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Early Education and

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Factors That Influence the

Implementation of a New
Preschool Curriculum:
Implications for Professional

Joan Lieber , Gretchen Butera , Marci Hanson ,


Susan Palmer , Eva Horn , Carol Czaja , Karen


Diamond , Gretchen Goodman-Jansen , Janese


Daniels , Sarika Gupta & Samuel Odom

Department of Special Education , University of


Indiana University

San Francisco State University

University of Kansas

Purdue University

Towson University

University of Maryland

University of North Carolina

Published online: 02 Jun 2009.

To cite this article: Joan Lieber , Gretchen Butera , Marci Hanson , Susan
Palmer , Eva Horn , Carol Czaja , Karen Diamond , Gretchen GoodmanJansen , Janese Daniels , Sarika Gupta & Samuel Odom (2009) Factors That
Influence the Implementation of a New Preschool Curriculum: Implications for
Professional Development, Early Education and Development, 20:3, 456-481, DOI:
To link to this article:

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ISSN: 1040-9289 print / 1556-6935 online
DOI: 10.1080/10409280802506166

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Factors That Influence the

Implementation of a New Preschool
Curriculum: Implications
for Professional Development
Joan Lieber
Department of Special Education
University of Maryland

Gretchen Butera
Indiana University

Marci Hanson
San Francisco State University

Susan Palmer and Eva Horn

University of Kansas

Carol Czaja and Karen Diamond

Purdue University

Gretchen Goodman-Jansen
University of Kansas

Janese Daniels
Towson University

Sarika Gupta
University of Maryland

Samuel Odom
University of North Carolina
Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Joan Lieber, Department of Special
Education, University of Maryland, 1308 Benjamin Building, College Park, MD 20742. E-mail:



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Research Findings: There is growing evidence that specific, teacher-led instruction

and innovative instructional activities can lead to higher levels of achievement in literacy and in mathematics for young children at risk. There is limited research evidence, however, identifying professional development interventions that are effective
in changing early childhood teachers instructional practices. Practice or Policy: The
purpose of this article is to examine the factors associated with early childhood teachers ability or inability to implement a new preschool curriculum, Childrens School
Success, and to understand if those factors are amenable to change through professional development activities.

The passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, and the associated early education reform Good Start, Grow Smart reflects a societal emphasis on the importance of educational success for all children, beginning in preschool. This emphasis reflects concerns that children who are at risk because of poverty, home
language, or disability enter kindergarten substantially behind their advantaged
peers. Data from the large-scale Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 19981999 (ECLS-K; Denton & West, 2002; West, Denton, &
Reaney, 2000) demonstrate that the skills and knowledge children bring to kindergarten, such as knowledge of letter names and numbers, provide important advantages for academic achievement. Children who come from families living in poverty, children of color, and children who are learning English enter kindergarten
with fewer of these academic skills than their more advantaged peers (Denton &
West, 2002). Factors such as poverty and home language are associated not only
with achievement gaps at kindergarten entry but with gaps in achievement that persist into high school (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1997).
Enrollment in a high-quality early education program promotes childrens development and learning of important academic and social skills associated with
school readiness (Campbell, Pungello, Miller-Johnson, Burchinal, & Ramey,
2001; Howes et al., in press; Tout, Zaslow, & Berry, 2006). Analyses of data from
the NICHD Study of Early Child Care provide substantial evidence that both the
amount and quality of childrens early education or child care experiences are related to cognitive and academic outcomes when children enter kindergarten
(NICHD ECCRN & Duncan, 2003). Data from a number of studies suggest that
the quality of the early education setting may be especially important for children
who are at risk for poor school outcomes (Campbell et al., 2002; Reynolds, Temple, Robertson, & Mann, 2002).
Recent research provides evidence for direct links between the content of teachers instruction and what young children learn in preschool. For example, children
learned more vocabulary when their teacher included instruction on specific vocabulary words during group book reading (Biemiller & Boote, 2006; Wasik,
Bond, & Hindman, 2006). Yet the goal of instructing children in specific academic
or social skills has not been central to the mission of early education in the United

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States (Powell, Diamond, Bojczyk, & Gerde, in press). National program accreditation criteria and widely used research tools for assessing program quality have
given little attention to instruction (Dickinson, 2002), and early childhood teacher
preparation programs have been criticized for providing too little attention to specific, developmentally appropriate approaches to teaching important academic
content (Bowman, Donovan, & Burns, 2001). These patterns occur in the context
of a teacher workforce where fewer than one half of early childhood teachers hold
a baccalaureate degree (Saluja, Early, & Clifford, 2002), and preschool children
who are at risk are more likely to be taught by teachers with the least amount of education (LoCasale-Crouch et al., 2007).
There is substantial variability in requirements for education and professional
preparation of early childhood teachers. There have been recommendations to increase educational requirements to a bachelors degree for early childhood teachers (Bowman et al., 2001). State-supported pre-kindergarten programs (Barnett,
Hustedt, Robin, & Schulman, 2005), as well as federally funded Head Start
programs (GovTrack, 2007) have moved toward implementing more stringent education requirements. Despite these initiatives, the evidence linking a teachers education with the overall classroom climate and approaches to instruction is equivocal at best. In a review of recent research, Tout and her colleagues (2006)
concluded that although higher levels of teacher education were generally linked
to higher classroom quality, there was insufficient evidence to identify minimally
adequate levels of educational preparation for early childhood teachers. More recently, Early and her colleagues (2007) found little evidence for an association between teachers education and either overall classroom quality or [4-year old]
childrens academic gains (p. 573) in a study using data from seven different large
studies. Other studies have provided evidence that the quality of instruction in
state-funded pre-kindergarten programs is often no more than minimally adequate
to promote childrens learning and that adequate instruction can be provided by
teachers with less than a 4-year degree (LoCasale-Crouch et al., 2007). The lack of
significant relations among teacher education, classroom quality, and child outcome variables highlights the inadequacy of conceptualizing teacher quality as a
function of teacher education, at least for early childhood programs; comprehensive professional development could provide the knowledge, skills and supports
for teachers (Early et al., 2007, p. 577) to provide high-quality early education
even without a 4-year college degree.
Early childhood curriculum, particularly one that is both developmentally appropriate and includes attention to teaching young children important academic
competencies, along with ongoing support for teachers through professional development, are promising approaches for influencing the quality of instruction and
teacherchild interactions in early childhood programs. Curriculum is an obvious
starting point for ensuring educational success for all children, and there have been
calls for curricula that are substantively connected to major content domains

