For Immediate Release — December 30, 2008
UT Extension Professor Recognized with National Award for Improving Early Childhood Education
Dr. Matthew Devereaux
Dr. Matthew Devereaux, associate professor and specialist with the University of Tennessee Extension Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, was awarded the Early Career Achievement Award for the development and evaluation of innovative child care training programs.
At the annual meeting of the National Council on Family Relations in Little Rock, Arkansas, Dr. Matthew Devereaux, associate professor and specialist with the University of Tennessee Extension Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, was awarded the Early Career Achievement Award for the development and evaluation of innovative child care training programs.
Devereaux was recognized for his leadership in the development of self-study programs and information for training child care teachers and child care directors on effective child care. His program, First Steps, has educated over 70,000 child care professionals in Tennessee in six years. Robert Fetsch, Extension specialist and professor at Colorado State University, says “Professor Devereaux has developed one of the most effective programs for training child care teachers and directors that leads to high quality child care. First Steps was so effective that all newly hired teachers and directors in Tennessee were state-mandated to complete their four-hour training within their first 30 days of employment—that’s 10,000 teachers a year.”
“In addition to being effective, Dr. Devereaux’s training programs are engaging and focus on issues that are crucial to effective child care,” says Dr. Shirley Hastings, associate dean for UT Extension. “For example, in the program for child care directors, the program focuses on how to resolve conflict and develop a positive atmosphere for staff. The evaluation of this program demonstrates that child care directors improve their skills in handling parents and staff. We are pleased with this very deserved national honor for Dr. Devereaux and his work.”
First Steps has been carefully evaluated for effectiveness. Professor Devereaux uses research-based, valid, and reliable evaluation tools. His programs consistently show high marks in knowledge gained, client satisfaction, and behaviors changed with three- and six-month follow-up surveys and/or observations with experimental and control groups. His programs are not one-time workshops. They are multi-session programs that produce empirical evidence of positive behavior change. The follow-up results showing that center directors are still using the techniques they learned in training are powerful evidence for the importance of this program.
Specifically with 528 directors, 84 percent reported using “collaboration” rather than “avoidance” techniques. A sample of 2,800 childcare teachers and directors reported an average knowledge gain at the time of the training to be 35 percent. The follow-up results indicate that child care directors deal with fewer problems with parents and staff because First Steps prepares them for common problems. They are more likely to resolve conflicts and report more positive relationships with parents. Likewise, in onsite follow-up observations of directors, there was clear evidence that the trained directors were more effective in conducting their jobs than directors in no-treatment control groups. The program has also been adopted by the states of Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama.
In addition to the child care training, Devereaux has also created programs for parents on preparing children for kindergarten which includes a focus on literacy and social development. Many of these programs have been used by parents across the country.
The Family Life Early Career Achievement Award is awarded annually to an exemplary family life educator who has made significant contributions to the engagement of the public in the areas of child development and family life and who has shown scientific evidence for the effectiveness of their educational programs.
You can learn more about UT Extension’s Family and Consumer Sciences programs at http://fcs.tennessee.edu/. In addition, UT Extension maintains a range of publications and informational resources at its central Web site, http://utextension.tennessee.edu/.
In each of Tennessee’s 95 counties, UT Extension operates as the off-campus division of the UT Institute of Agriculture. It is a statewide educational organization, funded by federal, state and local governments, that brings research-based information about agriculture, family and consumer sciences, and resource development to the people of Tennessee where they live and work.
Dr. Matthew Devereaux, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, (865) 974-7384
Margot Emery, UTIA Marketing and Communications, (865) 974-7141