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Intentional teaching

Improving Teaching Skills for Early Childhood Education (ITSECE)

ITSECE was designed by Dr Karen Ishimine as a professional development resource focused on the improvement of early childhood educators’ teaching skills through targeted self-reflection on key elements of intentional teaching and instructional support: questioning, explaining and providing feedback.

In designing the tool, Dr Ishimine proposed that educators could use it to improve their teaching skills so as to:

  • promote children’s thinking and understanding
  • expand children’s learning and encourage participation,
  • stimulate children’s language acquisition.

Background to development of the ITSECE tool

The E4Kids study (Tayler, 2016) reported that in Australia, the quality of instructional support enacted in early childhood education programs did not achieve a quality level that is associated with gains in child outcomes (Burchinal, Vandergrift, Pianta, & Mashburn, 2010). Further, the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA, 2018a; 2018b) has consistently found that nationally, the Quality Areas requiring the most attention are those that address intentional teaching, responsive teaching and scaffolding, critical reflection, and the enactment of the assessment and planning cycle.

Trail and validation of the tool

The VCAA engaged The University of Melbourne to validate and trial the use of ITSECE tool developed by Dr Karin Ishimine within the broader E4Kids study. ITSECE is a self-reflective tool that draws on constructs of instructional support embedded in the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) Pre-K (Pianta, La Paro & Hamre, 2008).
It was proposed that the ITSECE tool could be used systematically by educators to focus on intentional teaching strategies that have been associated with gains in child outcomes.
The tool required rigorous field testing to determine its validity, and whether it identified similar teacher interactions to the CLASS Instructional Support indicators. In addition, it was necessary to assess the effectiveness and usability of ITSECE in the field, and whether educators’ use of the tool for self-reflection was associated with changes in their practice over time.

Findings of the validation and trial of the ITSECE tool

  • The ITSECE tool is a valid measure of instructional support provided through intentional teaching. There were significant and positive correlations between the three dimensions of CLASS Instructional Support and each of the three ITSECE strategies across the three time points. Content, criterion and construct validity were all rated as good. The internal consistency of the items was good and factor analysis suggested that a two-strategy model better represented the items than the three-strategy model tested in this project.
  • Overall, the quality of Instructional Support (measured by CLASS) was found to increase across the ECEC settings over the 22-week study period.
  • The number of ITSECE self-reflections completed by participants was variable, with more frequent use found to be significantly associated with higher CLASS Instructional
  • Educators spoke of benefits to intentional and reflective teaching, and confidence in their own practice, through participation in the project, despite the extra tie required to complete documentation.
  • Educators reported a positive impact on their professional practice: this included keeping ITSECE strategies ‘front of mind’, and an improvement in their use of language within educator-child interactions. There was an increased focus on planning for small group experiences and reflections on the applicability of strategies with different group sizes, ages and abilities.
  • Educators in the validation and trial suggested supporting documents, additional feedback and refresher training would assist with continued use of ITSECE. Further, taking a whole-team approach and including peer mentoring and coaching were recommended.

The VCAA is developing a professional learning program based on the ITSECE trial and validation, which will be available for early childhood educators in 2021.

The Summary Report (pdf - 247.46kb) provides more detail on the trial and validation. Subscribe to the Early Years Alert to stay up-to-date with information about professional learning in 2021.