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(Bowman et al., 2001). The related domain of teaching practices is a similarly

promising target of efforts to improve childrens outcomes (Early et al., 2007).
Adequate training and support for teachers are especially important given recent evidence that teachers instruction and supportive interactional style are important factors that promote childrens active involvement in learning (Hamre &
Pianta, 2005; Phillips, Mekos, Scarr, McCartney, & Abbott-Shim, 2000). There is
growing evidence that specific, teacher-led instruction (Powell & Diamond, 2007;
Wasik et al., 2006; Whitehurst et al., 1994) and innovative instructional activities
(Ginsburg et al., 2006; Lonigan & Whitehurst, 1998) can lead to higher levels of
achievement in literacy and in mathematics for young children at risk.
There is little research evidence identifying professional development interventions that are effective in changing early childhood teachers instructional practices
and associated outcomes for children. Effective pedagogy is complex and challenging (Ginsburg et al., 2006; Maxwell, Field, & Clifford, 2006), as are interventions designed to affect both teachers instruction and childrens learning. Professional development interventions often use a combination of group-focused (e.g.,
workshops, access to materials and resources) and individualized (e.g., coaching,
mentoring) supports for teachers. Group-focused interventions, such as in-service
workshops, have been shown to be an effective format for providing teachers with
specific information related to use of a specific curriculum and instructional approaches in mathematics (Ginsburg et al., 2006) and language and literacy (Justice,
Mashburn, Hamre, & Pianta, 2008), although they are less effective in helping teachers transfer learning to classroom practices (Wolfe & Snyder, 1997).
Modeling specific teaching practices has been found to be effective in promoting
teachers use of instructional strategies to support childrens vocabulary and language development during large-group book reading (Wasik & Bond, 2001; Wasik
et al., 2006).
In their recent study, Justice and her colleagues (2008) examined the effectiveness of workshops and Web-based support for promoting teachers use of an evidence-based language and literacy curriculum, including effective instructional
strategies, in state-funded preschools in a single state. Although attendance at
workshops was positively associated with the quality of teachers instruction, the
overall quality of language and literacy instruction remained relatively low, even
after workshop training. It is interesting that even though teachers exhibited high
levels of fidelity to the language and literacy curriculum on which they received
training, instructional quality in language and literacy was largely if not completely dissociated from fidelity of implementation. In their study of teachers response to in-service workshops related to early childhood mathematics, Ginsburg
and his colleagues (2006) found that although many early childhood teachers
learned the workshop content and improved their instruction substantially, others
struggled throughout the year to develop even the most basic pedagogy (p. 193).
These findings are reminiscent of a report from Neuman (1999), who found that

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staff in some child care centers never opened boxes of childrens books received as
part of an early literacy intervention for low-income children.
In a review of their professional development language and literacy intervention with early childhood teachers, Dickinson and Brady (2006) argued that it is
necessary to provide extensive, individualized, on-site support for teachers if the
goal is to effect major changes in teachers instructional practices. Yet they found
that some teachers struggled much more than others to understand the concepts
and implement the practices that were the intervention targets. Individualized
coaching or mentoring with classroom teachers has been proposed as a promising
approach to professional development (Bowman et al., 2001; Powell & Diamond,
2007). By providing teachers with the opportunity to implement new approaches
to instruction, along with immediate feedback on their use of specific teaching
practices, coaching or mentoring may be beneficial in effecting changes in targeted
instructional practices for teachers.
Despite what is known about training and coaching, variations exist in the effectiveness of professional development interventions for changing teaching practices, even among teachers from similar backgrounds participating in the same
in-service intervention. It is critical that we address the question of why professional development interventions lead some teachers to adopt more effective instructional practices, whereas other teachers, who receive the same amount and
type of supports, seem to change very little. In-service, professional development
has become an important tool for improving teaching practices, to the extent that
the recent reauthorization of Head Start requires all teachers to attend a minimum
of 15 clock hours of professional development training. Understanding the ways in
which a professional development intervention that included workshops and individualized mentoring led some teachers to change their instructional practices,
while others changed little, if at all, is the focus of this article.

The Childrens School Success (CSS) project is a 5-year (20032008) multisite
experimental study investigating the effectiveness of a preschool curriculum
funded by the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development, the
U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services (Grant HD046091-01; principal investigators: Odom, Butera, Diamond,
Hanson, Horn, Lieber, & Palmer). The goal of the CSS project is to improve the educational outcomes for young children who are at risk for school failure (Odom et
al., 2003). To accomplish this goal, we developed a curriculum for preschool-age
children based on research about childrens early learning and activities that promote the skills children need to be successful during the early elementary years.
Focusing on social competence and early academic content, the CSS curriculum

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provided teachers with a model for promoting early learning. More specifically,
the curricular goals in the socialemotional domain targeted skills in emotional literacy, empathy and perspective taking, friendship skills, anger management, interpersonal problem solving, and how to be successful in school. A strong focus was
placed on the prevention of challenging behavior and prosocial problem-solving
strategies. In the science domain, concepts related to measurement and mapping,
properties of matter, color and light, and neighborhood habitats were taught. In
math, curricular goals focused on teaching beginning numbers and operations, geometry and spatial sense, measurement, pattern/algebraic thinking, and displaying
and analyzing data. Language and early literacy domains included the facilitation
of oral language, phonological awareness, and letter/print knowledge. In addition,
a component of the curriculum emphasized individualization of the curriculum to
accommodate all learners. This involved assisting teachers in individualizing their
lessons through analyzing class schedules, adapting or modifying curricular materials and activities, and specifically embedding learning goals into classroom activities and routines.

