Preschool Teachers' Self-Reported Beliefs and Practices About Literacy Instruction

CIERA Report #2-012

Kathleen A. Burgess, Kristin A. Lundgren, John Wills Lloyd, and Robert C. Pianta
University of Virginia

CIERA Inquiry 2: Home and School
What is the contribution of preschool teachers' philosophy and practices regarding early literacy experiences of at-risk children to their subsequent reading achievement in kindergarten and the primary grades?

This study examines 240 preschool teachers' self-reported literacy beliefs and practices. Participants taught three- and four-year-olds in publicly funded preschools that are part of the Virginia Preschool Initiative program. Teachers completed a Preschool Literacy Practices Checklist that asked about their beliefs and practices regarding literacy, as well as teacher and classroom characteristics. The work experience and education of the individuals surveyed were comparable to those of national samples of elementary school teachers. The majority of teachers included literacy instruction in their daily plans, endorsed literacy acquisition as a goal of their teaching, and used many approaches to promote early literacy. Their beliefs about the importance of 16 literacy-related skills were organized around three factors: alphabet knowledge, word and story knowledge, and verbal language. Teachers varied most widely in their beliefs about the importance of alphabet knowledge for development of four-year-olds' literacy. Teachers whose preparation included greater coursework in reading endorsed beliefs and used practices more closely associated with promoting verbal language skills and analytic phonics. These results have implications for theories of literacy development and the role of public preschools in promoting literacy.

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Parts of this study were presented at the 1998 meeting of the National Reading Conference in Austin, TX.