Exploring the nature of associations between educators’ knowledge and their emergent literacy classroom practices


Educators’ content knowledge is considered a key determinant of classroom practices and thus children’s learning. In this study, we examine the nature of associations between early childhood educators’ literacy content knowledge and their classroom emergent literacy practices. Specifically, we apply generalized additive modeling to consider three hypotheses regarding the functional form of these associations: (1) educators’ content knowledge must reach a threshold before demonstrating associations with practice, (2) educators’ knowledge is associated with practice until reaching a plateau, or (3) educators’ knowledge is linearly associated with practice. We measured educators’ (n = 437) content knowledge using an adaptation of the Moats (1994) knowledge survey, observed their classroom practices in the fall and spring of one academic year, and applied standardized coding schemes to code the latter with respect to the quality and quantity of emergent literacy practices. In general, results indicated positive, linear associations between educators’ knowledge and classroom practices. We discuss findings relative to prior work and conjectures concerning these associations as characterized by thresholds or plateaus. We also discuss implications for future research, preservice educator preparation, and inservice professional development.

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The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305E100030 to The Ohio State University. This research would not have been possible without collaboration from the Early Childhood Quality Network, including Dennis Sykes, Sharon Sullivan, Kathryn Rider, and Melissa Ross, the cooperation of the Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning and School Readiness, or the contributions of Ann O’Connell as a co-investigator on the larger project. We express deep appreciation for the early childhood agencies, administrators, and educators involved, as well as the research staff members responsible for implementing data collection and other research activities. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Early Childhood Quality Network, or Ohio Department of Education.

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Correspondence to Shayne B. Piasta.

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Piasta, S.B., Soto Ramirez, P., Farley, K.S. et al. Exploring the nature of associations between educators’ knowledge and their emergent literacy classroom practices. Read Writ (2020).

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  • Early childhood education
  • Emergent literacy
  • Classroom literacy practices
  • Teacher knowledge