access to on-going learning processes. Early childhood teachers' professional development and support during the implementation of innovative curricula is a critical component in the education of young children, but their professional development is often seen as inconsistent, fragmented, and inadequate. Mentoring and peer coaching activities may be employed to support and guide teachers through the implementation process. Through the use of rigorous qualitative case study research, the purpose of this study was to explore the factors that led to teacher professional development and personal growth as they implemented a pre-kindergarten mathematics curriculum. By means of observations, interviews, and artifacts I examined the strategies and activities that supported the development of three teacher participants as they interacted with mentors and peer coaches during the implementation process. My analysis revealed that the mentoring and coaching strategies that were rooted in professional development opportunities assisted the teachers in implementing specific components of a pre-kindergarten mathematics curriculum. The professional development opportunities included high-quality facilitation and collaboration during professional development sessions, in-class support through mentoring, and embedded, on-site support through peer coaching. The teachers' eventual change did not take place in isolation. Professional growth took place during a collaborative discovery that refined their teaching practices. Experiential learning was also a mitigating factor during the implementation process. Prior learning and the professional experiences of the teachers provided a foundation for constructing, and in one case limiting; new knowledge and activities.

Table of Contents Copyright ........................................................................................................................................ ii Dedication ...................................................................................................................................... iii Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................................ iv Abstract .......................................................................................................................................... xi Chapter 1 ......................................................................................................................................... 1 Introduction ................................................................................................................................. 1 Research Questions.................................................................................................................. 8 Background .............................................................................................................................. 9 Delimitations and Limitations ................................................................................................... 11 Limitations ............................................................................................................................. 11 Delimitation ........................................................................................................................... 12 Definition of Terms ................................................................................................................... 12 Mentoring and Coaching: The Distinction ............................................................................... 13 Significance of the Study .......................................................................................................... 15 Chapter 2 ....................................................................................................................................... 17 Literature Review ...................................................................................................................... 17

vi The Mentoring and Peer Coaching Phenomena .................................................................... 17 Preschool Curriculum ............................................................................................................ 20 Curriculum Content ............................................................................................................... 23 Research on Professional Development and Mentoring ........................................................ 24 Teacher Growth ..................................................................................................................... 34 Chapter 3 ....................................................................................................................................... 39 Methods ..................................................................................................................................... 39 Population and Sample .......................................................................................................... 40 Participants ............................................................................................................................ 41 Data Collection ...................................................................................................................... 46 Interviews .............................................................................................................................. 47 Observations .......................................................................................................................... 48 Observation Instruments ........................................................................................................ 49 Artifacts ................................................................................................................................. 50 Recording Data ...................................................................................................................... 51 Data Analysis ............................................................................................................................ 53 Validity and Reliability ......................................................................................................... 56

vii

Validity .................................................................................................................................. 56 Reliability .............................................................................................................................. 58 Chapter 4 ....................................................................................................................................... 59 Findings......................................................................................................................................... 59 Developmental progression of curriculum implementation ...................................................... 59 Initial curriculum implementation ......................................................................................... 60 Prior Experience .................................................................................................................... 61 Teacher efficacy .................................................................................................................... 70 Teacher growth and knowledge ............................................................................................. 75 The impact of professional development opportunities on teachers’ professional growth ....... 84 Research question # 1: Activities and strategies that support curriculum implementation ..... 84 Theme 1: Small group interactions ....................................................................................... 85 Theme 3: In-class support...................................................................................................... 94 Theme 4: Supplemental materials ........................................................................................ 97 Theme 5: Embedded on-site ................................................................................................. 99 Research question # 2: Use of assessment records ................................................................ 106 Theme 1: Complexity of learning trajectories ..................................................................... 107

