Is more child-initiated always better? Exploring relations between child-initiated instruction and preschoolers’ school readiness

Julie Vaisarova, Arthur J. Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although research suggests that the use of child-initiated vs. teacher-directed instructional practices in early childhood education has implications for learning and development, the precise nature of these effects remains unclear. Using data from the Midwest Child-Parent Center (CPC) Expansion Project, the present study examined the possibility that a blend of child- and teacher-directed practices best promotes school readiness among preschoolers experiencing high levels of sociodemographic risk and explored whether the optimal blend varies based on child characteristics. Sixty-two CPC preschool teachers reported their instructional practices throughout the year, using a newly developed questionnaire—the Classroom Activity Report (CAR). The average reported proportion of child-initiated instruction was examined in relation to students’ end-of-year performance on a routine school readiness assessment (N = 1289). Although there was no main effect of child-initiated instruction on school readiness, there was a significant interaction between instruction and student age. Four-year-olds’ school readiness generally improved as the proportion of child-initiated time increased, while 3-year-olds showed a U-shaped pattern. The present findings add to the evidence that child-initiated instruction might support preschoolers’ school readiness, although they also suggest this relation may not always be linear. They also point to the importance of examining instructional strategies in relation to student characteristics, in order to tailor strategies to the student population. The CAR has potential as a brief, practical measurement tool that can support program monitoring and professional development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-226
Number of pages32
JournalEducational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the Chicago Public Schools and the Office of Early Childhood Education, as well as Allyson Candee, Michelle Englund, Momoko Hayakawa, Suh-Ruu Ou, Brandt Richardson, Nicole Smerillo, and other members of the research team for their integral role in data collection and processing.

Funding Information:
Preparation of this article was supported in part by the US Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation Fund (Grant U411B110098); the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Grant OPP1173152); and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant R01 HD034294).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Child-initiated instruction
  • Early childhood education
  • Instructional quality
  • Preschool
  • School readiness
  • Teacher-directed instruction

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'Is more child-initiated always better? Exploring relations between child-initiated instruction and preschoolers’ school readiness'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this