Developing Talkers: Building Effective Teachers of Academic Language Skills

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Posted on February 10, 2022 by childrenslearninginstitute



Principal Investigator:

Tricia Zucker, Ph.D.


Jessica Logan, Ph.D., Ohio State University

Funding Agency:

Institute for Education Sciences

Description of the Project:

Researchers will evaluate the impact of two theoretically distinct versions of an intervention called Developing Talkers (DT) that uses a Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS). The Developing Talkers adaptive system of supports includes:

  1. Interactive learning with face-to-face trainings, online courses and practice manuals.
  2. Lesson plan resources that include prompts placed on-demand at the point of use in lesson materials or within pages of read-aloud texts.
  3. A second phase of adaptive performance supports that include collaborative learning via coaching for novice teachers or professional learning communities for expert teachers.

DT is designed to improve teacher facilitation of academic language skills and the academic language skills of kindergarten students. The two versions are the Scripted Approach and the Teacher-Inspired Approach. Researchers will monitor teacher uptake of evidence-based practices during a first stage of intervention. At the second stage, researchers will provide additional individualized professional development (PD) resources based on teacher performance. Researchers will explore aspects of cognition, such as memory and vocabulary and other behavioral factors, including, self-efficacy and social norms, that may explain changes in teacher knowledge and behavior.

  • In Year 1, researchers will refine fidelity measures for live observation, analyze archival data to refine cut points for the tailoring variable, recruit the study sample, and collect baseline teacher observation in the spring before the intervention begins.
  • In Years 2 through 4, researchers will conduct a cohort-based experimental design with equivalent, standardized procedures used across all cohorts.
  • In Year 5, researchers will disseminate results and publish online edited teacher-created lessons from professional learning communities

Researchers will use a Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trial (SMART) design to provide adaptive PD approaches tailored to teacher needs. In the first stage, researchers will conduct a randomized control trial evaluating the impact of each version of the Developing Talkers versus business-as-usual. In the second stage, researchers will identify teachers within each intervention condition as responders or non-responders in terms of implementing focal evidence-based practices for academic language instruction. Then, researchers will re-randomize these teachers to increasingly intensive interventions (that is., coaching or professional learning communities) or to stay in their initial conditions.


Researchers will recruit 200 teachers and 800 of their students across 3 independent cohorts. Eligible teachers will serve in kindergarten public, ISD-based classrooms providing predominantly English instruction. The sample will include a majority of economically disadvantaged students from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds. About 20-30% of the population is expected to include students who are English learners.

Research Sites:

The research will take place in the Houston metropolitan area, a large urban area with 17 school districts.