viii Theme 2: Recording information on the small group records sheets .................................. 109 Research question # 3: Barriers to curriculum implementation ............................................. 111 Complexities associated with the magnitude of instructional change ................................. 112 Theme 1: Time consuming .................................................................................................. 114 Theme 2: Technology .......................................................................................................... 116 Chapter 5 ..................................................................................................................................... 122 Summary of findings................................................................................................................... 122 Discussion and interpretations ................................................................................................ 124 Developmental progression of curriculum implementation ................................................ 124 Traditional professional development ................................................................................. 125 In-class support .................................................................................................................... 126 Job-embedded learning ........................................................................................................ 127 Assessments ......................................................................................................................... 128 Barriers .................................................................................................................................... 129 Difficulty with the magnitude of instructional change ....................................................... 130 Time consuming .................................................................................................................. 131 Technology .......................................................................................................................... 132

ix Implications................................................................................................................................. 132 Future research ............................................................................................................................ 133 Conclusion .................................................................................................................................. 134 Appendix A ................................................................................................................................. 137 Interview Questions ............................................................................................................. 137 Appendix B ................................................................................................................................. 139 Sample fidelity – Small Group Activities ............................................................................ 139 Appendix C ................................................................................................................................. 140 Sample COEMET – Specific Math Activity (SMA) ........................................................... 140 Appendix D ................................................................................................................................. 141 Data analysis chart ............................................................................................................... 141 Appendix E ................................................................................................................................. 141 Appendix E ................................................................................................................................. 142 Activities and strategies during professional development opportunities ........................... 142 Appendix F.................................................................................................................................. 144 Small Group Record Sheet .................................................................................................. 144 Appendix G ................................................................................................................................. 145

x Weekly record sheet ............................................................................................................ 145 Appendix H ................................................................................................................................. 146 Build Blocks Learning Trajectory (sample) ........................................................................ 146 Appendix I .................................................................................................................................. 147 Curriculum expectations ...................................................................................................... 147 Appendix J .................................................................................................................................. 149 Mentor support sheets .......................................................................................................... 149 Appendix K ................................................................................................................................. 151 Triangulation - Gloria .......................................................................................................... 151 Appendix L ................................................................................................................................. 154 Triangulation – Betty ........................................................................................................... 154 Appendix M ................................................................................................................................ 156 Triangulation – Roslyn ........................................................................................................ 156 Appendix N ................................................................................................................................. 159 Conceptual framework for mentor and peer coach support ................................................ 159 References ............................................................................................................................... 160

xi Abstract Preschool education plays an important role in increasing school readiness and closing achievement gaps for children at risk. With public schools facing heightened accountability requirements, pre-kindergarten is one of the fastest growing sectors of public education (Preschool Yearbook, 2005). High-quality preschool programs include teachers who have been trained in early childhood education and have access to on-going learning processes. Early childhood teachers' professional development and support during the implementation of innovative curricula is a critical component in the education of young children, but their professional development is often seen as inconsistent, fragmented, and inadequate. Mentoring and peer coaching activities may be employed to support and guide teachers through the implementation process. Through the use of rigorous qualitative case study research, the purpose of this study was to explore the factors that led to teacher professional development and personal growth as they implemented a pre-kindergarten mathematics curriculum. By means of observations, interviews, and artifacts I examined the strategies and activities that supported the development of three teacher participants as they interacted with mentors and peer coaches during the implementation process. My analysis revealed that the mentoring and coaching strategies that were rooted in professional development opportunities assisted the teachers in implementing specific components of a pre-kindergarten mathematics curriculum. The professional development opportunities included high-quality facilitation and collaboration during professional development sessions, in-class support through mentoring, and embedded, on-site support through peer coaching. The teachers’ eventual change did not take place in isolation. Professional growth took place during a collaborative discovery that refined their teaching practices. Experiential learning was also a mitigating factor during the implementation

xii process. Prior learning and the professional experiences of the teachers provided a foundation for constructing, and in one case limiting; new knowledge and activities.

