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A Multi-Case Study of Caregiver eCoaching to Promote Pretend Play Behaviors in Preschool Children

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posted on 01.08.2021, 00:00 authored by Amanda Helen Passmore
The value of play as a means for learning critical cognitive, social, and self-regulation skills, which themselves promote future academic progress in early childhood, makes play a crucial milestone in young children. A unique component of early childhood education involves understanding how caregivers and educators promote academic and social outcomes for children (Rush & Shelden, 2020), particularly for children with disabilities (DEC, 2014). While research has shown active engagement of families in children’s daily routines contributes to positive outcomes for children (Mahoney, 2009), we are still in the process of figuring out what active engagement may look like for caregivers of young children. One type of intervention that specifically taps into the concept of active engagement is coaching. The purpose of this study was to examine how eCoaching could support family-centered practices as it relates to the facilitation of pretend play, in caregivers of preschool children. Supports provided through eCoaching focused on play as an essential mediator in cognitive, social, and language development (Bergen, 2002; Vygotsky, 1930–1935/1978). Four mother-child dyads of preschool children, with and without an Individual Education Plan (IEP), participated in the eCoaching intervention. The intervention was designed for child-specific goals related to cognitive and social learning while also enhancing pretend play behaviors. Six intervention sessions consisted of virtual observations and debrief sessions. Throughout eCoaching, debriefs focused on developing facilitative play practices (Trawick-Smith, 2012) related to the pretend play taxonomy (Barton & Wolery, 2008). This multiple case study design utilized interviews, coaching logs, coaching debrief sessions, observations of child pretend play, and caregiver observation data. Each mother and child dyad were analyzed first as a unique case followed by a cross-variable analysis to draw conclusions across cases and the variable of children with and without a disability (Yin, 2017). During the implementation of eCoaching, four primary findings emerged related to the behaviors of mother-child dyads: (a) mothers developed a deeper knowledge of pretend play, which they used to increase their self-efficacy, (b) mothers built their pretend play understanding through observing their child’s needs during play in connection to discussing potential learning goals to support targeted areas of interest, (c) mothers increased their ability to responsively attend to the play needs of their child through ‘good-fit’ interactions, and (d) interactions between mothers and children increased with play behaviors aligning to the dimensions of pretend play and were unique to a child’s needs and interests. When looking across dyads of mothers engaging a child with or without an IEP, variances in eCoaching outcomes were unique and individualized to each dyad. Virtual family-centered supports have become more accepted in the early childhood community over time. The following study adds to the literature on virtual family-based supports, emphasizing play as a medium for learning. Mothers in this study found eCoaching to be easy to engage in and beneficial. The outcomes of an in-depth analysis of eCoaching provide implications for future research and practice in terms of play-based virtual coaching practices.



Tejero Hughes, Marie


Tejero Hughes, Marie


Special Education

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level


Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Parker-Katz, Michelle Kim, Sunyoung Gregori, Emily Sheridan, Kathleen

Submitted date

August 2021

Thesis type




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