Date Presented 04/22/2023

We present the impact of a statewide evidence-informed professional development (PD) program on the ability of early intervention providers to use a coaching approach with fidelity during both in-person and telehealth visits. PD program features and study findings will engage providers to reflect on their practice and opportunities to enhance their PD plans.

Primary Author and Speaker: Scott Tomchek

Additional Authors and Speakers: Winnie Dunn, Serena Wheeler

PURPOSE: Despite clear guidance by IDEA, current evidence1, the Mission and Key Principles2, and DEC Recommended Practices that advocate for EI providers to support caregivers as the agents of change in EI, a research-to-practice gap remains with implementation of caregiver capacity building practices3. Evidence-based PD can close this gap and sustain workforce development. We investigated if (1) EI providers following a PD program have increased coaching; (2) there are differences in coaching across EI provider disciplines or years of EI experience or between in person and telehealth delivery.

DESIGN: We employed a 2 group (live vs telehealth) repeated measures (baseline, post PD) multivariate analysis of variance to identify meaningful differences in participant fidelity to coaching practices.

METHOD: EI providers (N = 227 at time of proposal) in one state EI program participated in a comprehensive 32-week PD program built upon information provision, demonstration, field-based practice, and sustained mentorship high impact PD elements4. PD specialists (PDS) supported small teams of EI providers and provided performance feedback of videotaped EI sessions to promote change in practice. Scores on the research-based fidelity measure at baseline and following training were analyzed.

RESULTS: We found a significant increase in adherence to coaching practices (p <.001) and large effect size (d= 4.09) after training. No differences in fidelity scores were noted by discipline, years of experience, or delivery (in-person vs telehealth) variables.

CONCLUSION: Findings demonstrate the effectiveness of an innovative, comprehensive PD program regardless of professional discipline, experience, and delivery.

IMPACT STATEMENT: At least 28 state EI programs implementing coaching PD for new systemic improvement plan reporting as they address noted research to practice gaps. Findings are of great importance to policy makers and PDS promoting systems change.


Ciupe, A., & Salisbury, C. (2020). Examining caregivers’ independence in early intervention home visit sessions. Journal of Early Intervention, 42(4), 338–358.

Workgroup on Principles and Practices in Natural Environments, OSEP TA Community of Practice: Part C Settings. (2008). Seven key principles: Looks like/doesn’t look like.∼pdfs/topics/families/Principles_LooksLike _DoesntLookLike3_11_08.pdf

Romano, M., & Schnurr, M. (2020). Mind the gap: Strategies to bridge the research-to-practice divide in early intervention caregiver coaching practices. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education.

Childress, D. C., Raver, S. A., Eckhoff, A., & Gear, S. B. (2021). Technology-mediated professional development for early intervention service providers: connecting adult learning with caregiver support. Professional Development in Education, 1–15.