Participants and Settings

CSS classrooms were located in five distinct geographic sites representing a variety of different regions and populations across the United States: East and West
Coast sites, two sites in the Midwest, and one in the rural eastern part of the country. Once programs at each geographic site agreed to participate in the research,
participants were those teachers who either volunteered to implement the CSS curriculum or who were chosen by their agencies to participate. Between 2004 and
2007, teachers in 45 classrooms (i.e., three classrooms per year per site over a
3-year period) implemented CSS. Thirty-three teachers are the focus of this study,
using the four-phase approach explained below. The 33 target classrooms included
Head Start (27 classes), and pre-kindergarten programs that were funded by the
state or were community-based (6 classes). Each of the classrooms provided services to children who were at risk for school failure due to poverty, lack of English
fluency, or identified disability. Teachers in these classrooms had a range of experience and preparation, including Child Development Associate credentials (8
teachers), associates degrees (7 teachers), bachelors degrees (12 teachers), and
masters degrees (6 teachers) in a variety of disciplines. Teachers had taught in
these settings from 1 year to 25 years (M = 10.12 years, SD = 6.80). Table 1 presents descriptive data on teachers characterized as high and low implementers.
Class sizes ranged from 11 to 23 students (M = 17.39, SD = 2.97). An average of
2.3 (SD = 2.08) students per classroom received special education services (range
= 07), and an average of 3.03 children per classroom were English language
learners (SD = 5.53; range = 020).



Description of High and Low Implementers


Years of


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Degree of
Implementation Start Pre-K CDA AA BA MA

SD Range

Fidelity of

SD Range

High (n = 22)





3.91 0.40

Low (n = 11)





1.33 0.58


Note. CDA = Child Development Associate; AA = associates degree; BA = bachelors degree; MA =

masters degree.
aThe percentage of curriculum completed multiplied by the mean item score on the fidelity of implementation measure.

Training in CSS
Before teachers implemented the CSS curriculum, they attended a two-day training
workshop conducted by the principal investigators and site supervisors at each site.
Classroom assistants and administrative staff also attended. During those two days,
we provided a general overview of the project, in-depth training on the CSS curriculum, classroom management strategies, and some information on child development. We used a combination of lecture, discussion, and video examples. Teachers
and assistants had the opportunity to develop lesson plans for the first few weeks,
and to practice using the puppets that are used in the social skills portion of CSS. We
also distributed early childhood education resource books, and pertinent articles designed for teachers. During the workshop we engaged the teaching staff in discussions about their teaching philosophy and previous teaching experiences. An additional day of training was provided later in the school year.
Each of the five sites had a designated site supervisor who visited classrooms at
least weekly to provide coaching, technical assistance, and help with CSS implementation. Site supervisors also modeled lessons and provided feedback to the
classroom staff. For the purposes of this study, we characterized the site supervisors as participant observers because they were in classrooms frequently, coaching
the teachers and participating in activities. Observational data provided by participant observers permits a greater understanding of a program or intervention than
simple interviews (Patton, 1990). Having a means of obtaining data close to the activity, as the site supervisors were able to do, strengthens the qualitative paradigm
by minimizing the distance between the sources of data and the researchers (Guba
& Lincoln, 1988).



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CSS Implementation
In conjunction with the assessment of CSS on child outcomes, we also collected
data to evaluate the teachers fidelity of implementation of the CSS curriculum. As
a part of the fidelity of implementation, we undertook this grounded theory qualitative study (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) supplemented by cross-site analysis (Miles
& Huberman, 1994) during each classrooms intervention year. In each succeeding
year of the longitudinal study, analysis of case studies for the implementation-year
classrooms was completed in the manner described below, determining if the previous years themes were of continuing relevance and adding new themes to
clearly capture the nature of each years work in classrooms.

Four Phases of Analysis

For this qualitative study, our research questions were as follows: (a) What factors are associated with teachers implementation of CSS with a high degree of fidelity? and (b) What factors are associated with teachers limited implementation
of CSS? Our analysis of these questions proceeded through a four-phase process.

Phase 1: Case studies. Case studies were the primary source for data analysis. Data sources for writing case studies included the following: (a) field notes
taken during the intervention training and throughout the intervention year; (b)
interviews conducted with teachers, classroom assistants, and program administrators concerning implementation of the curriculum and the perceived effects of
using CSS; (c) documented communication between project personnel and classroom staff, such as e-mail or other written notes; (d) survey information provided
by the teachers and classroom staff regarding formal training and previous experience in the classroom; (e) a questionnaire that each teacher completed about the
race and ethnicity, gender, and disability or language learning status of the children
in his or her classroom; (f) an estimate of the percentage of each of the curriculum
elements that teachers completed for the year; and (g) fidelity of implementation
observations. The CSS curriculum is divided into two types of lessons (i.e., academic and social skills) delivered on alternating days. The site supervisor completed fidelity of implementation measures for these two types of lessons at seven
equally spaced intervals throughout the intervention year. The academic portion of
the fidelity measure included ratings of amount and quality of implementation of
science and math (16 items) and literacy (20 items). The social portion included
amount and quality of 62 items.
In Phase 1, the researchers and site supervisors collaboratively wrote case studies about each classroom after reviewing all interviews, field notes, and additional
documentation. Each of the case studies from the five sites was posted to a secure
Web cache for review by every other site. Thus, content was reviewed multiple



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times, with revisions discussed and made through conference calls or direct communication among the research group as a whole.

Phase 2: Generation of themes. Following the first year of CSS intervention, the principal investigator and site supervisor at each site used the case studies
from the three classrooms to generate initial themes related to the quality of teachers implementation of CSS. Study personnel read the case studies multiple times
and noted relevant themes via notes and highlighting of text. These initial thematic
elements were shared across all five sites through group conference calls to generate study-wide themes that held relevance for all five sites. During these calls, we
discussed each sites themes, listed them in tabular format, and reached consensus
about themes that were most pertinent across all sites (Miles & Huberman, 1994).
Following the discussions, we returned to the raw data to code the consensus
themes for each classroom at our sites, again using paper and pencil rather than a
software program, since site personnel were very familiar with the texts of the case
studies. Research staff at each site reviewed their data individually to determine if
it confirmed or contradicted those themes. We refined the initial themes during
conference calls during which notes were taken, posted, and reviewed by all participants to ensure authenticity. Research staff at each site then proposed additional
themes that emerged from the second review of the cases.
Phase 3: Cross-site analysis. In Phase 3, we conducted a cross-site analysis of themes using theme matrices developed at each site. In the matrix, we identified the themes and provided a narrative description of how each of the teachers
from each of the classrooms mapped onto those themes. In order to organize the
multiple classrooms and sites, we established a tabular format for the data organized into thematic chunks both to do a cross-comparison between and among the
classrooms and sites and to characterize each theme for each teacher as either a
positive or negative representation of that theme (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Each
classrooms matrix was examined by the research site personnel. Teachers were
characterized as high implementers, medium implementers, or low implementers
of CSS based on year-long classroom observations by site supervisors, fidelity of
treatment scores, amount of curriculum implemented, and effectiveness and developmental appropriateness of implementation. When all the qualitative data were
reviewed, site personnel individually determined the level of each teachers implementation, and any disagreements were handled by discussion until consensus was
Themes evolved into clusters related to teacher, curriculum, classroom, and administration and were grouped in this way. Because we were interested in factors
that were associated with teachers success in implementing CSS, we limited our
analysis to teachers who were high (n = 22) or low (n = 11) implementers of the
curriculum to answer our research questions.