1 Chapter 1 Introduction Catalyzed by evidence that a high-quality early education can ameliorate the effects of disadvantage and produce ongoing benefits for children and society as a whole (Barnett et al, 2004, Barnett, 1998), pre-kindergarten has emerged as an important program to promote school readiness and close achievement gaps in elementary school and beyond. With public schools facing heightened accountability requirements, pre-kindergarten is one of the fastest growing sectors of public education (Preschool Yearbook, 2005). Several decades of research have clearly demonstrated the short- and long-term positive effects that high-quality pre-kindergarten and early childhood programs have on children's development (Chen and Chang, 2006, Schweinhart, 2005, Jimerson et al., 1999, and Stevenson & Newman 1986). A National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) study of high-quality pre-kindergarten programs in five states revealed significant improvement in children's early language, literacy and mathematical development (Barnett and Jung, 2007). Well-designed preschool education programs produce long-term improvements in school success, including higher achievement test scores, lower rates of grade repetition and special education, and higher educational attainment. Consummate early childhood programs include a rich curriculum that emphasize language, emergent literacy, early mathematics skills, motor, social, and emotional development; health and nutrition services; and structured and unstructured play. It also includes a receptive, knowledgeable staff that is responsive and attentive to children’s needs. Quality early childhood practices, well implemented and supported, can benefit all children. Although there is little dispute about whether quality programs have immediate or short- term effects on children, there are disputes about the importance of the effects and whether they

2 persist or result in other long-term affects that are more consequential (Ramey & Ramey, 1992). Many different preschool programs have been shown to produce positive effects on children’s learning and development, but those effects vary in size and persistence by type of program (Barnett, 2008). Several factors reflect the uneven distribution of high-quality early education classrooms. First, teaching and nurturing young children is often difficult and uniquely complex and may present a challenge to early childhood educators (Pianta, 2007, Smutney, 2000). Children enter the programs with various needs and at different developmental levels. Second, teaching in early education programs that target children who live below the poverty line can be even more challenging, especially if the class includes children who need extra support (Pianta, 2007; Sandall et al, 2003). Teachers in these programs may require even more assistance than is generally assumed. Finally, early childhood teachers describe themselves as alienated from and lacking the supports available to their K–12 counterparts. (Pianta, 2007). One initiative that has shown promise for promoting and supporting high-quality practice within early childhood classrooms is mentoring (Cummins, 2004). Recent work suggests that direct training methods, such as mentoring, coaching and constructive feedback based on observation of teachers, can improve early education practice and children’s performance (Pianta, 2007). Mentoring can impact the early childhood community by providing opportunities for professionals at all levels to develop their skills and abilities. It may also create an opportunity to promote high-quality learning environments for young children. The Preschool Education and its Lasting Effects: Research and Policy Implications executive summary recommends that teachers in preschool programs should receive intensive supervision and coaching, and they should be involved in a continuous improvement process for teaching and learning (Barnett, 2008).

3 Early childhood mentors are, ideally, exemplary teachers who use their extensive experience and understandings of early childhood education to facilitate the professional development of less experienced and skilled peers (Whitebook & Bellm, 1996).They can assist teachers in planning and implementing developmentally appropriate curricula that enhances all areas of children’s learning and development, including social, emotional, cognitive, physical, and language competency . Although mentoring programs for new or novice teachers have been commonplace in early childhood education since the 1980s (Whitebook & Bellm, 1996), the model of mentor as change agent within larger instructional reform efforts is a relatively new one (Ryan & Hornbeck, 2004). Mentors, in their role as change agents, are recruited prior to implementation of new curricula, are representative of the teacher population, understand the reasoning and research behind the change, and help to communicate the enthusiasm, possibilities, and details of the change to teachers within the context of their classrooms and during professional development workshops. In this position, mentors may be regarded as key intermediaries for bringing about changes in instructional practices to classrooms. For new curricula to be put into practice, teacher acceptance is crucial. Teachers need to acknowledge the importance of new curricula and recognize the significance of new teaching strategies in order to achieve successful implementation. There must also be a concerted effort to provide extensive support and assistance, through expanded opportunities for professional development and commitment and encouragement from mentors and coaches. Mentoring is a relationship between a person who has expertise and knowledge (mentor) and another person willing to learn from the expert’s experience (mentee). Therefore, the mentor can help the mentee to achieve professional development goals by sharing specialized knowledge and reflecting together. When a mentee reflects on his or her professional practice, with the

