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Contribution of Engagement with Teachers, Peers, and Tasks to Variation in School Readiness Development during Preschool and the Role of Instructional Context
Bohlmann, N., Downer, J., & Sabol, T.
Contribution of Engagement with Teachers, Peers, and Tasks to Variation in School Readiness Development during Preschool and the Role of Instructional ContextAuthors: Natalie Bohlmann, Jason Downer, Terri SabolIt is becoming increasingly clear that the promise of preschool lies in the high quality, moment-to-moment experiences that children have as they engage in interactions with their teachers, fellow classmates, and the tasks and materials provided in the classroom (Howes & James, 2002). Although there is strong evidence that children's engagement with teachers, peers, and tasks promote children's school readiness skills within similar domains of functioning, it is less clear whether there are cross-domain associations. For example, children who engage positively with their teacher (e.g., seek proximity) are likely to have teachers view their relationship as being warm and close (Ladd & Burgess, 2001). Yet, relations between children's engagement with their teachers and other school readiness domains, such as self-regulatory skills, are also plausible (Liew et al., 2011). Further complicating the picture is that children's engagement with teachers, peers, and tasks may only be linked with language and literacy outcomes when high quality language/literacy instruction is provided by the teacher.In order to better understand the role that these within- and cross-domain associations play in development, the goal of the current study was to (a) examine the unique contributions of children's positive engagement with teachers, peers, and tasks (and negative engagement) in the classroom to changes in school readiness and (b) to investigate the impact of high quality, content-specific classroom experiences on the relation between children's engagement and academic outcomesThe sample included 211 children (49% African American, 40% Hispanic, M = 4.35, SD = .32 age in years) and their teachers (55% African American, 39% Caucasian, M = 11.97, SD =7.34 years teaching experience) from 49 preschool classrooms. Teachers completed a demographic survey and rated children (approaches to learning, teacher-child relationships) during the fall and spring. Children were administered direct language, literacy, and inhibitory control assessments in the fall and spring. inCLASS (Downer et al., 2010) observations of children's individual classroom engagement were conducted in the fall, and CLASS (Pianta et al., 2008) observations of the quality of language/literacy instruction were conducted during the winter.A series of three models (MLR; Muthen & Muthen, 2010) was fit to the data: 1) a main effects model examining the link between children's engagement (teachers, peers, tasks, and negative engagement) and school readiness outcomes (language skills, literacy skills, self-regulation, and teacher-child relationships), 2) the above model with instructional quality added as a predictor, and 3) a final model which added interactions between engagement and instructional quality on children's academic outcomes.Results provide evidence for both within- and cross-domain associations between children's engagement in the classroom and changes in children's language skills, self-regulation skills, and teacher-child relationships across a preschool year (Table 1). In terms of moderation, there was some evidence that children's print knowledge benefited from being more positively engaged with their teacher when classroom instructional quality was low (Table 2). Findings will be discussed in terms of understanding the within and cross-domain links between children's developing skills and implications for how to target early interventions for maximum returns on investment.