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Using a strategy for evaluating narrative information from Miles and Huberman
(1994), we rated the strength and type of influence of each theme for high and low
implementers across the sites. Specifically, through review of our data and discussion among the research staff, we rated each theme in terms of whether it was positively or negatively associated with implementation, had no influence, or did not
apply in a classroom.

Phase 4: Across the years. During subsequent years we reviewed the

Year 1 themes to determine if they still applied and to ascertain if additional themes
emerged. Year 2 classrooms were organized on a matrix as in Year 1, listing the
new themes and theme content for each class. Teachers were again characterized
as low, medium, or high implementers through examination of the matrix. Only
low and high implementers were included in subsequent analysis, in the same
manner as for Year 1. The Year 2 themes were then used to reanalyze Year 1 data to
ensure that the themes were meaningful and valid to use with the entire data set. A
total of 17 themes were generated across two years, and, following discussion
across sites, we determined that 8 of the themes were the most robust and descriptive, since these applied to the cumulative data from both years of analysis. We carried out a similar process for Year 3 data, yielding the final listing of 9 themes and
categories, as shown in Table 2.
Validity of Generating Data and Subsequent Themes
Internal validity within qualitative studies is strengthened through the use of intensive observations such as those made by our site supervisors and used to create
the case studies (Creswell, 1994). Convergence among our data sources, cross-site
analysis, and consistent member checks with the site supervisors to review themes
led to the trustworthiness of our data. Furthermore, because the site supervisors
were in the classrooms at least weekly, they had prolonged engagement in the sites,
which is an indication of qualitative rigor (McWilliam, 2000).
To provide a check on our judgment of teachers as high or low implementers via
case study descriptions, we compared these qualitative ratings with a fidelity metric computed quantitatively for the larger CSS project. The metric used (a) a mean
item score of the seven ratings of the quality of implementation for the science/math, literacy, and social components of the curriculum; and (b) the percentage of the curriculum that each teacher completed. The percentage of curriculum
completed was multiplied by the mean item score on the fidelity measure to provide a cumulative fidelity metric. As a triangulation check, we used this mean fidelity metric to review how the teachers/classrooms were ranked on a high-to-low
implementation continuum. The means, standard deviations, and ranges for the
high and low implementers are shown in Table 1. This quantitative continuum and
our qualitative judgment of teachers as high and low implementers was consistent

Curriculum and Instruction Themes

Beyond the Teacher Themes











Note. CSS = Childrens School Success.

aFor each high implementer, research staff selected the two themes that had a strong and positive impact on teachers implementation of CSS, resulting in a
selection of 44 themes (22 teachers 2 themes/teacher).
bFor each low implementer, research staff selected the two themes that had a strong and negative impact on CSS implementation, resulting in a selection of 22
themes (11 teachers 2 themes/teacher).

0(n = 22)
(n = 11)

Partnership Integration and Curriculum and
Administrative External
Degree of
in CSS
Expansion of
Management Relationships
Implementation Characteristics Development CSS Concepts

Teacher Themes

Primary/Secondary Themes Influencing High and Low Implementers Across All Years and All Sites

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in all cases, providing an additional check on implementation ratings made previously using case study methodology.

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The results are organized based on the themes identified through our analysis. We
identified nine themes that we grouped into three categories: (a) teacher, (b) curriculum and instruction, and (c) beyond the teacher. The nine themes and their definitions are presented in the Appendix. One of the themes, receptivity to coaching,
tied directly to the professional development approach we used. Other themes, although not directly impacted by our professional development activities, interacted with those efforts for both high and low implementers.
Although we identified nine themes, not all had an equivalent impact on teachers implementation of the CSS curriculum. Therefore, at each site research staff
identified two themes that were most associated with CSS implementation for that
teacher. For the high implementers, those themes had a strong and positive impact
on the teachers implementation of the curriculum; for the low implementers, those
themes had a strong and negative impact on CSS implementation. Because there
were 22 high implementers and we identified 2 themes for each teacher, there were
44 possibilities (i.e., 22 teachers 2 themes/teacher); for low implementers there
were 22 possibilities (i.e., 11 teachers 2 themes/teacher). As shown in Table 2,
for the 22 high implementers, seven themes were most strongly associated with the
teachers implementation. Those themes were teacher characteristics, partnership
in CSS implementation, integration and expansion of CSS concepts, previous curriculum and instructional approach, classroom management, adult relationships,
and coaching. For the 11 low implementers, the most strongly associated themes
were similar and included teacher characteristics, integration and expansion of
CSS concepts, classroom management, adult relationships, and external events. In
the following sections, examples from field notes are used to illustrate themes for
both high and low implementers.