4 objective of learning to teach better, personal and professional growth may be achieved. Reflection is an important aspect of both teaching and learning. It is reflection, in collaboration with mentoring and experience, which is found to be the best teacher (Garmeston, 2001). Thus, the purpose of this case study was to explore the factors that led to teacher professional growth as they were supported and guided in the implementation of a pre- kindergarten mathematics curriculum. Because curriculum change is often a difficult thing to execute and the implementation of any new curriculum cannot succeed without the consented efforts of those involved, this empirical inquiry also examined the activities and strategies that do not lead to professional growth and therefore may hinder implementation. This examination sought to discover how teachers develop knowledge of specific classroom practices that are related to the implementation of a pre-kindergarten mathematics curriculum and how they utilized formative assessment to address issues of practice. Areas where practices converged with or diverged from activities that were discussed and modeled during professional development were also be examined. Research Problem As qualified teachers are central to children receiving a high-quality preschool education, many policy initiatives aimed at improving program quality are thwarted when insufficient attention is paid to the professional development of the workforce (Ryan & Hornbeck, 2004). Teachers should be involved in professional development workshops that expands their expertise in teaching practices, allows them to learn new skills and increases their content knowledge. Professional development should support teachers’ acquisition and implementation of important skills, yet research suggests that it often does not (Gray, 2008). Studies of the professional development of teachers have shown time and again that reform efforts usually do not get

5 successfully implemented because educators do not receive enough support in the area requiring innovation (Fullan, 2001). Seymour Sarason (1990) argues that schools are for teacher development as well as student growth. He states that ignoring this notion has contributed to the failure of many school reforms. Professional development should not be exclusively concerned with providing knowledge on a new innovation. Support is also needed for teachers to reflect on their current practice and adapt new knowledge and beliefs to their own teaching contexts (Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995). Professional development training frequently focuses on skills that do not help early childhood teachers prepare preschoolers for kindergarten success (Helterbran & Fennimore, 2004; Freeman & King, 2003).Typically, the professional development provided for early childhood teachers is characterized by episodic workshops that do not reflect research-based knowledge about effective learning or build on teachers' current practice (Hyson, 2001; Darling-Hammond, 1996). It is now widely recognized that if teachers are to improve their knowledge and skills, they need ongoing opportunities to try out new ideas within their own classroom contexts and with the help of skilled colleagues (Ryan, Hornbeck, & Frede, 2004, Fullan, 2001). Ongoing professional development is an essential part of the systemic approach to reform (Russell, 1998). Professional development that is seen as a long- term effort, not just as a one time opportunity, recognizes the need for the continuous support of teachers' learning. Research shows that professional learning can have a powerful effect on teacher skills and knowledge and on student learning (Wei et. al., 2009). To be effective, however, it must be sustained, focused on important content, and embedded in the work of collaborative professional learning teams that support ongoing improvements in teachers’ practice and student achievement (Wei et. al., 2009). In order to impact long-term changes in teachers’ skills and performance, the National Center for Education Statistics (1999) suggests

