Design Options for an Evaluation of Head Start Coaching

Design Report

| Eboni Howard, Kathryn Drummond, Jonathan Farber, James Taylor, Barbara S. Goldman, Marie-Andrée Somers, Chrishana M. Lloyd, Michael Fishman, Jessica Wille

There is a growing consensus in the early childhood education field that the provision of targeted high-quality professional development (PD) shows promise for improving teachers’ practices classroom quality, and child outcomes. Coaching is a recommended PD practice which is increasingly widespread. Although the available evidence generally supports the positive effects of coaching overall, there are significant challenges with interpreting the evidence for the best combination of coaching practices.

The purpose of this report is to present design options for a study that will further investigate evidence for effective and efficient coaching practices. In particular, the proposed Head Start Coaching Study (hereafter called the HS Coaching Study) will evaluate specific dimensions of coaching that may impact teacher and classroom practices in Head Start (HS) and other early childhood settings. The resulting study of coaching intends to accomplish three goals:

  1. Provide strong evidence for effective and efficient coaching practices of center-based teachers of three- to five-year-olds in HS programs.

  2. Help HS programs make informed decisions about the allocation of PD resources when designing, implementing, and improving coaching programs.

  3. Advance empirical knowledge about coaching within early childhood settings and set the stage for additional research about coaching as a PD strategy.

This report provides recommendations for the following aspects of the HS Coaching Study:

  • The purpose of the study and the research questions

  • The study design for testing the impact of coaching

  • The implementation research component of the study

  • The cost component of the study

  • The measures

  • The important logistical issues for this study

The report also provides information about the content of the coaching intervention and offers recommendations for selecting a PD developer to help implement the intervention. Descriptions of the process, criteria, and guiding principles are used throughout the report to support the design recommendations for the study.

The recommended HS Coaching Study was designed to help inform HS programs decisions about the allocation of their PD resources when developing and implementing coaching. In addition, the study aims to advance the research evidence about to what degree, dimensions of coaching, impact teacher practices, classroom quality, and child outcomes. Ideally, results from the HS Coaching Study will help in designing an optimal coaching intervention that will be the focus of additional research.