A formative experiment to enhance verbal interactions in a preschool classroom
Bradley, Barbara A
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The formative experiment reported in this dissertation aimed to enhance preschool children's linguistic and cognitive development as a foundation for later literacy acquisition by increasing the quality and quantity of the verbal interactions between teachers and children. Quantitative and qualitative baseline data were collected to establish the quality and quantity of verbal interactions occurring prior to the introduction of an intervention that focused on three typical activities during the school day in many preschools: book sharing, structured group activities, and mealtimes. During a 16-week intervention phase, the researcher worked with an experienced preschool teacher and a paraprofessional assistant to the teacher in a preschool classroom of 20 students to increase the amount of semantically contingent responses and decontextualized questions, both of which have been shown to be associated with increased cognitive and linguistic development and later literacy acquisition. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected throughout the study using interviews and informal discussion with the teachers, classroom observations and field notes, and coded transcripts of videotapes. Analysis suggested that teachers could implement decontextualized talk during book sharing and could engage children in extended conversations during mealtimes. Analysis also revealed that structured group activities involve predominately contextualized talk. A one-tailed independent samples t test indicated a significant difference between children in the intervention class and the children in the control class for gains on the standardized scores on the PLAI-2 and on the EVT. Important factors that enhanced and inhibited the intervention activities effects in producing semantically contingent and decontextualized talk were identified. Implications for further research and classroom practices are discussed. Also discussed is how the present study informs the emerging methodology of formative experiments in educational research.