This project was submitted to the Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) program that seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models, and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. The project will adapt and study a promising and replicable teacher professional development (PD) intervention, called Collaborative Math (CM), for use in early childhood programs. CM content will focus on nine topics emphasized in preschool mathematics, including sets, number sense, counting, number operations, pattern, measurement, data analysis, spatial relationships, and shape. These concepts are organized around Big Ideas familiar in early math, are developmentally appropriate and foundational to a young child's understanding of mathematics. The project addresses the urgent need for improving early math instruction for low-income children. Prepared as generalists, preschool teachers typically acquire less math knowledge in pre-service training than their colleagues in upper grades, which reduces their effectiveness in teaching math. To address teacher PD needs, the project will simultaneously develop teacher content knowledge, confidence, and classroom practice by using a whole teacher approach. Likewise, the project will involve teachers, teacher aides, and administrators through a whole school approach in PD, which research has shown is more effective than involving only lead teachers. Through several phases of development and research, the project will investigate the contributions of project components on increases in teacher knowledge and classroom practices, student math knowledge, and overall implementation. The project will impact approximately 200 Head Start (HS) teaching staff, better preparing them to provide quality early math experiences to more than 3,000 HS children during the project period. Upon the completion of the project, a range of well-tested CM materials such as resource books and teaching videos will be widely available for early math PD use. Assessment tools that look at math knowledge, attitudes, and teacher practice will also be available.
The project builds on Erikson Institute research and development work in fields of early math PD and curriculum. Over a 4-year span, project development and research will be implemented in 4 phases: (1) adapting the existing CM and research measures for HS context; (2) conducting a limited field study of revised CM in terms of fidelity and director, teacher/aide, and student outcomes, and study of business as usual (BAU) comparison groups; (3) a study of the promise of the intervention promise with the phase 3 BAU group (who offered baseline in phase 2) and (4) a test of the 2nd year sustainability intervention with phase 3 treatment group. The teacher and student measures are all published, frequently used measures in early childhood education and will be piloted and refined prior to full implementation. The project is a partnership between Erikson, SRI, and Chicago Head Start programs. Project research and resources will be widely disseminated to policy makers, researchers, and practitioners.