Intelligence built into curriculum: Can curriculum improve early childhood program quality in low-resource settings?
Si Chen

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Harvard University

Primary Discipline

Early Childhood Education
At the core of quality improvement for early childhood education (ECE) programs is supporting teachers' professional development. However, schools in low-resource communities have a perennial shortage of skilled teachers due to a lack of entry-level professional development programs. This reality requires scholars who are interested in promoting ECE quality in high poverty regions to shift from a knowledge enhancement model to a learning-from-practice model. This study recruits a large-scale sample of village-level kindergartens in rural China and employs a randomized-controlled-trial experiment to evaluate the effectiveness of a novel and affordable professional development solution tailored for new teachers from high poverty regions. The intervention package integrates picture books, a well-structured curriculum, and a progressive daily online teacher training. The three components were designed to be complementary to, and integrated with, each other: the picture books are suitable for the children while also affording opportunities for teachers to practice teaching skills; class plans include activities that expand on themes from the picture books; teacher training is tightly connected to the class plans and gradually promotes the development of teachers' knowledge and skills. Producing an estimation of the treatment effects and the causal mediation effects will further our understanding of the feasibility of this model of professional development for ECE teachers in low-resource communities. This study's results will inform a policy that guarantees universal and adequate early childhood education for all ECE students in China.
About Si Chen
Si Chen is a Postdoctoral Fellow of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her work is primarily concerned with the ways in which language and literacy environments of young children?in and out of school, monolingual and bilingual?can be designed to support children?s development. Dr. Chen?s research primarily focuses on detecting the effectiveness of randomized literacy interventions in China, especially in rural early childhood education settings. Using experimental, quasi-experimental, and observational methodologies, Si Chen has studied: the causal impacts of bilingual curricular resources on the vocabulary development of language minority children in China, the effects of large-scale family-oriented shared book reading interventions on parental education beliefs and children?s vocabulary development, and how free-of-charge early childhood facilities in villages improve economically disadvantaged children?s academic achievement in elementary schools. Dr. Chen received her Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education from East China Normal University.

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