Teacher Themes
The personal characteristics that teachers brought to their roles as teachers appeared to exert an impact on their implementation of the curriculum. These characteristics ranged from their beliefs about how children learn to their decisions about
cooperating with the curriculum protocol. The teacher themes that we identified
had the potential to be affected by professional development activities, particularly
for those teachers who saw themselves as partners in the development of the CSS



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Teacher Characteristics
High implementers. Teacher characteristics had a strong positive influence
on CSS implementation for a majority of the high implementers. In fact, for 14 of
the 22 teachers, their personal attributes and motivation contributed greatly to successful implementation. Vanessa, for example, relished change and was excited to
try the CSS activities. In contrast, Alicia was not positive about CSS initially because she believed it did not allow her sufficient flexibility. By December, however, she began making more positive comments about the curriculum. She said,
When I first saw Properties of Matter I thought, Never could my kids get this.
But its been really amazing and its a great example of how initial impressions can
be so wrong.
Low implementers. The theme of teacher characteristics had a major yet
negative influence on low implementers CSS implementation. In fact, 9 of the 11
teachers had characteristics that appeared to exert a strong and negative influence
on their implementation of CSS. For example, Terri was raised in a counter-culture situation and disdained prescribed activities. She did not embrace being told
how to teach or being instructed on teaching methods. She was volunteered for
participation in the project by her administrative unit; although she agreed to participate, she made it clear she would rather not. She thought the CSS curriculum
was too directive. She also felt that it was too demanding for the children and did
not allow enough creativity. One day while discussing the curriculum she threw
back her head and cynically stated, I used to be a teacher; now Im a researcher.
Taliyah also had characteristics that contributed to low CSS implementation.
She was often away from her classroom. She left frequently to socialize with other
adults, to smoke a cigarette, or to take a bathroom break that would last up to
15 min.
Partnership in CSS Development
High implementers. There were four teachers for whom this theme was
positively associated with their implementation of CSS. They were interested both
in the research aspects of the project and in giving feedback to staff about their experiences with the curriculum. Kory was a true research partner in the CSS project.
She ensured that all the required paperwork for the study was filled out correctly
and returned to the CSS staff, and she made it easy for the CSS staff to come into
her classroom and collect the required data for the study. Kory mentioned several
times that she might apply to graduate school and really appreciated this opportunity to participate in the study. She said, The only reason I stayed through this
year was due to the CSS study and the ongoing classroom support I received, as
well as feeling that this research is important. Sandy was also a strong research
partner. She said, It is important to me that my work in the classroom is valued,



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and I can contribute to evidence for the effectiveness of the CSS curriculum.
Sandy showed her interest in CSS through her frequent feedback and suggestions
on lessons.
Renaldo was another high implementer whose implementation of CSS was associated with his role as a partner. He often stated that he was happy to be involved
in CSS. He appreciated the weekly assistance in planning activities. Even though
his participation put extra demands on his time, he said he was grateful to be able to
participate, and he related that it was the only time someone has observed me and
given me positive feedback for my teaching.

Low implementers. No low implementers had this theme as a primary or

secondary influence on their implementation of CSS.
Curriculum and Instruction Themes
These themes related to the teachers expansion of the concepts that were provided
in the curriculum and the integration of those concepts throughout the day. They
also related to teachers organization and management of the classroom. In addition, themes related to teachers experience with a curriculum approach that had
strong academic, as well as social, components. Professional development activities had the potential to affect these themes because they were influenced by teachers understanding of the curriculum. We stressed teachers curricular understanding throughout the professional development activities.

Integration and Expansion of CSS Concepts

High implementers. For 14 of the 22 high implementers, we identified integration and expansion of CSS concepts as one of the two themes that appeared
most strongly associated with CSS implementation. Those teachers expanded on
the academic and social skills concepts that underlay the curriculum. Furthermore,
they integrated those concepts throughout the day, not just during CSS lessons.
One teacher, Alicia, did not just implement the lessons; she wove the targeted concepts into teaching interactions throughout the day. In January the rule in Alicias
classroom was that it needed to be at least 40 degrees for the children to play outside. Alicia helped the children use the thermometer from a previous lesson to record the temperature and determine if that number was more or less than 40 degrees. The class then used that information to make a decision about outside play.
Alicia integrated phonemic awareness into a transition activity, saying, If your
name starts with ____, line up. She also integrated a math concept when she said,
I can pick four friends for this activity. Ive already picked two, how many more
can I pick? Other teachers used vocabulary from CSS throughout the day. For instance, during a small-group time when children were exploring the effects of air



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on paper airplanes (a science concept), Barbara had the children launch their airplanes, a term learned in the large-group science lesson.
Other examples of lesson integration throughout the day included the following. During a large-group lesson on measurement and graphing, Katherine asked
the children to predict which color apple they though would taste best. In preparation, she had written the childrens names on Post-It notes so they could easily register their vote on a chart. She followed up on their predictions by having them
taste each type of apple, deciding which one they liked best, and determining if
their prediction was correct. Furthermore, she told the children they were using
graphs to help them organize information.

Low implementers. For 7 of the 11 low implementers, integration and expansion of CSS concepts was strongly and negatively associated with CSS implementation. Those teachers implemented CSS as a series of non-linked activities.
For example, as Diane completed the magic bottle activity in a small-group activity during the unit on properties of matter, she said, Heres some glitter and
some sparkles. Put them in the bottle and pour in the water. Then lets see what
happens. There was very little language interaction and no questions to spur discussion with the children about whether the glitter sank or floated, even though
floating and sinking were the concepts introduced during the large-group science
Previous Curriculum and Instructional Approach
High implementers. For three of the high implementers, the similarity between CSS and their previous curriculum as well as the similarity between the
structured nature of CSS and their comfort with structure were associated with
their implementation of CSS. For Katherine, using CSS was not a major change. In
fact, Katherine was concerned that CSS was not going far enough with some of the
content areas since learning sight words was not explicitly taught.
Low implementers. This theme was not associated with implementation of
the CSS curriculum for the low implementers.
Classroom Management
High implementers. For four high implementers, there was an association
between their strong classroom management skills and CSS implementation.
Selena implemented CSS very systematically. According to the researcher who
was in the classroom, just as she was thinking, OK, now praise the child for
watching the teacher, Selena did this as if reading the researchers mind. Selena
also kept her cool when the children acted out and appropriately used conse-



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quences such as praising and ignoring. Through the teachers management style,
the children were clearly aware of the rules and goals for the activities.

