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Nurturing the Nurturers: Takeaways from the Society for Research in Child Development Conference

Upcoming research continues to find high-performing early childhood programs have supportive workplace conditions.

Debra Pacchiano October 19, 2021
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By Debra Pacchiano, Vice President of Translational Research and Isabel Farrar, Research Associate at Start Early

Start Early recently organized a session at the 2021 Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) conference that highlighted three soon-to-be published research studies from across the field that push our understanding of whether and how The Essential 0-5 Survey framework relates to other aspects of quality and outcomes we care about in early childhood programs. Together, these studies examine how specific organizational conditions identified in the survey framework impact teacher well-being and retention and how to measure the strength of these essential conditions within programs serving infants and toddlers.

What we continue to find is that nurturing begets nurturing: when teachers, staff and families are nurtured and supported by robust organizational conditions, especially facilitative and instructional leadership and routine collaboration with peers, teachers and staff are more committed, persistent, and competent in meeting the dynamic and changing needs of children and families.

In one upcoming study, researchers Anna J. Markowitz, Daphna Bassok, and Amanda Rosensky of the University of Virginia used data from early childhood programs across Louisiana to explore associations between teachers’ perceptions of their leaders as effective instructional leaders and measures of teacher turnover intentions, observed turnover, teacher well-being and the quality of teacher-child interactions. Their initial findings strengthen the evidence that site leadership is critically important to the quality of teachers’ interactions with children, as well as to teachers’ commitment to the program and decisions to remain in their position. These authors suggest that their findings indicate that coherent leadership development is a “potentially powerful area of intervention” impacting teacher/staff retention and quality improvements in early education settings.

Another study, conducted by Allison Friedman-Krauss, Milagros Nores, Charles Whitman, and W. Steven Barnett at the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) examines how differences in teachers’ perceptions of organizational conditions vary by teacher/school/district characterizations and impact classroom quality and teachers’ well-being. This research finds a strong association between teacher perceptions of their school organizational conditions and teacher depressive symptoms, suggesting that supporting teacher well-being is particularly important in today’s pandemic context.

Early Childhood Education & Workplace Conditions

Learn more about our three upcoming research studies.

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And finally, we presented recent research conducted with Marc Brodersen and Joshua Stewart at Marzano Research that explores whether an adapted version of The Essential 0-5 Survey is relevant to and effectively measures the strength of organizational conditions in infant and toddler settings, something the field currently lacks. The team used cognitive interviews and survey data from a sample of Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grantees and programs in three states to evaluate the technical adequacy of the surveys. Initial findings suggest the adapted surveys do capture teacher, staff, and parent perceptions of these essential conditions meaningfully and reliably within programs serving infants, toddlers and their families.

These new research findings add to the growing body of evidence that surrounding teachers and practitioners with robust workplace supports improves their well-being, increases collective purpose and responsibility, and builds their individual and collective capacity to successfully meet the changing and diverse needs of young children and their families starting at birth. Efforts to support leaders in early childhood settings as they support their staff are more important now more than ever given the reality that programs are acutely struggling to support and retain staff due to COVID-19.

Learn more about the three upcoming research studies in our research brief.

About the Author

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Debra Pacchiano

Former Vice President, Translational Research

Debra Pacchiano, Ph.D leads the development of the Start Early’s The Essential 0-5 Survey, a system to measure organizational conditions essential to continuous improvement in early childhood education.

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