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 partnered researchers, Visiting Teachers, and three networks of home-based educators to engage with three research-informed professional learning modules designed to support educator practice and enhance children’s learning. Each module focused on one aspect of developing competencies related to success in beginning schooling (specifically oral language and approaches to learning). Each network engaged as a learning community with each professional learning module. Our evaluation initially focused on the experience of participation for home-based educators before more closely investigating impacts of each learning module and their combined benefits for educators’ practices and children’s skills. We are also continuing to follow children to evaluate benefits for children’s learning in beginning primary school.


We aimed to support educators’ practice and enhance children’s learning through three research-informed professional learning modules.  These were implemented and evaluated in three home-based educator (HBE) networks. 

Our specific objectives were:

  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, engaged 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 asked whether:

  1. HBEs perceived project activities to be useful
  2. HBEs incorporated project strategies into practice, with project support
  3. Areas of professional learning and practice were associated with extending children’s developing competencies in these areas.
  4. HBEs continued to use project activities, even when they were no longer 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 their approach to learning contribute to educational opportunities and outcomes. These competencies for educational success develop during early childhood (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 did

  • Over the project, we provided three professional learning modules to HBEs in three networks, varying presentation order across networks. Each module focused 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 collected information on HBE practice and children’s skills before and after each learning module.
  • We are also gathering information on children’s skills following participation to evaluate benefits for children’s learning in beginning primary school.


  • Once HBEs began participating with one module, they typically continued participating in additional modules, as long as they served preschool-age children in the target age range.
  • Visiting Teachers and HBEs described benefits for practice and perceived benefits for children’s learning from participation
  • Quantitative analyses to date illustrate specific benefits of modules for learning experiences in ECEC.

Our partners:

Our Team was comprised equally of university researchers and practitioners. Pioneers has an established relationship with the University of Otago. Pioneers Home Visiting Teachers, whose responsibilities include mentorship of HBEs, served as Project Faculty. Our Team of experienced practitioners and developmental, educational, and clinical researchers brought complementary sets of expertise to our project. To further inform project activities and enhance fit with the practice context, we also engaged with other internal stakeholders (e.g., Pioneers Director) and external New Zealand and international scholars during the project period. Our Team also included a number of research students who assisted with materials preparation and evaluation activities over the course of the 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