6 that there needs to be continuous opportunities for learning by increasing teachers’ time in professional development and participation in on-the job learning. The roles of mentor and coach can be directed toward the improvement of these functions as well as the professional growth of teachers that are involved in the process. The key for effective professional development is to identify innovative training strategies that help teachers keep updated on recommended, scientifically based methods so that they can apply this knowledge in their everyday practices as they work with preschool children (Snow et al., 1998).This support usually takes two forms: Professional development workshops for teachers and in-classroom support. Most research on mentoring has been done in areas such as higher education, K – 12 public schools, nursing, and the corporate world (Fagan and Walter, 1982). Very little research has been done to investigate mentoring in the field of early childhood. Although studies involving the effectiveness of early childhood mentors are limited, research in teacher education suggest that mentors can have a positive impact on teachers’ behavior (Gray, 2008; Shonkoff and Meisel, 2000). Much of the research on collaborative efforts in the early childhood classroom that currently exists is located in the special education literature; primarily, because of changes in the role of early intervention specialists or itinerant teachers in recent years (Ryan, 2004; Muijs et.al, 2004; McCormick and Brennan, 2001). In response to increasing numbers of young children with disabilities being included in regular educational settings, itinerant teachers have altered their role from direct service provision to children and families to on-site support to classroom teachers (Ryan, Hornbeck, and Frede, 2004). Studies that develop and examine systematic learning opportunities for early childhood teachers, in terms of continuous professional development, mentoring, and peer-learning through teamwork, are needed in

7 preschool. Questions as to the kinds of mentoring roles and activities that facilitate improved early childhood teaching practices, and the way this mentoring work should be structured and organized, need to be addressed. Attempts to implement innovations often do not take into account the personal side of change. Supporting teacher learning has been identified as an area that warrants ongoing support and attention. The perceptions, concerns and needs of those required to implement the innovation are often overlooked when designing a professional development plan. In their discussion of teacher concerns during the implementation process, Peers, Diezmann, and Watters (2003) write that teacher concerns consisted of: Inadequate support for planning, including the time required to understand the innovation and make changes to teaching practice; teacher knowledge; classroom management strategies; and ways to cope with change. Understanding of these issues of concern is vital for the successful implementation of curriculum innovations. To assist teachers in examining their thinking and classroom practices and to broaden their vision of what constitutes optimal learning for students, they will need support, encouragement, and guidance. To ensure that preschool teachers receive appropriate professional development training, policy makers in early education have begun to create different types of teacher consultant positions such as mentors and curriculum coaches (Ryan, Hornbeck, and Frede, 2004). Citing the increasing need for educated professionals in the field of early care and education and the positive outcomes associated with mentoring programs, the United States Department of Labor extended their definition of an apprenticeship program to include mentoring for providers of early care and education (Utley and Horm, 2008). Mentoring for effective early childhood practices highlights the practices of accomplished mentors as they guide and support early childhood teachers in developing the environment and instructional practices that scaffold social,

8 emotional, physical and cognitive development of children. Early childhood mentoring has the potential to build a foundation for growth and change, promote personal development, and foster professional growth (Pavia, 2003). However, few investigations of the actual experiences of participants in such programs currently exist (Pavia, 2003). Additional studies that concentrate on the activities, perceptions, and interactions of both mentors and mentees that support professional growth are needed if professionals are to realize the maximum benefits of mentoring programs in the early childhood community. Research Questions Although much has been written to guide professionals in practical strategies and processes for developing and managing mentoring programs (Boice, 1992; Boyle and Boice, 1998), limited studies have investigated the mentoring activities and strategies that support teacher professional development. Few studies have focused on the interpersonal relationship that develops as professionals achieve or resist acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to implement new curricula (Kise, 2006; Knight, 2007). Of interest in this study was the extent to which mentoring, when paired with a research based pre-kindergarten mathematics curriculum, can provide an opportunity for teachers to analyze and reflect on their current practices. The progression of teacher growth in understanding the sequence of young children’s mathematical learning, incorporating them into their practice and providing insight into the supports and concerns associated with this growth, were also examined. Much can be learned from examining the perceptions and views of those involved in the mentoring practice and how this collaboration assists or hinders teachers in the implementation process. In an effort to begin expanding the research base on mentoring and coaching roles during the implementation of new curricula in early childhood classrooms, this investigation sought to answer the following research questions:

