Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Patricia N. Anderson


Research has documented the influence of early home language experiences on children’s development and educational success, but as many children spend large portions of their days in childcare centers, preschool teachers have similar potential to have a profound and lasting influence on children’s language development. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to examine the varying levels of quantity and quality of teacher language exchanges with preschool students in independently-funded childcare facilities. The work of Hart and Risley on parental language exchange formed the conceptual framework for this study. The research questions guiding this study focused on affirmative versus prohibitive speech used by preschool teachers, length of back and forth exchanges between teachers and students, and teacher use of complex vocabulary. Data were collected via classroom observations of 6 preschool teachers in one northeastern state in the United States during free playtime. Key themes relevant to the research questions were identified via open coding. Overall, affirmations exceeded prohibitions, but the majority of teacher language was not explicitly affirmative or prohibitive. The length of back and forth exchanges and use of complex vocabulary varied both in terms of teachers and multiple observations of the same teacher. As it appeared that the physical design of the classroom and daily schedule influenced these differences, it is important for administrators to consider the effect of physical space design and daily scheduling on teacher-child language exchanges. This study may contribute to positive social change by inspiring improvements in teacher-child language interactions, which may enhance children’s development.