Low implementers. There were three low implementers who had difficulty
with classroom management, and that difficulty affected implementation of the
CSS curriculum. Katrina, for example, struggled constantly against the chaos in
the classroom, and she often reinforced inappropriate behavior. She was ill prepared, often leaving the large-group activity to gather materials or refer back to the
lesson plan. The site supervisor believed that this pattern created a cycle of misbehavior, leading to interruptions in teaching, which led to more misbehavior. Additionally, when she did teach the lesson, it went on too long, and most children were
not engaged by the lessons end. Katrina gave directions to children but made no
attempts to follow through. When the site supervisor and Head Start educational
coordinator discussed the importance of establishing classroom routines, Katrina
told them that she did not want to be seen as an authority figure but as someone on
the same level as the children. Katrinas approach to classroom management was
evident in the following example:
After the children returned from a walk, Katrina tried to teach a lesson. She became
frustrated with the children and told them, Its time to take a nap and go to a happy
place. The children spent the next ten minutes lying on the floor and doing nothing.

Beyond the Teacher Themes

The themes we characterized as beyond the teacher included adult relationships
in the classroom and other extenuating circumstances related to the program.
These issues were generally outside the teachers control. One of the themes, receptivity to coaching, related directly to the ongoing professional development
that the teachers received.

Adult Relationships
High implementers. For 3 of the 22 high implementers, the relationships
that they had with either a classroom assistant or a coteacher had a strong and positive impact on implementation of CSS. In one classroom, Martha, the head teacher,
was well organized and was most comfortable when she could keep a tight schedule in her classroom. At times Martha rather rigidly embedded concepts into activities. Her rigidity was balanced by Carla, her assistant teacher, whose approach to
CSS was more intuitive. Furthermore, when Carla was playing the part of Wally (a
puppet used to teach social skills and concepts), she often used Wally to ask a question or used examples from childrens behavior in the classroom to support the
learning objective during the large-group activity.

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Madison had a positive relationship with her co-teacher, Karen, and each
brought different skills to CSS implementation. Madison was flexible in her approach and Karen exhibited strong skills in organization and structure. Karen supported the scheduling of activities, and Madison brought CSS to life with her outgoing and playful personality.
In another classroom, Shirley and her assistant teacher Charisse both showed
deep commitment to their classroom, the children, and the curriculum. For example, they spent a long weekend setting up the classroom for the childrens first day.
Likewise, they interacted positively in the classroom and led large-group activities
together. They collectively used positive reinforcement and positive management
strategies to redirect and re-engage the children. As a team, they also both used
elaboration and descriptive commenting as they worked with children during free
play. Shirley was appreciative of Charisse as an individual and as a professional
In the classrooms where the adult relationships worked well, the adults functioned as partners. They planned together, discussed the curriculum activities, and
shared the tasks that kept the classroom well organized and effective. In those
classrooms all adults did the teaching, and they planned together to determine who
would take the lead in each activity based on strengths and preferences.

Low implementers. For two of the low implementers, relationships with the
other adults in their classroom negatively affected implementation of CSS. In contrast to the collaboration evident for the high implementers, the relationships in the
low implementation classrooms were a constant source of friction for the teachers.
In one classroom there were four adults: a Head Start teacher (Sandra), an early
childhood special education teacher (Melissa), and two assistants. Melissa had 12
years of teaching experience and initially assumed leadership in implementing
CSS. However, as the year progressed she failed to participate in planning and did
not read the lesson in advance. She objected to taking a lead teaching role in the
classroom just because Sandra was new. Because Sandra was in her first year in
Head Start, she was initially unsure about her role in the classroom and she deferred to Melissa, who exploited Sandras lack of assertiveness. Sandra became
more and more frustrated with Melissa, whom she thought was burned out.
Finally, Sandra was the only teacher who implemented CSS activities. Although
there were four adults in the classroom, little team work was evident.
In Angels classroom the friction came from sharing a classroom with her colleague, Mallika, who used the classroom in the morning and functioned as the
Head Start supervisor for several other classrooms in the afternoon. This arrangement produced sparks. Angel complained that Mallika was not organized and
did not do what was needed to make the classroom inviting and appropriate for the
children. She blamed Mallika for the clutter in the room. An observer entering the
room found childrens artwork and classroom rules posted on Angels side of



the classroom, and disorganization and little evidence of childrens projects on

Mallikas side. There was an underlying and simmering dissatisfaction in the relationship between the two teachers that appeared to sap their energy and undermine
their ability to implement CSS.

Administrative Issues

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The relationship of the administration to the classroom did not have a major impact on CSS implementation for either the high or the low implementers.

External Events
There were no high implementers who were strongly affected by external
events. For one low implementer, external events occurring inside and outside the
classroom (e.g., multiple and inconsistent visitors and volunteers, frequent absences of the assistant) had a strong negative influence on that teachers implementation of CSS.

Receptivity to Coaching
High implementers. CSS provided implementation teachers with the support of a coach who participated in their training, helped them in weekly planning,
and visited them in their classrooms at least once a week, offering them suggestions and resources to assist them in using the CSS curriculum. Coaching was the
major professional development activity that the implementation teachers received. For 2 of the 22 high implementers, their receptivity to coaching was
strongly and positive associated with implementation of CSS.
Both Elizabeth and Gail began the year eager to benefit from the coaching provided. Throughout the year they took the suggestions and advice of their coach
very seriously and made conscious and consistent efforts to use the suggestions offered. They also actively sought her advice.
One of the most powerful ways coaching supported CSS implementation in
Elizabeths and Gails classrooms occurred during the planning sessions. Elizabeth explained that the planning sessions kept me aware of two weeks ahead.
Those sessions provided another important benefit. The site supervisor asked the
teachers what went especially well that week and what was problematic, validating
the teachers knowledge and giving them the opportunity to share ideas. Gail appreciated the site supervisors style and said, I learned so much from her. Gail
said that the site supervisor would do a thumbs up. She doesnt make you feel
bad. Both Elizabeth and Gail noted that the site supervisor took note of their attempts to implement CSS and praised them for their efforts. Elizabeth said that she
loved the site supervisors attention and the praise. We never get enough of that. It
helps! Similarly, when Gail told the site supervisor early in the year how poorly



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she thought she had been teaching, the site supervisor turned it around and told
Gail how impressed I was with how she introduced the unit and had all the materials ready. It appeared to be, however, the quality of the site supervisors personal
relationship with the teachers that contributed to her success in coaching them. The
teachers liked the site supervisor, and she liked them in return. The teachers appreciated her efforts on their behalf, and they often confided in her about life events
that sometimes interfered with their teaching. Overall, the sympathetic ear that the
site supervisor provided along with her gentle guidance seemed to support these
teachers success in implementing CSS.

