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UK Researcher’s New Project Aims to Help Preschool Teachers Get Quick Instruction Feedback

preschool child working on art projectUniversity of Kentucky College of Education researcher Collin Shepley has received a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences to develop an asynchronous online training for preschool teachers in inclusive classrooms that serve children with and without disabilities.

The project aims to help teachers quickly determine if their instruction is positively contributing to a child’s development in the areas of literacy, mathematics and cognition.

Teachers across Kentucky will be invited to provide input as the training is developed, and more than two dozen early childhood classrooms will be recruited to participate in an evaluation study to determine the project’s impact on teachers’ instruction and children’s development.

“Preschool teachers are already required to collect and report huge amounts of data on the children they serve. I don’t want teachers to view those data as getting in the way of their instruction, which is how I felt when I was a teacher. That is why I think it’s critical that teachers are equipped to use feasible and reliable assessment methods to quickly answer the question, ‘Is what I’m doing working? Is my instruction actually helping my children learn?,’” Shepley said.

Following completion of the project, the training will be made freely available as a self-paced online module that can be completed across internet-connected devices (e.g., laptop, tablet, smart phone). “If there are resources that can improve children’s outcomes, then every effort should be made to ensure that all teachers can easily access those resources for the children they serve,” Shepley said.

In addition, all publications, collected data and analyses arising from the project will be made freely available to the public. “Any school district wanting to adopt this training or distribute it to their teachers, should be able to view the evidence on which the training was established,” said Shepley.

Shepley will serve as principal investigator for this project with 12 collaborators and consultants across seven institutions of higher education and early childhood organizations contributing their mentorship and expertise to the project. “Even though most of the on-the-ground activities will be occurring here in Kentucky, the implications of this project extend to all teachers working in diverse preschool classrooms across the nation. And thus, the more people I can get to help with this project that are smarter than me, the more likely this project is to help all teachers and children,” Shepley said.

Shepley is an assistant professor of interdisciplinary early childhood education in the UK College of Education Department of Early Childhood, Special Education and Counselor Education. His project is supported by $697,576 in funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Special Education Research. The institute funds projects to provide rigorous evidence on which to ground education practice and policy.

Additional individuals contributing to the project, their affiliated institution or organization, and their role on the project are as follows: Rajeev Darolia (University of Kentucky, mentor), Melinda Ault (University of Kentucky, co-mentor), Erin Barton (Vanderbilt University, co-mentor), Kristi Pretti-Frontczak (Pre-K Teach & Play, co-mentor), Anthony Setari (Coastal Carolina University, consultant), Brian Bottge (University of Kentucky, consultant), Catherine Corr (University of Illinois, consultant), Jane Squires (University of Oregon, consultant), Jennifer Grisham (University of Kentucky, consultant), Jennifer Ledford (Vanderbilt University, consultant), Mary Louise Hemmeter (Vanderbilt University, consultant) and Stephen Bagnato (University of Pittsburgh, consultant).

Updates on the project as it gets started and additional information about Shepley’s research will be posted at https://collinshepley.myportfolio.com/.