Effects of a Training Package to Increase Teachers’ Fidelity of Naturalistic Instructional Procedures in Inclusive Preschool Classrooms

Nov. 01, 2018

Source: Teacher Education and Special Education, Volume: 41 issue: 4, page(s): 321-339

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The authors of this paper note that given the recommendations for naturalistic instruction for young children who exhibit developmental delays, researchers are now tasked with identifying effective training and coaching practices that ensure that typical change agents, like classroom teachers, can implement these practices with fidelity, as well as ensure practices are socially and ecologically valid.
To date, relatively few studies have systematically evaluated how to effectively improve these practices in typical settings.
In order for children to have consistent access to evidence based practices (EBPs), researchers need to evaluate whether typical change agents will continue using naturalistic instructional approaches following removal of researcher support.
The authors write that the purpose of this study was to
(a) develop trainings and coaching procedures that utilize the current research base on changing adult behavior;
(b) evaluate the social and ecological validity of the training, coaching, and recommended instructional procedures; and (c) evaluate the effectiveness of the training package designed to increase correct implementation of naturalistic instructional procedures by teachers in inclusive preschool classrooms.

Their primary research question was: Is a multicomponent training package functionally related to teachers’ procedural fidelity (PF) of naturalistic instructional practices?
Their secondary research questions included the following:
(a) What are the effects of the training package on undesirable teacher behaviors occurring during instructional sessions and
(b) generalized teacher behaviors outside of instructional sessions?
(c) Is the training package a socially and ecologically valid approach for improving teachers’ use of naturalistic instructional procedures during the study and following removal of researcher support?


Two teachers, Monica and Rebecca, from a community-based early care and education program participated in this study. The trainers were two graduate students in related fields with an emphasis on early childhood education. All sessions, except for the trainings, were conducted in the teachers’ classrooms. The initial trainings on naturalistic instructional approaches occurred in an office at the teacher’s preschool.
The authors describe a multiple probe design across instructional procedures (Gast, Lloyd, & Ledford, 2014) which was used to evaluate the effectiveness of a multicomponent intervention that included a training on naturalistic instructional procedures, followed by coaching in the classroom, and preschool teachers’ correct implementation of procedures during typical classroom activities. For each tier within the multiple probe design, probe sessions were conducted, followed by a one-time training on a target naturalistic instructional procedure, and then coaching sessions conducted in the classroom.
Teachers completed Likert scale questionnaires on the social and ecological validity of the study. Scales ranged from 1 to 10, with higher scores indicating greater evidence of social and ecological validity.
Each rating scale was completed by a teacher following mastery of an instructional procedure and approximately 2 months after each teacher’s participation in the study concluded.

Results and Discussion
Results reported by the authors indicate that the trainings and coaching package resulted in the acquisition of naturalistic instructional approaches by early childhood teachers serving students with or at risk for developmental delays in inclusive preschool classrooms, with some concurrent changes in undesirable teacher behaviors.
Teachers did not generalize components of the procedures (e.g., behavior specific praise, controlling prompts) to interactions with children outside of training and instructional conditions. The authors observed maintained effects with each procedure for Rebecca.

They report that teacher ratings of social and ecological validity varied throughout the study with Monica consistently giving relatively high ratings and Rebecca’s ratings demonstrating an accelerating trend from the first through fourth questionnaire.
The results of this study extend the literature on training and coaching teachers in early childhood classrooms.
They note that early childhood teachers who participated in this study learned to implement naturalistic instructional procedures during typical activities.
Their findings align with previous studies that targeted typical change agents embedding systematic procedures in the classroom (Snyder et al., 2015).
The study’s findings extend the literature by demonstrating that early childhood teachers may be able to learn to implement multiple instructional procedures specific to individual needs of children, rather than a single procedure within a study. In addition, findings indicate that early childhood teachers with relatively limited teaching experience (less than 5 years) may be able to implement systematic procedures with adequate fidelity, a rare occurrence within the teacher training literature, as well as maintain high levels of fidelity.
Thus the authors note that early childhood teachers are likely to require training and coaching on individual procedures to ensure each procedure is implemented with adequate fidelity.
According to the authors, the use of social and ecological validity questionnaires provided initial evidence of idiosyncratic differences between teachers regarding their perceptions of the training and coaching package and naturalistic instructional procedures.
Although the Likert scale ratings provided a quantifiable measure of validity, the utility of this measure is limited to an examination of the magnitude of change in teachers’ perceptions of procedures.
They point out that the measure does not provide information on specific components of the training package or procedures that may have been more or less preferred or useful based on teacher perception (i.e., active ingredients).
The authors recommend that future researchers adopt an open-ended, objective format for evaluating social and ecological validity of teacher training and coaching practices to allow for a specific examination of variables that may need modification in future studies.

Gast, D. L., Lloyd, B. P., & Ledford, J. R. (2014). Multiple baseline and multiple probe designs. In D. L. Gast, & J. R. Ledford (Eds.), Single case research methodology: Applications in special education and behavioral sciences (pp. 251-296). New York, NY: Routledge
Snyder, P. A., Rakap, S., Hemmeter, M. L., McLaughlin, T. W., Sandall, S., & McLean, M. E. (2015). Naturalistic instructional approaches in early learning: A systematic review. Journal of Early Intervention, 37, 69-97 

Updated: Jul. 29, 2019