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Examining the Potential Efficacy of a Classroom Wide Model for Promoting Social Emotional Development and Addressing Challenging Behavior in Preschool


The purposes of this application under Goal 2, Early Intervention, are to (a) refine and operationalize a multi-tiered intervention to address the social emotional development and challenging behavior of young children with or at-risk for disabilities; and (b) conduct an experimental study of the relationship between the implementation of the intervention and changes in classroom climate and teacher support, teacher-child interactions, classroom engagement and behavior incidences, and children’s social skills and challenging behavior.

Research has established a link between young children’s social emotional skills and success in school (Raver, 2002, Espinosa, 2002), yet large numbers of young children are beginning their school experiences without the emotional, social, and behavioral skills necessary for academic success (Campbell, 1995; West, Denton, & Germino-Hausken, 2000). Research has demonstrated that early problems often persist and the roots of later problems are found in the preschool years, with children living in poverty and those with disabilities exhibiting rates that are higher than the general population (GAO, 2001; Qi & Kaiser, 2003). These problems are evident in even the youngest children served by IDEA. Data indicate 10 to 40% of infants and toddlers receiving Part C services are described as having behavioral challenges (USDOE, 2001).

These data provide a compelling case for evaluating a multi-tiered intervention model focused on addressing problem behavior before children enter kindergarten. In the proposed project we will refine and operationalize the Teaching Pyramid intervention (Fox, Dunlap, Hemmeter, Joseph, & Strain, 2003) and conduct an experimental evaluation of model implementation within public school classrooms for preschool children who are at-risk for or have disabilities.

The Teaching Pyramid provides early educators with a multi-tiered model of universal strategies (responsive interactions, classroom preventive practices), secondary strategies (social emotional teaching strategies), and targeted interventions (individualized interventions) focused on promoting young children’s social and emotional development and reducing challenging behavior. The model has been disseminated as a promising practice, although implementation of the model has not been systematically evaluated.

The proposed project will be completed in two phases. Phase 1 will involve (a) establishing the psychometric integrity of a tool for measuring implementation fidelity and (b) developing and field testing implementation materials for teachers. Phase 2 will involve a randomized controlled evaluation of the implementation of the intervention in 40 classrooms (20 intervention and 20 control) in Tennessee and Florida for preschool children who are at risk for or have disabilities. All children in the classrooms, whose parents consent, will be included in the study activities. Teachers will be assigned to a control or intervention condition. Teachers in the intervention condition will be provided with training, technical assistance, and materials on the implementation of the Teaching Pyramid intervention and will be compared to teachers who are implementing “business as usual” practices. Relationships between implementing the intervention with fidelity and classroom, teacher, and child outcomes will be assessed using quantitative analytic procedures that account for repeated measures and nesting effects.

This goal 2 development study will yield data on whether implementing the Teaching Pyramid with fidelity is associated with desired preschool outcomes related to social emotional development and challenging behavior, and will provide information, materials, and data relevant to developing a future Goal 3 efficacy study.