9 1. What mentoring and coaching activities assist or hinder teachers in effectively implementing new math curricula? 2. In what ways do mentoring and coaching strategies assist or deter teachers from using formative assessments to guide their instructional decisions? The Building Blocks curriculum is designed to develop preschool children’s early mathematical knowledge through whole group, small group, independent centers, computer activities, assessments, and a home-school link. All components are organized so that they are interconnected to increase children’s formal and informal mathematical knowledge. Teachers play a critical role in implementing and linking all the components. 3. If teachers do not fully implement all components of the preschool mathematics curriculum, do they identify the barriers that prevented them from successfully completing all components of the curriculum in their classrooms? If barriers are identified, how do they address them within or outside of the mentoring relationship? Background This study stems from a large scale research project, Scaling Up TRIAD: Teaching Early Mathematics for Understanding with Trajectories and Technologies, funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), as part of the Interagency Educational Research Initiative (IERI) program, a federal partnership of the IES, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and the National Science Foundation (NSF)). This research project is a study of Building Blocks, an integrated early childhood mathematics curriculum and professional development innovations in three states; New York, Massachusetts, and Tennessee. This research project has its roots in a previous IERI project funded by the NSF, Scaling Up the Implementation of a Pre-Kindergarten Mathematics

10

Curricula: Teaching for Understanding with Trajectories and Technologies. The current grant builds upon the previous research in which the TRIAD theory and structure was created. The goals of the TRIAD (Technology-enhanced, Research-based, Instruction, Assessment, and professional Development) research are to effectively improve achievement in early mathematics, including narrowing the achievement gap, to provide a transferable, sustainable model for successful, systemic scaled up instruction, assessment, and professional development. In addition, objectives are to provide professional development for coaches and mentors. The emphasis on both IES-funded projects is on scaling up, which is; working with a larger number of teachers and greater complexities that are involved in large-scale implementations (see Sarama, Clements, Starkey, Klein, & Wakeley, 2008; UBTRIAD.org). During the 2005-2006 school year, pre-kindergarten teachers from an urban school district were involved in this large-scale research project. The research project was designed to test the effectiveness of the early childhood mathematics curriculum and its long-term benefits to students who were taught the curriculum during their pre-kindergarten school year. This longitudinal study will follow the pre-kindergarten children into the first grade. During the first year of implementation, the teachers who participated in the professional development workshops were given curriculum support materials (teacher edition of the curriculum, resource guide, assessment book, and concrete manipulatives), technology support (technology person, computer, and website), and relaxed mentor support. The mentors had informal visits to the participating teachers’ classroom; that is, the mentors assisted the teacher in adjusting to the curriculum and discovering methods to modify their existing curriculum and classroom routines. The first year of the research project was termed the introductory year because the goal of the professional development workshops was to introduce and allow the teachers to become familiar

11

with the innovative early childhood mathematics curriculum. The structure of the professional development workshops was designed to give the teachers an overview of the research and the rationale for an early childhood mathematics curriculum in pre-kindergarten classrooms. The workshops exposed the teachers to content that helped them deepen and contextualize their subject-area knowledge and prepared them to respond to the needs of individual children. It also gave teachers an introduction to and practice with the materials and activities of the curriculum and an opportunity to become familiar with the technology component of the curriculum. I was involved in all aspects of the professional development workshops during the introductory year. My participation was crucial and meaningful because I was a former pre- school teacher who had used many of the curriculum activities in my classroom during my prior involvement with the curriculum developers. My insight and familiarity with the activities, materials, and website gave the teachers a tangible link between the curriculum and the curriculum developers. I assisted the curriculum developers during introductory whole group instruction. I was available for questions and suggestions on activities that were introduced during these sessions. I also prepared and directed small group instructional activities. During these sessions, the teachers were given the opportunity to practice the activities with the actual materials that the children would be using in their classrooms. They were also given the opportunity to ask specific, focused questions about the activities while gaining hands on experience with the curriculum materials. Delimitations and Limitations Limitations The most obvious limitation in this qualitative research relate to the ability to draw descriptive or inferential conclusions from the sample teacher data about the larger group of

