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Researchers receive $1.6 million grant to improve programs for preschoolers with behavior problems

A $1.6 million grant awarded to two Virginia Commonwealth University professors will help improve services aimed at preschool children with problem behaviors in early childhood education and Head Start classrooms.

Bryce McLeod, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Psychology Department of VCU's College of Humanities and Sciences, and Kevin Sutherland, Ph.D., a professor of special education and disability policy in the School of Education, received the grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences.

As part of the four-year grant, "Development and Validation of Treatment Integrity Measures for Classroom-Based Interventions," McLeod and Sutherland will conduct research in Richmond-area preschool and Head Start classrooms.

"We will observe teachers interacting with their students over the course of the academic year," McLeod said. "We are mainly interested in the types of interventions and strategies they use when they teach. The observations will involve trained coders visiting a classroom and observing the teacher for up to one hour."

The grant's objective is to improve the early intervention and prevention services for young children who have chronic problem behavior by improving the implementation and efficiency of delivery of evidence-based programs.

"Essentially, we hope to be able to use this measure to help researchers and program administrators to identify the practices teachers are using with these young children. We also hope that the measure can assist researchers and program administrators in improving the implementation of evidence-based programs, as this will be a tool that can be used to assess how much, and how well, evidence-based programs and the practices that comprise them are implemented," Sutherland said.

Sutherland and McLeod previously conducted a pilot study — funded by VCU's Presidential Research Incentive Program — in which they refined the observational treatment integrity measures used in "BEST in CLASS," an early childhood intervention program being evaluated at VCU and the University of Florida.

"The PRIP funding allowed us to develop these measures, and the developed measures will serve as a starting point for the assessment tools we propose to develop in the current project," Sutherland said.

About VCU and VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.

Bryce McLeod, Ph.D.
Bryce McLeod, Ph.D.
Kevin Sutherland, Ph.D.
Kevin Sutherland, Ph.D.