Danish preschools support social development but neglect emergent literacy: A large-scale study of process quality

Justin Markussen-Brown, Dorthe Bleses, Jessica Logan, Laura Justice

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftPosterForskningpeer review

Publikationsdato20. mar. 2015
StatusUdgivet - 20. mar. 2015
BegivenhedSociety for Research in Child Development: 2015 Biennial Metting - Philadelphia, USA
Varighed: 19. mar. 201521. mar. 2015


KonferenceSociety for Research in Child Development

Bibliografisk note

Danish Preschools Support Social Development but Neglect Emergent Literacy: An Extensive Analysis of Process Quality

While research demonstrates that attending preschool can improve the long-term educational trajectories of at-risk children (Campbell et al, 2002), children benefit most when preschools exhibit high process quality (Hamre et al. 2012 ). Process quality encompasses both provision of physical materials, and direct interactions with adults (Howes et al., 2008). For example, children’s access to books is known to increase interest and familiarity with print (Neuman, 1999), while high quality educator-child interactions are related to improved social development and pre-academic outcomes (Burchinal et al. 2010). Although preschool quality is well researched in North America, less is known of the quality of preschools in other countries. This study is the first extensive examination of process quality in the Danish preschool system. Denmark, a highly industrialized welfare nation, is known for its 90% enrollment rate of 3-5-year-olds (OECD, 2008), and Danish preschools are often assumed to be of higher quality than American ones, ostensibly due to structural factors such as the high enrollment and extensive expenditure of public funds (e.g. Esping-Andersen et al., 2012). Despite these assumptions, process quality in Danish preschools remains uninvestigated. Knowledge of preschools’ process quality is necessary as we do not know the academic effects of a system that focuses on social development, while often steering away from pre-academic preparedness. Furthermore, children from impoverished families and with immigrant status dominant the lowest 15th percentile on the national language screening program indicating that there are groups that depend on quality preschool to counteract the effects of social disadvantage (Bleses et al., 2010).

In the current study, physical process quality was ascertained by inspecting 293 preschools using a Danish adaptation of the Classroom Literacy Observation Profile (CLOP; Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy, 2011), which measures literacy materials and classroom organization. Global process quality was investigated by observing 506 educators with the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS; Pianta et al., 2008). Associations with educator characteristics and children’s SES were also analyzed. The results indicated that preschools had surprisingly low physical process quality. For example, while most schools had an abundance of narrative books accessible to children, only 17% had more than one accessible alphabet book for the entire preschool (thirteen preschools had no books at all). The results of the CLASS analysis are given in Table 1, and indicated very high emotional support confirming that Danish preschools’ focus on children’s social upbringing translates to high quality practice. However, instructional support was low with two out of three dimensions of the subscale scoring significantly lower than American preschools (Mashburn et al. 2008), indicating that children are not receiving the cognitive and linguistic support associated with school preparation. Neither educators’ education nor work experience were associated with CLASS results, but men scored significantly lower than women F(1, 423)=23.3, p=0.001. Finally, SES effects were also evident. For example, children with immigrant background were more likely to attend preschools with the lower emotional support F(1,117)=8.44, p=0.05. The notion that Danish preschools are high quality is to some degree unfounded.