A professional development for preschool paraprofessionals: how to promote language development through conversations with children

The purpose of this project was to develop and implement a professional development workshop and coaching model for paraprofessionals in state funded preschool programs in California serving low income populations. The project aimed to provide paraprofessionals with an opportunity to learn material that is specifically designed to meet their needs. Many paraprofessionals working in state funded preschools have a high school diploma with little to no higher education child development coursework, yet they play significant and active roles in the education of children in the classrooms where they work. An area paraprofessionals working with low income children need more understanding of is language development, a key milestone of early childhood education and precursor to reading. The workshop portion of the project focused on the following areas: (1) The Importance of Language, (2) How Children Learn Language, (3) Strategies to Promote Language Development, (4) Language use During Meal Time and Free Play, and (5) Coaching. The professional development workshop and coaching were conducted within the Washington Unified School District (WUSD) in West Sacramento, California. A total of 14 female and 1 male paraprofessionals attended the workshop. The researcher developed a survey that was used at the end of the workshop to evaluate the effectiveness of the professional development. Survey results indicated a high level of usefulness for the information presented and a moderate effect on the information presented on participant beliefs of how children learn language. Coaching participants shared they appreciated the opportunity to discuss how to implement what they learned in the classroom, and welcomed the idea of more professional development and coaching.