Development and evaluation of an integrated early childhood development and violence prevention teacher-training intervention in Jamaican preschools

Lead Research Organisation: Bangor University
Department Name: Sch of Psychology

Abstract

The 'Irie Classroom Toolbox' is a universal violence prevention programme, developed for use in low and middle-income countries (LMIC), which involves training preschool teachers in classroom behaviour management and in how to promote young children's social-emotional competence.
We recently conducted a study in Jamaica in which 76 preschools were randomly assigned to either receive training in the 'Irie Classroom Toolbox' (38 schools, 115 teachers) or to receive the training at a later date (38 schools, 114 teachers). We found that teachers trained in the 'Irie Classroom Toolbox' used 67% less violence against children (including physical punishment, verbal abuse and intimidation) than teachers who did not receive the training. Furthermore, the training led to significant improvements to the emotional and organisational climate of the classroom, and to observations of children's class-wide prosocial skills. A random sample of children was evaluated (n=865) and benefits of intervention were found for children's inhibitory control and for the proportion of children with clinical level behaviour difficulties.
Although significant benefits were also found to the instructional support offered by intervention teachers; the scores for both intervention and control teachers were low (<2 on a 7-point scale); indicating that cognitive and language stimulation was inadequate.
To maximise the effectiveness of the 'Irie Classroom Toolbox' to promote children's development across the cognitive and language domains in addition to the social and emotional domains, teachers need additional training. In this study, we plan to evaluate a module on instructional support which will include include i) how to promote children's higher order thinking and cognition, ii) how to provide feedback to expand child learning and understanding and iii) how to facilitate children's language development.
20 preschools who been trained in the 'Irie Classroom Toolbox' will be randomly assigned to a group in which teachers receive training in instructional support (10 schools, 30 classrooms) or a second group that will receive no additional training (10 schools, 30 classrooms). A random sample of 5 children per class will also be evaluated (300 children; 150 in each group). The intervention involves 2 full-day training workshops and 4 in-class support sessions (once a month for four months).
We will evaluate the effect of the intervention on teachers' use of the instructional strategies during teaching and learning activities. We will also evaluate the selected children's school readiness and language skills. To monitor that this additional training does not reduce teachers' behaviour management skills, we will measure teachers' use of violence against children and child behaviour difficulties in both groups.
We will document factors relating to the implementation of the intervention on an on-going basis including teachers' engagement with the material, their strengths and needs in implementing the strategies and barriers and enablers to implementation.
Through this study we will investigate the acceptability, feasibility and effectiveness of the intervention and we will use the data to develop intervention manuals that are suitable for national dissemination including materials for teachers (e.g. activity guides) and materials for trainers (e.g. training manuals).
The enhanced 'Irie Classroom Toolbox' produced through this study will be a teacher-training programme to i) prevent violence against children by teachers, ii) prevent the early development of antisocial behaviour and iii) promote children's social, emotional cognitive and language skills in early childhood classrooms. The intervention will be suitable for use with poorly trained teachers, working in poorly resourced settings in LMIC. The outputs of this study will make a strong contribution to the global agenda on violence prevention and the global goal of improved child development.

