Experimental Evaluation of a Preschool Language Curriculum: Influence on Children’s Expressive Language Skills Purpose The primary purpose of this study was to investigate child impacts following implementation of a comprehensive language curriculum, the Language-Focused Curriculum (LFC; Bunce, 1995), within their preschool classrooms. As part of this larger purpose, this study identified child-level predictors of expressive language outcomes for children attending at-risk preschool programs ... Research Article
Research Article  |   August 01, 2008
Experimental Evaluation of a Preschool Language Curriculum: Influence on Children’s Expressive Language Skills
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Laura M. Justice
    University of Virginia
  • Andrew Mashburn
    University of Virginia
  • Khara L. Pence
    University of Virginia
  • Alice Wiggins
    University of Virginia
  • Contact author: Laura M. Justice, who is now at the School of Teaching and Learning, College of Education and Human Ecology, The Ohio State University, 1945 North High Street, 231 Arps Hall, Columbus OH 43210. E-mail: justice.57@osu.edu.
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   August 01, 2008
Experimental Evaluation of a Preschool Language Curriculum: Influence on Children’s Expressive Language Skills
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2008, Vol. 51, 983-1001. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/072)
History: Received August 16, 2007 , Accepted January 17, 2008
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2008, Vol. 51, 983-1001. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/072)
History: Received August 16, 2007; Accepted January 17, 2008
Web of Science® Times Cited: 50

Purpose The primary purpose of this study was to investigate child impacts following implementation of a comprehensive language curriculum, the Language-Focused Curriculum (LFC; Bunce, 1995), within their preschool classrooms. As part of this larger purpose, this study identified child-level predictors of expressive language outcomes for children attending at-risk preschool programs as well as main effects for children’s exposure to the language curriculum and its active ingredients—namely, teacher use of language stimulation techniques (LSTs; e.g., open questions, recasts, models).

Method Fourteen preschool teachers were randomly assigned to 2 conditions. Treatment teachers implemented the experimental curriculum for an academic year; a total of 100 children were enrolled in their classrooms. Comparison teachers maintained their prevailing curriculum; a total of 96 children were enrolled in these classrooms. Teachers’ fidelity of implementation was monitored using structured observations conducted 3 times during the academic year. Children’s growth in expressive language was assessed using measures derived from language samples in the fall and spring, specifically percent complex utterances, rate of noun use, number of different words, and upper bound index.

Results Children’s language skill in the fall, socioeconomic status (household income), and daily attendance served as significant, positive predictors of their language skill in the spring. The impact of the language curriculum and LST exposure was moderated by children’s classroom attendance, in that the language curriculum accelerated language growth for children who attended preschool regularly; a similar effect was seen for LST exposure.

Conclusions Adoption of a comprehensive language curriculum may provide a value-added benefit only under highly specific circumstances. Findings suggest that at-risk children who receive relatively large doses of a curriculum (as measured in days of attendance during the academic year) that emphasizes quality language instruction may experience accelerated expressive language growth during pre-kindergarten.

Acknowledgments
The findings reported here are based on research conducted by the authors as part of the Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research (PCER) program funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) through Grant R305J030084 to the University of Virginia. The PCER Consortium consists of representatives from IES, the national evaluation contractors, RTI International (RTI), Mathematica Policy Research (MPR), and each grantee site participating in the evaluation. The findings reported here are based on the complementary research activities carried out at the University of Virginia under the PCER program. These findings may differ from the results reported for the PCER national evaluation study. The findings presented in this article sought to answer complementary research questions. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the PCER Consortium, including IES, RTI, and MPR, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education.
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