Low implementers. There were no low implementers who were strongly

affected by their receptivity to coaching.

The findings from our study of the implementation of the CSS curriculum support
the findings of earlier research (Early et al., 2007; Ginsburg et al., 2006; Maxwell
et al., 2006; Tout et al., 2006). Supporting change in the teaching practices of those
who teach young children at risk for school difficulties is a challenging undertaking.
In this study a wide range of teachers, models, and classrooms was represented.
Teachers varied in educational background from those with associates degrees
and a few units in early childhood education to those with masters degrees. Likewise, their levels of prior teaching experience ranged from essentially new teachers to those with decades of experience working in early childhood education settings such as Head Start. Like the research conducted by Early and her colleagues
(2007), we did not find that teachers degrees or length of teaching experience necessarily predicted whether they would be strong curriculum implementers or not.
Instead, we are impressed with the influence that individual teacher characteristics appeared to have on the degree to which they were strong implementers of
CSS. The teachers who were classified as high implementers typically indicated
that they were eager to learn new strategies and that they were likely to seek additional training opportunities. These teachers were pleased to have the individualized attention of a coach, and they were eager to have a role in a research project
aimed at facilitating childrens development. This group could be generally characterized as motivated, responsible and organized, and open to new learning
For the low implementers, however, despite our best efforts to provide information and motivate teachers to implement the curriculum, they did not do so. In most
cases, teachers remained friendly to project staff and were eager to interact with
the project coaches even when they minimally implemented the activities. Some

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teachers appeared to have little motivation to prepare lessons in advance. For others, the CSS approach was antithetical to the ways in which they had been trained
or to their own personal philosophies of child learning and development. Although
our research did not directly attempt to modify these personal dispositions, we
found them relatively resistant to change for this group of individuals. Given the
central role teachers play in improving educational outcomes for young children at
risk for school difficulties, our findings highlight challenges for those who view
professional development as the only or most crucial factor in the process. Perhaps
for these teachers, adding a component to the training and coaching such as Communities of Practice might have been useful (Wesley & Buysse, 2001).
On the other hand, our study identified factors that were consistently associated
with high implementation of CSS, and it is encouraging that these may be more
amenable to change through professional development. For example, the theme of
integration and expansion of CSS concepts described whether the teacher understood the CSS curriculum as it was written, could use that as a starting point to help
children understand the underlying concepts, and was able to integrate those concepts and strategies throughout the school day. Teachers who were identified as
strong in this area often expanded the lessons and used additional strategies and examples to ensure that children learned curricular concepts. It may be that these
teachers understood the conceptual framework better than others, perhaps because
the training was a better fit with their own approach to teaching. Of course we
have no way of knowing how CSS training influenced these teachers; however,
these data suggest that this professional development was important. Teachers
Alicia and Barbara, for example, showed clear evidence that they understood the
goals of the curriculum thoroughly when they embedded curriculum content
across various daily activities, seizing the opportunity to engage children in activities to help them understand the meaning of activities (in Alicias case) or words
(in Barbaras). Thus, although teacher education per se may be unrelated to the
quality of instruction, a teachers ability to conceptualize the relationships between
curriculum content and childrens learning is important and appears likely to be
enhanced by high-quality professional development.
Given the breadth of CSS curricular goals, it is evident that this curriculum was
not simple to implement but rather required extensive training and support for
teachers as they prepared and conducted lessons and activities. Throughout the implementation process, teachers were strongly encouraged to adapt materials and
strategies to their own circumstances, as long as those strategies honored the primary goals and concepts of the CSS curriculum. Thus, implementing the curriculum demanded active teacher engagement and preparation as they read ahead,
gathered and organized materials, and became familiar with objectives and lesson
plans. For this reason, goals, materials, and activities were more highly prescribed
than may be found in many early childhood curricula, and this may in turn have
influenced teachers sense of autonomy. Under such circumstances, teachers will-

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ingness and interest in participating as a CSS partner in the research project appeared likely to counteract the possible negative effects of loss of teacher autonomy associated with CSS implementation. High implementers relished the amount
of interaction they had to reflect on and discuss their teaching with others through
the CSS project. To a large degree the extent to which teachers perceived that they
had exercised choice in participating in CSS and that their own expertise and preferences were acknowledged appeared to influence the degree to which they viewed
themselves as partners in the implementation process. This may have implications
for the role of teachers in designing professional development.
Several themes that were quite evident in low implementation classrooms but
also appeared to be related to high implementation are also important to note, particularly classroom management skills and adult relationships. Positive evidence
of strengths in these areas appeared to facilitate implementation, whereas weaknesses in these domains exercised a negative impact on implementation. In low implementation classes, chaotic situations were often witnessed, with children dashing around the rooms, sometimes engaging in negative interactions with one
another, and not necessarily engaged with materials or activities in a positive manner. This was in sharp contrast to the high implementation classrooms, in which
children had clear expectations for their behavior and for their use of materials.
Those classes were more calm and orderly, and children were able to regulate their
behavior better and engage in prosocial interactions. Adult-to-adult relationships,
such as the relationship between the head teacher and assistant teacher, also appeared to exert a major influence in some cases, both favorably and negatively.
Teachers respect for one another and collaborative relationships were associated
with high implementation. The opposite experience was associated with low implementation. Under such circumstances, the lack of a collegial environment for
both the children and adults in the classroom made it difficult for teachers to address issues of safety, and they struggled to maintain their composure at times,
making change in curriculum unlikely. These findings resonate with those of others and suggest that we have much to learn about how to provide teachers with adequate training and support so that they are able to promote childrens active involvement in learning (Hamre & Pianta, 2005; Phillips et al., 2000).
Finally, our study supports the findings of other researchers regarding the promise of coaching or mentoring as a professional development strategy (Bowman et
al., 2001; Powell & Diamond, 2007). In a number of instances the coaching process appeared to be a primary influence for high implementation either directly or
indirectly. When this occurred, teachers indicated that they appreciated the relationship with their coach and valued the coachs tips for planning, preparation, and
implementation. It was apparent that some of the systems in which teachers
worked were so large or so distant from central offices that many teachers received
little one-to-one feedback about their teaching from their regular supervisors.
Therefore, those teachers experienced the CSS site supervisors (coaches) as sup-