Technical Summary

Aim: To integrate an instructional support component into the 'Irie Classroom Toolbox' (a universal, violence prevention, preschool teacher-training programme) and to conduct an on-going evaluation to ensure the intervention is acceptable, feasible and effective in improving teacher practices and child development.
Sample: 20 preschools in Kingston, Jamaica, whose teachers have been trained in the 'Irie Classroom Toolbox', will be randomly assigned to intervention (n=10) or control (n=10). Each preschool consists of three classrooms (one 3,4 and 5 year old class) and all teachers and classrooms will be included in the study (30 teachers per group). In addition, a random sample of 5 children from each class will be selected for evaluation of child-level outcomes (150 per group).
Intervention: The intervention involves training teachers in strategies to promote children's cognitive and language skills. Training is delivered through 2 full-day workshops and 4 in-class coaching sessions.
Measurements: The primary outcome measure is observations of teachers' use of appropriate instructional strategies in a structured book sharing session and in everyday teaching and learning activities. Secondary outcomes are child school readiness and language skills. Measures will also include observations of teachers' use of violence against children and teacher-reported child behaviour difficulties to ensure the additional training does not have a negative effect on teachers' previous training in behaviour management.
Process evaluation: An on-going process evaluation will be conducted to examine teachers' engagement with the training and the barriers and enablers to implementation both in terms of teachers implementation of the strategies and the facilitators' delivery of the training.
Outputs: The information from the study will be used to develop intervention materials suitable for use in national dissemination including materials i) for teachers and ii) for facilitators.

Planned Impact

The most direct beneficiaries of this research will be the participant teachers and children. In addition, if teachers continue to use these strategies, they will continue benefiting new cohorts of children over time.
There is a high level of interest in Jamaica around several of the issues to be addressed in this research especially i) the use of corporal punishment in schools, ii) child language (given the difference between the language used at home (Jamaican patois) and school (Jamaican standard English)) and iii) academic underachievement among children. Thus, we anticipate wide interest in the results of this study. Our dissemination activities will raise awareness in Jamaican society of the availability of effective child management techniques, the value of engaging young children in interactive book reading and the importance of early childhood stimulation to promote child learning and achievement.
If the intervention is effective, our greatest potential impact within Jamaica would result from wide-scale adoption by the MOE, the ECC, the teacher training colleges and The National Council for Technical Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET). These institutions are actively seeking appropriate strategies to eliminate the use of corporal punishment in schools and to improve the quality of the early childhood learning environments to promote child development. This intervention is being designed to be suitable for integration into pre-service and in-service teacher training. Integrating the intervention into existing teacher training initiatives has the potential for a large impact in terms of reducing violence against children, improving child mental health and promoting children's academic achievement at the population level in Jamaica. Given our close links with these organisations, we anticipate that uptake of this intervention should occur over the short to medium term with benefits seen within five years from the end of the study.
The intervention has been designed to be suitable for implementation in low-resource settings with teachers with low levels of training in education. If the intervention implemented at scale is effective at reducing violence against children by teachers, reducing child behaviour difficulties and promoting children's development in the Jamaica early childhood setting, we will work with colleagues in the UNICEF regional office and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to disseminate the intervention more widely across Latin America and the Caribbean. The intervention also has the potential to be adapted for use with early childhood practitioners in other low and middle income countries as it uses practical and participatory training methods to teach key behaviour and instructional support principles that have been designed to be relevant, easy to use, effective and feasible for poorly trained teachers, with limited resources and high child-staff ratios. The language component (e.g. training teachers in dialogic reading techniques and language facilitation skills) will be particularly relevant to other LMIC in which children speak a different language at home and school and the other instructional support components are relevant to many LMIC in which instruction in early childhood classrooms is characterised by rote learning rather than more developmentally appropriate, child-centred techniques.
