With pandemic lockdowns still in place last summer, Ohio State University was unable to host its in-person summer success program to help preschoolers from low-income families prepare for kindergarten. .
Staff and teachers quickly switched to a completely virtual program, but they were worried – could it really work with 4 and 5 year olds who had no previous kindergarten experience?
A new study has suggested so.
Researchers found that the reimagined Summer Success at Home program was achievable, popular with teachers and parents, and had at least modest success in helping children develop skills in literacy, early math, and understanding emotions.
“The promising evidence is that a virtual problem like this can succeed, despite the challenges,” said Rebecca Dore, lead author of the study and senior research associate at the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy. Ohio.
“At first we weren’t sure if it would work well. We never met the families and the kids in person, and we made everything work remotely.”
The study was published online recently in the journal Early education and development.
The Schoenbaum Family Center, part of the Ohio College of Education and Human Ecology, had run the Summer Success program in person since 2016. It offered four-week sessions to children entering kindergarten in the fall. , mostly from low-income families who did not. have access to preschool programs.
Previous research had shown that children who participated in these in-person programs made significant gains in their kindergarten readiness skills.
For 2020, faculty and management have proposed a different type of four-week program. Each of the 91 registered families received story books and a computer tablet preloaded with educational videos that parents or guardians can read and watch with their child.
The program included one or two individualized teacher-child video conversations each week and a weekly video or phone meeting between teacher and parent or guardian.
Parents were given instructions on how to watch the videos and read the books with their children, including questions to ask them before, during and after reading the books or watching the videos.
The study showed that a virtual program like this was achievable, Dore said. They had no difficulty recruiting families to participate and 77% of the families who were recruited completed the program.
One of the concerns was whether 4 and 5 year olds would be able to participate in video lessons – and the answer was yes.
Teachers rated children’s engagement in activities at 2.4 on a scale of 0 to 3 and in 90% of sessions, found that the child was engaged for more than half of the lesson. In half of the sessions, the teachers rated the child as engaged throughout the lesson.
Parents and caregivers gave the program high marks, with average marks of 4.7 on a 5-point scale.
“The most common comment we received from caregivers was that they wanted the program to be longer,” said Dore.
The children were tested on a variety of measurements before and after the program. The results showed that there was an increasing trend for all measures, including socio-emotional skills, counting, alphabet knowledge and emerging literacy.
Some of the improvements were minor, Dore said, and since there was no control group, it is not possible to prove that the program was responsible for the gains.
“This was a preliminary assessment, and we will need more research,” she said.
But the results are especially encouraging because the gains were achieved with much less direct instruction than children would receive during the in-person program, said Laura Justice, study co-author, professor of education studies at the Ohio State and Executive Director of the Crane Center. “Our results suggest that the virtual intervention may be successful in promoting kindergarten readiness skills even when children may not be in kindergarten or in a summer program in person,” Justice said.
Although this program was developed in response to the pandemic, the promising results suggest it could be useful in other circumstances, Dore said.
For example, virtual interventions could be used in rural areas where it is difficult for families to participate in in-person programs or for critically ill children who cannot attend in person.