Supporting Teaching and Learning in Home-Based Early Childhood Education

Funding year: 
2 years
University of Otago
ECE sector
Project start date: 
January 2017
Project end date: 
March 2019
Principal investigator(s): 
Elizabeth Schaughency and Elaine Reese (University of Otago)
Research team members: 
Dione Healey and Jane Carroll (University of Otago)
Research partners: 
Tracy Cross, Jan Johnson, Rachael Burrows, Heather Fagan (Pioneers Home)


Project description

This  project will support educator practice to enhance children’s learning via three practitioner-partner and research-informed professional learning modules to three networks of home-based educators (HBEs). Each module focuses on one aspect of developing competencies related to success in beginning schooling (specifically oral language and approaches to learning). Each network will engage as a learning community with each professional learning module. We will evaluate initial impacts of each learning module and their combined benefits for educators’ practices and children’s skills. Then we will follow HBEs and children to evaluate whether practice benefits are sustained and assess children’s learning in beginning primary school.


We aim to support educators’ practice and enhance children’s learning through research-informed three professional learning modules.  This will initially by trialled in three home-based educator (HBE) networks. 

Our specific objectives are:

  1. To provide professional learning around children’s developing competencies during the preschool period related to a successful start to primary school (oral language, approaches to learning).
  2. To foster professional learning communities within HBE networks. To this end, networks of HBEs, together with their visiting teachers, will engage with three professional learning modules over the project period.
  3. To develop and evaluate HBEs resources in each learning module that support in situ developmental scaffolding in developmentally appropriate interactions with children.

Our research questions ask whether:

  1. HBEs perceive project activities to be useful 
  2. HBEs incorporate project strategies into practice, with project support
  3. Areas of professional learning and practice are associated with extending children’s developing competencies in these areas.
  4. HBEs continue to use project activities, even when they are not specifically supported
  5. Areas of professional learning and practice are associated with children’s developing competencies in the first year of primary school

Why is this important?

Children’s competencies in oral language and approach to learning contribute to educational opportunities and outcomes. These competencies for educational success develop during EC, scaffolded through rich, responsive adult-child interactions and developmentally appropriate activities that provide children with exposure to concepts and opportunities to practice developing skills. EC educators’ professional preparation varies in how to effectively foster children’s development within domains. Traditional in-service professional development efforts are limited in increasing busy, EC professionals’ capacity to translate professional learning in practice. Practice-based research that considers how to enhance consolidation of professional learning, support translation to practice and benefit children is urgently needed.

What we plan to do

  • Over the project, we will provide three professional learning modules to HBEs in three networks, varying presentation order across networks. Each module focuses on fostering developmental competencies in one area (i.e., meaning and sound aspects of oral language, children’s approaches to learning) through developmentally appropriate early childhood activities for one term. 
  • To evaluate initial impacts of supported learning modules on educators’ practices and children’s skills, we will collect information on HBE practice and children’s skills before and after each learning module.
  • We will gather information on HBE practice and children’s skills following participation to evaluate whether practices are sustained and assess children’s learning in beginning primary school.


  • Qualitative examination of HBEs’ subjective experience and perceived benefits for children.
  • Within-case comparisons of HBE practice and children’s development over time across conditions using visual and statistical analytic techniques as appropriate.
  • If participant numbers allow, between-network comparisons exploring possible order effects.

Our partners:

Our Team is comprised equally of university researchers and experienced practitioners. Pioneers has an established relationship with the University of Otago. Pioneers Home Visiting Teachers, whose responsibilities include mentorship of HBEs, serve as Project Faculty. To inform project activities and enhance fit with the practice context, we also include a Pioneers Quality Assurance Group comprised of the Pioneers Director, HBE representative, and a previous participant and ECE practitioner. Practice partners combine with an advisory group of New Zealand and international scholars, and developmental, educational, and clinical researchers to bring complementary sets of expertise to our project.

Our team presenting at the Early Childhood Research Hui 2016

Front row (from left): Amanda Clifford (Research Student), Sarah Rouse, (Research Student), Jan Johnson (Visiting Teacher, Project Faculty), Elizabeth Schaughency (Co-Principal Investigator), Jane Carroll (Associate Investigator)

Back row (from left): Penel Pask (Pioneers Director, Quality Assurance Group), Angel Gosling (Home-Based Educator, Pilot Participant), Heather Fagan (Visiting Teacher, Project Faculty), Elaine Reese (Co-Principal Investigator), Dione Healey (Associate Investigator), Rachael Burrows (Visiting Teacher, Project Faculty), Tracy Cross (Visiting Teacher Team Leader, Project Faculty)


Contact details:

Elizabeth Schaughency
Department of Psychology, University of Otago
Dunedin, New Zealand
Ph: 643 479 5864