12

teachers. The observations were limited to descriptions of what occurred with a small group of teachers and this limited the ability to generalize my results. Time spent on this qualitative study was also limited due to the fact that the research was conducted within the data collection period of the larger research project. Delimitation The study was delimited by focusing only on pre-kindergarten teachers that were employed by the school district that had agreed to participate in the larger research study. This delimitation allowed me to be organized and focused as my data was collected as efficiently and effectively as possible. Definition of Terms A number of key terms used in this research need to be defined because they share common characteristics in the literature and may be used interchangeably. The following definitions were obtained from IES National Center for Educational Statistics website, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/glossary/m.asp . Early Childhood Education: It is the care and education in the earliest stages of childhood. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), it spans the human life from birth to age 8. Preschool: A class enrolling children younger than 5 years of age and organized to provide educational experiences under professionally qualified teachers during the year or year’s immediately preceding kindergarten (or prior to entry into elementary school when there is no kindergarten). Pre-Kindergarten: Public preprimary education for children ages 3–4 (ages 3–5 in some states) who have not yet entered kindergarten. It may offer a program of general education or special

13

education and, in some states, may be part of a collaborative effort with Head Start or other community based organizations. Private preprimary educational programs are typically referred to as center-based programs. Mentoring and Coaching: The Distinction Peer Coach: A coach’s concern is focused on job performance, the ability to adapt to change, and requires the teachers’ support in the direction the coaching will go. Coaching recognizes teachers’ preferences and needs. In this study, coaching was the on-site support for curriculum activity implementation and technical related learning and growth. The coaching was focused on learning professional skills towards the integration of the pre-kindergarten mathematics curriculum into the classroom routine. A teacher colleague, who was also a part of the larger research project and responsible for implementing the curriculum in a pre-kindergarten classroom, will provide the coaching. The coaches were encouraged to use open-ended questions to assist teachers to objectively see their own patterns of behavior and to prompt reflection, goal- setting, planning and action to increase the implementation of the curriculum. Mentor: Mentoring is an authority free, two-way mutually beneficial learning experience. The mentor provides advice, shares knowledge and experiences, and co-teaches using a low pressure, self-discovery approach. Mentors use an adult learning model and are willing to question for self-discovery while also freely sharing their own experiences and skills with the teacher. The mentor is a source of information, support, and a Socratic questioner. Mentoring is the all-inclusive relationship and process, and includes everything done to support teachers’ orientation and professional development. It is the whole set of strategies for support, which includes building and sustaining relationships, and handling challenges. Coaching is one of the sets of strategies that mentors must learn and effectively use to increase their teachers’ skills and

Full document contains 185 pages
Abstract: Preschool education plays an important role in increasing school readiness and closing achievement gaps for children at risk. With public schools facing heightened accountability requirements, pre-kindergarten is one of the fastest growing sectors of public education (Preschool Yearbook, 2005). High-quality preschool programs include teachers who have been trained in early childhood education and have access to on-going learning processes. Early childhood teachers' professional development and support during the implementation of innovative curricula is a critical component in the education of young children, but their professional development is often seen as inconsistent, fragmented, and inadequate. Mentoring and peer coaching activities may be employed to support and guide teachers through the implementation process. Through the use of rigorous qualitative case study research, the purpose of this study was to explore the factors that led to teacher professional development and personal growth as they implemented a pre-kindergarten mathematics curriculum. By means of observations, interviews, and artifacts I examined the strategies and activities that supported the development of three teacher participants as they interacted with mentors and peer coaches during the implementation process. My analysis revealed that the mentoring and coaching strategies that were rooted in professional development opportunities assisted the teachers in implementing specific components of a pre-kindergarten mathematics curriculum. The professional development opportunities included high-quality facilitation and collaboration during professional development sessions, in-class support through mentoring, and embedded, on-site support through peer coaching. The teachers' eventual change did not take place in isolation. Professional growth took place during a collaborative discovery that refined their teaching practices. Experiential learning was also a mitigating factor during the implementation process. Prior learning and the professional experiences of the teachers provided a foundation for constructing, and in one case limiting; new knowledge and activities.