Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein-Palmer


This study assesses the efficacy of using an intensive professional development program to improve preschool teachers' practices related to early literacy. A mixed methods approach was employed to review secondary data from a federally-funded Early Reading First Grant. The population studied consisted of thirty-one preschool teachers at four diverse programs serving low income children located in the mid-western urban community of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The intensive professional development used in this study resulted in significant improvements in the mean scores for all areas of the Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO) when comparing baseline to the final scores in year three. In addition, this study found significantly higher baseline scores in most areas of the ELLCO in classrooms where lead teachers had higher educational levels. This difference in scores was no longer significant in final ELLCO scores after intervention was provided through intensive professional development.

Teachers' Likert score ratings regarding the effectiveness of professional development components indicated college coursework was ranked the highest each of the three years, with conferences and in-service workshops being rated second and third respectively, the first two years. There was a significant increase in the coaching ratings from the first to the third year. Teachers' rich responses in the qualitative phase of this study revealed that this increase was tied to improvements made in defining the coaches' role and responsibilities and in the relationships that built over time between the teachers and the coaches. In addition, teachers with lower educational levels rated coaching significantly higher than teachers with higher educational levels.

In summary, key findings from this study confirm the importance of requiring higher educational qualifications for beginning preschool teachers and providing intensive professional development and coaching support for current teachers who do not meet these requirements. Both the quantitative and qualitative analysis provide direction for using scientifically based reading research and assessment as a basis for intensive professional development. Results pinpoint specific strategies such as providing financial support for college coursework, engaging learning communities, and utilizing effective coaching models focused on cognitive processes to improve preschool teachers practices related to early literacy.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access