Training Teachers in an Infant Classroom to Use Embedded Teaching Strategies

Article excerpt


Embedded teaching involves incorporating teaching strategies into everyday activities (e.g., play) or routines (e.g., diapering). The success of this strategy with young children has led to the recommendation that embedded teaching be used in early childhood settings; however, it is not readily applied by teachers. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of instruction and feedback on teacher use of embedded teaching strategies in an infant care setting. A total of six undergraduate student teachers participated. Data were collected on the occurrence of teaching opportunities and student teacher use of specific forms of embedded teaching (e.g., modeling, prompting, and reinforcement). Results showed that instruction alone was insufficient to increase embedded teaching. However, when instruction was combined with feedback, all student teachers showed large and sustained improvements that maintained when the frequency of feedback was decreased.

DESCRIPTORS: embedded teaching, infants, instruction, feedback, teacher training.


Embedded teaching involves implementing teaching strategies within ongoing activities and routines (Venn et al., 1993) and includes a variety of naturalistic or milieu approaches (e.g., activity-based instruction, Bricker & Cripe, 1992; incidental teaching, Hart & Risley, 1978). Embedded teaching may be contrasted with other approaches, such as direct instruction, that involve presenting instructions under structured conditions that have been specifically designed for teaching target skills (Fredrick, Deitz, Bryceland, & Hummel, 2000; McGee, Krantz, & McClannahan, 1985). Advocates of embedded teaching suggest that, compared to traditional approaches, embedded instruction allows children more frequent opportunities to practice skills under relevant and motivating conditions (e.g., Losardo & Bricker, 1994).

Embedded teaching strategies have been shown to be particularly effective in teaching language to young children. For example, a series of studies by Hart and Risley demonstrated the effectiveness of incidental teaching on language displayed by disadvantaged preschool children. Initially, these researchers evaluated the effects of incidental teaching on children's spontaneous use of color-noun combinations and found that incidental teaching was superior to more traditional group instruction (Hart & Risley, 1968). Subsequently, incidental teaching was used to increase preschoolers' use of adjective-noun and color-adjective-noun combinations (Hart & Risley, 1974) as well as compound sentences (Hart & Risley, 1974, 1975).

Subsequently, a wide body of research has been devoted to evaluating the effects of embedded teaching to prevent and remediate language delays (see Warren & Yoder, 1997 for a review). For example, McGee and colleagues demonstrated that embedded teaching is an effective strategy for increasing receptive and expressive language among children with autism (McGee, Krantz, Mason, & McClannahan, 1983; McGee, Krantz, & McClannahan, 1985; McGee, Krantz, & McClannahan, 1986). In fact, these researchers found that the incidental approach produced more spontaneous and generalized preposition use when compared to a traditional, more structured form of teaching (McGee et al., 1985).

Although the majority of research on the effects of embedded teaching has focused on language acquisition, this strategy has also been successfully applied to other important skills. For example, Daugherty, Grisham-Brown and Hemmeter (2001) taught three preschool children with developmental delays to count objects (e.g., puzzle pieces, blocks) during ongoing activities using a delayed model prompt. Venn et al. (1993) used a similar technique to increase peer imitation by preschool children with developmental disabilities by embedding teacher prompts within an ongoing art activity. …


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