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ports to help them improve their teaching and meet instructional goals. In our
study, the site supervisors who served as coaches no doubt varied in how they interacted with the individual teachers, and we encouraged them to do so to respond to
the individual needs of various teachers. However, in many cases, the personal supportive relationship coaches assumed with teachers appeared to contribute substantially to teachers willingness to attempt change. In many ways this teacher
coach relationship seems reflective of the very role we asked teachers to assume
with children. We believe it will be critical for future research to help us to understand how the relationship between teachers and coaches functions as support during professional development.
In conclusion, despite intensive training and individualized weekly support,
high quality of implementation was elusive in many CSS classrooms. Some teachers readily embraced the curriculum and associated strategies and made fruitful attempts to implement all aspects. On the other hand, other teachers appeared to be
minimally engaged and made substantially fewer efforts to deliver this curricular
approach. To be sure, curricular implementation proved to be far more challenging
than we had anticipated. Thus, we endeavored to understand those factors or characteristics of teachers, classrooms, and/or organizations that facilitated or served
as barriers to the implementation of this curriculum.
All in all, a complex array of factors determined our success in implementing
this curriculum. These factors appeared to be mostly related to teacher variables
rather than to geographic or program model/organization differences. As is the
case with most early childhood education teachers, teachers were working in relatively low-paying situations, some had challenging relationships with their fellow
teachers and assistants, many had additional responsibilities (such as supervision
in the case of head teachers), and they may or may not have received the institutional support that they desired in terms of feedback and support or physical materials. Despite challenges in their work situations, many teachers reveled in the opportunity to learn new information, and they appreciated the additional support
that was offered through this research project. These high implementers embraced
the process and made a commitment to implementing the curriculum to the best of
their abilities. However, not surprisingly, behavior change was difficult. For those
teachers who were observed to be low implementers, even extensive support did
not overcome their reservations, expectations, or motivation. These teachers, as do
all learners, brought to a new learning situation their own backgrounds, experience, knowledge, and biases. Our experience was that it was extremely challenging to modify teacher expectations, values and beliefs, work style, and motivation.
Our work demonstrates that one cannot assume that a few days of in-service
training or necessarily even individualized weekly feedback and support will be
well received or that it will exert an impact on teacher behavior. As other researchers have noted, identifying professional development interventions associated with
effective changes in teachers instructional practices is difficult but much needed



(e.g., Dickinson & Brady, 2006; Justice et al., 2008). It is our hope that this study
sheds light on the complex set of factors that influence teachers abilities and motivation to implement effective curricula for young children. Our intent also is to
highlight the need for a fuller discussion of strategies to motivate and support
teachers, particularly given the wide range of backgrounds and types of work situations found in early childhood education.

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This research was supported by National Institutes on Child Health and Human
Development, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services (#HD046091-01). We would like to thank additional
research staff members who participated in this research: Mariella Ceja, Shana Cohen, and Ruth Schneider.

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Teacher CharacteristicsPersonal attributes the teacher brought to Childrens School Success (CSS) implementation. This theme encompasses issues related to the teachers enthusiasm (or lack of it) and willingness to implement CSS.
Partnership in CSS DevelopmentThe key issue here relates to interest in
being a research partner. These issues include the following: Because this is a research study, each participant needed to be a voluntary participant. Given that, how
willing/excited was the teacher about participating in CSS from a research perspective? Did the teacher provide feedback to the site supervisor about CSS?
Previous Curriculum and Instructional ApproachThis theme encompasses the curriculum that the teacher used before using CSS and how structured
the teacher was in presenting instruction before CSS. It includes teachers perceptions of what was done in the past. These issues include the following: How similar
was the curriculum that the teachers used previous to CSS? CSS provides a lot of
structure with regard to lesson implementation. There is a daily large-group lesson
during which teachers teach either a science lesson or a Dina lesson. There are also
small-group lessons each day. Those lessons may be science or Dina or math. CSS

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also includes a book-reading activity, a letter knowledge activity, and a phonemic

awareness activity each day. How structured was the teacher in the past?
Classroom ManagementThis theme encompasses both managing individual children and managing classroom routines. These issues include the following:
How adept was the teacher engaging the children in learning? Was the teacher
skillful in managing childrens behavior? Did the teacher have materials prepared
in advance? Was the teacher generally prepared so that children did not spend time
waiting for the next activity? Did the teacher have a good strategy for transitions
between activities?
Integration and Expansion of CSS ConceptsDid the teacher demonstrate
an understanding of the concepts underlying a particular lesson? Did the teacher
extend lessons throughout the day? Did the teacher integrate CSS throughout the
day so was there evidence of CSS during activities like meal time, center time, outside time?


Adult RelationshipsHow did the adults work together in the classroom? Did
those relationships have an effect on CSS implementation?
Administrative Issues/Interface of Administration With ClassroomThis
theme encompasses issues surrounding program administration and administrators relationship with the teacher. These issues include the following: Did the administration make requirements that affected teachers ability to implement CSS?
Did attitudes of middle-level administrators toward CSS (e.g., lack of buy in) affect implementation? How did the teacher feel about the administration? Did positive or negative feelings about the administration affect teachers implementation
of CSS?
External EventsThis theme encompasses events that happen in the classroom or in the lives of the teachers that affect CSS implementation. They could be
classroom events or life events. These issues include the following: Were there
events that occurred to the staff members in the classroom or in the program that
impacted CSS implementation? Did teachers have additional responsibilities or
roles other than being classroom teachers that affected their ability to implement
CSS? Were there events that happened to teachers outside the classroom and were
unrelated to the program that affected teachers ability to implement CSS?
Receptivity to CoachingEach teacher was provided with a coach who was
part of the CSS research team. The role of the coach was to meet with the teacher
on a weekly basis to train the teacher in CSS, help with lesson planning, help organize materials, and provide feedback on CSS lessons. How receptive was the
teacher to the coaching? Did the teacher work with the coach as a partner in implementing CSS?