Warner Alumna, Professor Win Honorable Mention from Childhood Education Journal

 Researchers Lauded for Their Work in Early Childhood Professional Development
Warner School Professor Lucia FrenchWarner School graduate Brigid Daly Wagner ‘06 (PhD) and Professor Lucia French have been named honorable mention recipients of a newly established Journal of Research in Childhood Education Article Award Program for 2010. The researchers are being recognized for their article, “Motivation, Work Satisfaction, and Teacher Change Among Early Childhood Teachers,” that was published last year in the Journal of Research in Childhood Education (JRCE).
The Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) annually identifies top articles published in the year’s volume of JRCE. The honored articles are selected by members of the JRCE Editorial Advisory Board as an illustration of superior research and excellent writing on a topic of high importance for the field. The award will be formally announced and presented to Daly Wagner and French on Thurs., April 14, 2011 at 8:30 a.m., during a general session at the ACEI Annual Conference (April 13-16) in New Orleans, La.
Based on Daly Wagner’s dissertation research, the study tests the Self-Determination Theory, developed by University of Rochester Professors Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, as a framework for describing how interactions between early childhood teachers and systems, within which their work is embedded, influence motivation for professional growth and change in teaching practice, according to the JRCE article.
Fifty-four early childhood teachers and assistant teachers took part in the study, which consisted of a year-long professional development program comprising of monthly workshops and onsite support visits. The professional development program was built around the use of ScienceStart!, a science-based preschool curriculum, developed by French, to foster language development, learning, cognition, and school readiness. Quantitative analysis of motivation and work attitude surveys, coupled with qualitative analysis of teacher interviews, points to factors within the workplace that influence teachers’ intrinsic motivation for professional growth and factors that contribute to change in their teaching practice.
According to the article, teachers who work in early childhood classrooms are likely to feel empowered by the support of their supervisors and co-workers to perform at higher levels and take advantage of professional development opportunities. The interactions between the individual teachers, the context of the professional development activity itself, and the teachers’ work environment significantly influence teachers’ motivation to teach and motivation for professional growth.
 ScienceStart! classroom
Daly Wagner and French concluded that teachers’ perceptions of these aspects of their work environments can either facilitate or undermine attempts to change their teaching practice through professional development.
“The results suggest that teachers’ perceptions of the workplace and the professional development context itself influenced their intrinsic motivation for the professional development program,” Daly Wagner and French wrote. “In addition, the degree to which teachers felt that the children in their care changed as a result of their efforts served as a powerful motivator to continue their professional development efforts.”
The researchers hope that the study will impact early childhood professional development practices and influence teacher change and work satisfaction among early childhood teachers by promoting a system that provides more administrator support, positive co-worker relations, and teacher autonomy in pursuing various professional development activities.
French, a former Spencer Fellow and Fulbright Scholar, teaches courses in child development, language and literacy development, learning theory, informal learning, and early childhood education at the Warner School. Her research explores the relationship between language and cognitive development during the preschool years, with emphasis on the roles of social interaction and prior knowledge.
Daly Wagner, who received her doctorate in teaching, curriculum, and change from the Warner School, currently works for CUNY’s New York City Early Childhood Professional Development Institute as a quality improvement planning specialist in the Quality Stars NY test project, a voluntary quality improvement and recognition system for early childhood programs. She also works with childcare centers and family child care providers in the Rochester and Buffalo areas to help them develop and implement plans to improve the quality of care for children.
For more information about the study, read Daly Wagner and French’s article, “Motivation, Work Satisfaction, and Teacher Change Among Early Childhood Teachers,” that was published in the April-June 2010, volume 24, no. 2, issue of JRCE.

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Tags: early childhood education, Lucia French, preschool education, ScienceStart!