Parent Aware: Perceptions of the Building Quality Relationship-Based Coaching Model

Research BriefEarly ChildhoodDec 12 2019

Parent Aware, Minnesota’s voluntary Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), engages early care and education (ECE) programs across the state in quality improvement. A primary goal of Parent Aware is to connect families to high-quality care that supports children’s well-being and school readiness. To achieve this goal, Parent Aware offers a variety of resources to help ECE programs implement best practices and receive a Rating. Programs that want additional support prior to being Rated can participate in a Building Quality Cohort and receive 20 to 60 hours of free Quality Coaching for up to 12 months to learn and implement kindergarten readiness best practices. Understanding more about the content, delivery, and providers’ experiences of the coaching model can inform the Minnesota Department of Human Resources’ decision making about Parent Aware implementation, including trainings for coaches, development of coaching resources, and how coaches individualize their coaching strategies and activities depending on the characteristics of the program.

The purpose of this summary is to report key findings from two data collection activities: 1) surveys of Parent Aware Quality Coaches (n = 51) who support programs in Building Quality, and 2) interviews with
early care and education programs (n = 8) participating in Building Quality.

Coaches engaged in the four elements of the Relationship-Based Professional Development (RBPD) cycle—observation, providing feedback, modeling, and reflection—across multiple visits, with some elements occurring more often than others.

  • The majority of coaches (82%) reported using at least one of the RBPD elements during their in-person visits with programs. In addition, most coaches (76%) used more than one RBPD element.
  • The most commonly used element was engaging in reflection: 84% of coaches reported using this at least once, with more than half (57%) engaging in reflection twice or more. The majority of programs (88%) reported that they engaged in reflection with their coach and that reflection occurred often throughout their relationship.
  • Providing feedback was also very common: 77% of coaches reported engaging in this activity at least once, and nearly one-third of coaches (30%) used this element three or more times across the five months they were surveyed. Over half of the programs surveyed (63%) said that they greatly valued this feedback.
  • Fewer coaches reported engaging in observations (56%); however, providers from all of the programs reported that their coach observed them often. Additionally, all providers reported that this activity was helpful.
  • Out of the four RBPD elements, modeling or side-by-side experiences was the element least used by coaches (50%), with an even smaller number (20%) of coaches engaging in this element twice or more.

The Knowledge and Competency Framework (KCF) Observation Tools were used infrequently, by a small percentage of coaches.

  • The KCF observation tools were rarely used. Overall, less than one-third of coaches (27%) reported ever using these tools, and coaches reported using a KCF tool in only 14% of visits.
  • Of the three KCF tools, the Family Child Care tool was used most frequently by coaches (67%). The most common reasons coaches reported for using any of the KCF tools were to identify program strengths or opportunities and to set goals or action items.

Coaches are regularly setting goals with programs but are not always using Electronic Quality Improvement Plan (EQUIP) to track progress.

  • When asked to rate the importance of the quality improvement activities they engaged in with programs, only 26% of coaches rated tracking progress in EQUIP as very important. The other three activities (identifying program or individual strengths, encouraging reflection, and building a relationship) were all rated very important by more than half of coaches.
  • When asked about the progress that their programs were making toward their EQUIP goals, two-thirds of coaches (66%) agreed or strongly agreed that programs had made progress.
  • Less than half of providers (38%) reported using EQUIP with their coach to set goals and track progress. Many providers had never heard of the acronym EQUIP before.

Programs that engaged in group coaching found this approach beneficial.

  • Out of all the in-person visits that coaches reported, only 5% involved group coaching. Four different coaches (8%) reported participating in group coaching.
  • The most common reasons for taking part in group coaching were that programs chose to participate in Learning Communities (33% of all group coaching visits), programs requested a group visit (25%), and that group coaching was easier to schedule (25%).
  • Several program providers who were interviewed participated in group coaching, and the majority (80%) had positive feedback about their experiences. Providers felt that it was useful to have peers to exchange ideas with and indicated that group meetings helped to create a support network that could be sustained beyond the Building Quality Cohort time frame.

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