CAIHR has an international reputation for conducting high quality research addressing important public health problems for the region and beyond and is a prominent training institute for public health researchers in the Caribbean region. We are currently supporting several graduate students in Jamaica who have been working with Dr. Baker-Henningham to develop and evaluate the 'Irie Classroom Toolbox' and they will continue to work with us on this study. Building the research capacity of junior Jamaican staff will facilitate the continuation of this programme of research in the future.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Teachers who had been previously trained in a violence prevention programme, The Irie Classroom Toolbox, were provided with additional training in a module on instructional support. The aim of the additional module was to increase teachers' use of language facilitation techniques and techniques to improve children's learning. Through this research we examined the feasibility, relevance, and acceptability of the intervention and evaluated its effectiveness on observations of teachers' use of the strategies in the classroom. A random sample of children from each classroom were included in the evaluation with direct tests of school readiness and language skills. We also evaluated whether the additional training reduced the effectiveness of the previous training in The Irie Classroom Toolbox by conducting observations of teachers' use of violence in the classroom and measuring teachers' professional well-being and child behaviour difficulties by teacher-report.
1. Teachers who participated in the intervention were observed to use significantly more instructional support techniques than teachers in a comparison group. A qualitative evaluation of the intervention showed that the training was acceptable, feasible and relevant for participating teachers. The additional training did not reduce the effectiveness of the previous training in violence prevention as there were no differences between the intervention and control groups in teachers' use of violence, teachers' professional well-being or child behaviour difficulties.
2. The intervention led to small benefits to children's oral language skills. There were no benefits to child school readiness. The intervention was delivered over a short time frame (6 months) and it is possible that benefits to children will increase over time if teachers continue to use the strategies taught. It is important that future studies include a longer-term follow-up of teacher and child outcomes.
4. As part of this work, we developed an observational instrument to evaluate teachers' use of instructional support techniques in the classroom. The instrument had good reliability and was sensitive to change. This observation instrument will form the basis of a short checklist to be used during routine supervision by government early childhood supervisors.
5. Through this work, we have developed a teacher-training module to train early childhood practitioners in key instructional support techniques. The main techniques taught are a) how to teach vocabulary to children, b) using rich language in the classroom, c) giving feedback to expand children's learning and understanding, and d) responding contingently to children's responses. The resources to accompany the module include resources for teachers (a teacher manual explaining the techniques and giving concrete examples, and visual aids for use in the classroom), and resources for facilitators (a training manual and in-class support guide).
Exploitation Route We are currently working with the Early Childhood Commission in Jamaica to disseminate the Irie Classroom Toolbox nationally within Jamaica through ongoing in-service training initiatives. The additional module in instructional support developed and tested through this work will be included in this training. All early childhood education development officers and inspectors and their supervisors will be provided with copies of the resources. The resources will also be available through a Creative Commons License and added to our website (www.irietoolbox.com) so that they can be freely downloaded by early childhood educators within and beyond Jamaica.
We continue to conduct workshops and professional seminars for early childhood educators in Jamaica as part of the Professional Development Institute of the Early Childhood Commission. Through these workshops we raise awareness of the Toolbox and direct teachers to the website.
The work also contributed to building the capacity of four junior Jamaican research staff in the design, implementation and evaluation of early childhood interventions. Two of these staff are continuing to work on research related to early childhood teacher and parent-training programmes within Jamaica and the aim is that they will become independent researchers who will lead this programme of research in the future.
Sectors Education

