The We Grow Together Professional Development System: Final Report of the 2019 Field Test

Publication Date: April 9, 2021
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  • Published: 2021

Introduction

Research Questions

  1. Who are the participants in the WGT field test?
  2. What tools and support help early childhood professionals to use the responsive caregiving principles covered by WGT to improve caregiver-child interactions?
  3. Can WGT be used by early childhood professionals to support change in beliefs, knowledge, or practice concerning infants and toddlers?

We Grow Together (WGT) is a professional development (PD) system for caregivers working with infants and toddlers in center-based care and family child care homes. Caregivers are supported in planning and using the WGT practices through relationship- and practice-based coaching from a trained local PD provider who can be a coach, supervisor, mentor, or anyone else who provides ongoing PD. WGT is based on nationally recommended best practices for interacting with infants and toddlers that are measured with the Q-CCIIT observational tool. This report includes findings from a WGT field test conducted from fall 2018 through spring 2019. The test assessed the use of nine web-based professional development modules designed to support infants’ and toddlers’ (1) social and emotional development, (2) language and literacy development, and (3) cognitive development. These modules focus on key practices that caregivers can use each day, such as conversational turn-taking and extending children’s language.

Purpose

The purpose of the field test was to examine implementation of WGT and understand whether early childhood professionals could use it to support caregivers’ interactions with infants and toddlers.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • The participating caregivers were racially/ethnically diverse. They had an average of about 11 years of experience in ECE. About half of the caregivers had received an associate’s degree or higher. Almost three-quarters of caregivers reported having a mentor, coach, or other PD provider before the study.
  • More than half of the WGT caregivers reported spending most of their time in the Language Use or Behavior and Emotions modules.
  • Cumulatively, caregivers spent between 59.0 seconds and 24.7 hours, and PD providers spent between 3.8 minutes and 17.4 hours on the WGT website during the entire study period. The median amount of time that caregivers spent on the website was 3.0 hours. The median amount of total time that PD providers spent on the website was 3.3. hours.
  • Caregivers reported challenges in finding time to participate in WGT activities, given their already busy schedules and job responsibilities.
  • Across settings, caregivers who tried a WGT activity reported it to be useful. The activities most commonly reported as useful were trying WGT practices in their classroom, engaging in self-reflection, and receiving feedback from their PD provider.
  • Nearly all caregivers reported having positive and trusting relationships with their PD providers and collaborating to set goals.
  • More than 91 percent of caregivers reported they had a positive experience with WGT. Caregivers most commonly agreed that WGT provided useful resources and helped them become more effective in interacting with children.
  • WGT caregivers agreed more with evidence-based beliefs about practices supporting language development in spring 2019 than in fall 2018. WGT PD providers agreed more with evidence-based beliefs and knowledge about how to support children’s language development in spring 2019 than in fall 2018. Improvements were not detected for caregivers or PD provider beliefs about supporting social-emotional development, supporting cognitive development, or knowledge of child development.
  • From fall to spring, average scores for caregivers participating in WGT improved in the Support for Social-Emotional Development domain of the Q-CCIIT. We did not detect differences between fall and spring average scores in the Q-CCIIT domain scores of Support for Cognitive Development or Support for Language and Literacy Development or for the Q-CCIIT total score.

Methods

In 2018-2019, Mathematica conducted a field test to examine the implementation of WGT. The field test included 271 caregivers paired with a total of 168 PD providers across Early Head Start and community-based centers, as well as family child care homes. The field test made use of intentional sampling so that the study included a diverse sample of caregivers with a range of qualifications and professional experiences from 10 geographical areas spanning 14 states and the District of Columbia. Caregivers and PD providers worked together using the WGT resources for up to 4 months. Researchers collected data using the Q-CCIIT observational measure and surveys for caregivers and PD providers before and after implementation. They also collected data on how caregivers and PD providers accessed the materials, which modules they focused on, and how frequently they met together. The design of the study was pre-post without a comparison group.

Appendix

File Type File Name File Size
PDF The We Grow Together Professional Development System: Appendix 5,502.40 KB

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Citation

Atkins-Burnett, Sally, Louisa Tarullo, Shannon Monahan, Felicia Hurwitz, Timothy Bruursema, Ann Li, Elizabeth Blesson, Judy Cannon, Ayesha De Mond, and Anna Heckler. The We Grow Together Professional Development System Final Report of the 2019 Field Test OPRE Report #2020-170, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.