An Iterative Approach to the Development of a Professional Development Intervention for Head Start Teachers

Karen Diamond
Douglas Powell


Access to high-quality education is uneven, particularly for preschool children who are at risk for school failure. Professional development (PD) for teachers, including the use of coaching, is an increasingly common approach for promoting evidence-based instruction. Existing research suggests that the frequency of teacher participation in a PD intervention is related to the magnitude of PD effects, but there is little research on how to engage teachers in learning about and implementing evidence-based practices. In this article, the authors describe an iterative approach to the development of a PD intervention that employs coaching aimed at helping Head Start teachers improve their language and literacy instruction. The authors describe sequential, small-scale studies that influenced their approach to PD. Results of a pilot study of the PD intervention suggested that teachers had positive responses to the intervention content and approach. Implications for developing and implementing PD interventions designed to improve classroom instruction are included.


Professional development, Intervention, Classroom teachers, Early childhood, Iterative process


Professional development (PD) for preschool teachers is designed to provide specific class content and classroom expectations of their teaching, as well as guidelines for active learning. In this article, Diamond and Powell revise a coaching-based PD intervention, Classroom Links to Early Literacy (CLEL) in order to help teachers improve skills related to vocabulary and phonology. Five studies are designed to examine intervention content (measured in study 1), practical implication of the intervention components(study 2 and 3), all components (study 4). Study 5 offers pilot data from preliminary analysis on relationship between PD intervention and teachers’ instruction. Study 1 reveals teachers’ uncertainty about instruction of new words. This result led Diamond and Powell to revise training materials and include more specific content of letter sounds and phonological skills. Study 2 suggests that teachers’ use of hypermedia resource depend on multimedia (text and video). Study 3 finds teachers’ positive reactions to feedback, and study 4 added that structured guidelines for feedback facilitates smoother communication between teachers’ and coaches. In study 5, Diamond and Powell conclude PD intervention increases the number of vocabularies in class session. (M=7.12 words vs M=3.7 words). As a result, child utterances also increased from 119 (control group) to 163.

APA Citation

Diamond, K. E., & Powell, D. R. (2011). An iterative approach to the development of a professional development intervention for Head Start teachers. Journal of early intervention, 33(1), 75-93.

About the Study

Links to Article
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication Journal of Early Intervention
Type of Research Mixed methods
Research Design Ethnography, Interviews, Text analysis
Intervention/Areas of Study Coaching, including academic success coaching, Faculty and professional development and/or training, Feedback
Level of Analysis Instructor-level
Specific Populations Examined Faculty, teachers, instructors, or staff
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Instructional effectiveness, Other
Student Sample Size 0-99
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