 
Description The Early Childhood Commission, Jamaica have integrated the Irie Classroom Toolbox teacher-training programme into their ongoing in-service training initiatives. We have trained the regional senior ECC officers in the program and these senior officers have trained all regional ECC field officers. The next steps is for these regional field officers to train the early childhood practitioners. This activity is currently on hold due to COVID-19.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Education
 
Description Early Childhood Commission has adopted the Irie Classroom Toolbox as part of their in-service training initiatives
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The Irie Classroom Toolbox is being disseminated through in-service training initiatives to early childhood educators in Jamaica. This school year (2019-2020) we are working in all six educational regions across Jamaica. We have trained the senior ECC staff in each region to conduct teacher training workshops and approximately 100 early childhood practitioners are being reached through this initiative. In July 2020, all early childhood development officers and inspectors will be trained to deliver the Irie Classroom Toolbox workshops so that all early childhood educators across Jamaica can access the training.
 
Description An Integrated Violence Prevention and Early Childhood Development Programme Across Home and School Settings for National Dissemination in Jamaica
Amount £37,000 (GBP)
Organisation Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2020 
End 06/2021
 
Description Dissemination of the Irie Classroom Toolbox with the ECC
Amount $150,000 (USD)
Organisation UNICEF 
Sector Public
Country United States
Start 07/2019 
End 08/2020
 
Description Non-violent parenting and stress coping support to caregivers in Jamaica
Amount $24,619 (USD)
Organisation World Bank Group 
Sector Public
Country United States
Start 01/2021 
End 12/2021
 
Description Preparing the IRIE Classroom Toolbox for National Dissemination in Jamaica
Amount £31,775 (GBP)
Organisation Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2020 
End 07/2020
 
Title Impact of the addition of an instructional support module to the Irie Classroom Toolbox 
Description The database consists of pre and post measures collected in 20 preschools in Kingston and St Andrew, Jamaica. Data includes observations of teachers use of language during book reading activities and during everyday teaching and learning activities, observations of teachers' use of violence (including physical violence and psychological aggression), teacher-reported well-being, and measures of child language, school readiness skills and behaviour in a random sample of children in each school. The dataset includes 65 teachers at baseline and post-test and 299 children at pretest and 288 children at post-test. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact We are currently analysing the data 
 
Title Qualitative and process evaluation of adding instructional support module to the Irie Classroom Toolbox 
Description The dataset consists of transcripts of fifteen in-depth semi-structured interviews with early childhood teachers who had participated in the intervention and facilitator record forms that were completed after each in-class support session. 34 teachers participated in the intervention and each received five in-class support sessions giving a total of 170 facilitator record forms for analysis. The dataset also includes data on teacher attendance and participation in the intervention and teacher satisfaction after each training workshop. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The data has been used to refine the teaching materials and materials for trainers used to implement the intervention. These materials will now be included in the Irie Classroom Toolbox training package which is currently being disseminated across Jamaica through ongoing in-service training initiatives with early childhood educators. 
 
Description Collaboration with UNICEF and the Early Childhood Commission 
Organisation UNICEF
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We are training the senior early childhood education supervisors and inspectors in each educational region in Jamaica in the Irie Classroom Toolbox. This involves training the ECC team through a series of workshops and providing support as the team conduct workshops with the teachers. We are also preparing technical guides for use by the ECC team to maximise the quality and fidelity of the training. We have also provided full kits of the Irie Classroom Toolbox to the ECC to facilitate the trainings.
Collaborator Contribution UNICEF are providing funds to support the training and the ECC are allocating staff time to the collaboration. The ECC are also covering costs of transportation and consumables.
Impact The collaboration is multi-disciplinary and includes the disciplines of early childhood education, psychology, child health and epidemiology. The outputs include: 1) a revised training manual, 2) a supervisory checklist, 3) a guide documenting the alignment of the Irie Classroom Toolbox with the Jamaican early childhood curriculum and the Operational Standards of early childhood institutions, and 4) technical guides to assist early childhood education supervisors to incorporate the Irie Classroom Toolbox into school development plans.
Start Year 2019
 
Title Enhanced version of the Irie Classroom Toolbox 
Description The Irie Classroom Toolbox consists of materials for teachers and materials for facilitators. Materials for teachers include: 1) a theory book describing all the strategies introduced through the Toolbox, 2) an activity book giving lesson plans, games, and activities, 3) a resource book of photocopiable resources including visual aids, behaviour planning forms and Irie notes home and 4) fourteen social problem-solving stories to use with young children. Materials for facilitators include: 1) a training manual, 2) a coaching manual and 3) a series of video vignettes 
IP Reference  
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2019
Licensed Yes
Impact The Irie Classroom Toolbox has been adopted by the Early Childhood Commission as their in-service training programme to train early childhood educators in classroom behaviour management and to promote children's social and emotional competence.
 
Description Workshop at the Professional Development Institute of the Early Childhood Commission, Jamaica 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We conducted two workshops with early childhood educators attending the Professional Development Institute of the Early Childhood Commission in Jamaica.
The workshops led to increased use of our website by early childhood educators in Jamaica and created demand for the programme.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019