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Is more child-initiated always better? Exploring relations between child-initiated instruction and preschoolers’ school readiness


Although research suggests that the use of child-initiated vs. teacher-directed instructional practices in early childhood education has implications for learning and development, the precise nature of these effects remains unclear. Using data from the Midwest Child-Parent Center (CPC) Expansion Project, the present study examined the possibility that a blend of child- and teacher-directed practices best promotes school readiness among preschoolers experiencing high levels of sociodemographic risk and explored whether the optimal blend varies based on child characteristics. Sixty-two CPC preschool teachers reported their instructional practices throughout the year, using a newly developed questionnaire—the Classroom Activity Report (CAR). The average reported proportion of child-initiated instruction was examined in relation to students’ end-of-year performance on a routine school readiness assessment (N = 1289). Although there was no main effect of child-initiated instruction on school readiness, there was a significant interaction between instruction and student age. Four-year olds’ school readiness generally improved as the proportion of child-initiated time increased, while 3-year-olds showed a U-shaped pattern. The present findings add to the evidence that child-initiated instruction might support preschoolers’ school readiness, although they also suggest this relation may not always be linear. They also point to the importance of examining instructional strategies in relation to student characteristics, in order to tailor strategies to the student population. The CAR has potential as a brief, practical measurement tool that can support program monitoring and professional development. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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