Child-centered examination of preschool learning behavior: A typological investigation

Lauren Elizabeth Angelo, University of Pennsylvania


Learning behavior is critical to preschool social-emotional and academic development and is significantly related to later educational outcomes (Early Learning Standards, 2002; Head Start Bureau, 2001; Phillips, Stott, & Birrell, 1987; Wentzel & Watkins, 2002). As learning behaviors posses the unique property of responsiveness to intervention (Phillips et al., 1987; Ramey & Ramey, 1994; Snow, 1996; Stott, 1985; Wentzel & Watkins, 2002), this investigation sought to increase the current understanding of preschool learning behaviors with the goal of informing practice. The Preschool Learning Behaviors Scale (PLBS; McDermott, Green, Francis, & Stott, 2000) provides a method for assessing learning behavior in 3- to 5-year-old children. The PLBS is a 29-item, teacher observation measure yielding three dimensions: Competence Motivation, Attention/Persistence, and Attitude Toward Learning. Traditionally, users have had to apply a variable-centered approach, relying on the three dimensions. This investigation employed a child-centered approach in the examination of patterns of preschool learning behavior. Hierarchical cluster analysis was employed to discern a meaningful typology of such behavior. The participants (N = 1,665) in this study were drawn from the School District of Philadelphia Head Start program. The analysis yielded six replicable cluster types. The composition of the resultant cluster types, including age and gender distinctions, was ascertained. The temporal stability of the typology was examined and demonstrated mixed results. The capacity of the cluster types to explain outcomes and risk in kindergarten and first-grade was assessed. Learning behavior types differentially related to early academic outcomes and demonstrated differences in risk for early academic failure. The typology did not significantly augment the variation in outcome variables explained by the dimensions. Conversely, the typology evinced differential risk for academic failure despite the lack of appropriate identification of risk by converted learning behavior dimensions. The implications of the findings were discussed.

Subject Area

Preschool education

Recommended Citation

Angelo, Lauren Elizabeth, "Child-centered examination of preschool learning behavior: A typological investigation" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3225426.