What kind of research happens at the ECE Lab Preschool?
Unique, cutting-edge projects help us understand early childhood development, education, problem-solving and more. As a model demonstration site within our community and a training site for undergraduate and graduate students, the preschool's mission is to generate knowledge about best practices in early childhood education.
Take a Look at Some of Our Current Projects
Children’s Perception of the Home Stay
Dr. Cynthia DiCarlo, ECEI, Dr. Katie Cherry, Department of Psychology, Dr. Margaret Mary Sulentic Dowell, School of Education; Graduate Assistants – Jeanette Bankson & Ellyn Culotta
The purpose of the present study was to examine children’s’ understanding of the COVID-19 home stay. Given the historical nature of the pandemic environment, research that investigates stay-at-home mandates can reveal much about the interactions between young children and their parents/caregivers. The study was conducted through both a child and parent interviews via teleconference, which were conducted by their child’s regular child care teacher. Data were analyzed using open coding (Saldana, 2016). Three final themes of children’s conceptualizations, sources of information, and content of information were revealed. While results indicated that the majority of parents provided their children with information on why they were home, most used advanced language in their description (I.e., coronavirus). It was not conclusive in the children’s responses that they understood or if they simply parroted their parent’s language or responses. However, for children who were provided more simplistic explanations (i.e., germs), children could expand their responses indicating understanding of their meaning (i.e., you will get sick, need to wash hands, wear a mask). For those parents who did not provide their children with information, children provided their own meaning, often citing erroneous information (i.e., they ate rotten bananas), reflective of how young children make sense of their world. Teachers can assist families with mediating language in order to assure that children have an accurate understanding of the current situation.
Keywords: 2020 pandemic, coronavirus, COVID-19, home stay order
Child-Sustained Attention in Two-Year Olds
Dr. Cynthia DiCarlo, ECEI, Dr. Carrie Ota, Weber State University; Graduate Assistant – Jeanette Bankston, Emily DuBoulay, Autumn Smith
The purpose of this study was to determine the teaching condition that yielded the longest duration of child attention in two-year-old children. A total of 49 two-year-olds were observed within their childcare classrooms. The child’s regular classroom teacher was asked to selected three highly preferred toys to use in offering the child choices within the teaching conditions of adult presentation (one toy) and adult choice (two toys); the child was given the instruction to “go play” during the child choice condition and could select from any material in the classroom. Children’s attention in the adult choice condition was significantly longer. Results from the present study highlight the importance of a highly skilled teacher who has knowledge of child development and an understanding of individual child preferences.
Keywords: child development, toddlers, attention, learning, teaching
How Teachers Identify Characteristics of the Reggio Emilia Philosophy in Practice
Dr Cynthia DiCarlo, ECEI, Dr. Margaret Mary Sulentic Dowell, School of Education, Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, School of Education, Dr. Michelle Grantham-Caston, ECELP; Graduate Student – Autumn Smith
The Reggio Emilia philosophy has been guiding early childhood practices since its development by Loris Malaguzzi in 1963. Originating in Reggio Emilia, Italy, this approach to early childhood education emphasizes building and nurturing relationships between the adult and child. This philosophy is guided by eight core tenets - the environment as the third teacher, 100 languages of children, long-term projects, teacher-researcher, image of the child, negotiated learning, documentation, and social relations. Research shows that young children’s engagement with the Reggio Emilia approach benefits their academic, cognitive, and social-emotional development. However, there is currently no school accreditation or teacher certification program associated with the Reggio Emilia approach in the United States. The purpose of this study was to identify characteristics of the Reggio Emilia philosophy as determined by teachers who follow this approach in their practice. The leading research questions of this study are: What characteristics do teachers identify with the Reggio Emilia approach? and What does the Reggio Emilia approach look like in practice? 75 practicing teachers who self-identify as Reggio-inspired educators consented to participating in this study. The participating teachers identified 14 characteristics of the Reggio Emilia philosophy - Child-centered, Respect for the child, Learning from the environment, Nature, Documentation, Reflection, Inquiry, Discovery learning, Observation, Research, Collaboration, Social relations, Community, and Family involvement. Additionally, materials, artifacts, and teacher facilitation practices were identified for each tenet of the Reggio approach. The findings of this study can contribute to the creation of professional development resources and trainings on adopting the Reggio-inspired approach.
Keywords: Reggio Emilia philosophy, socio-constructivism, child-directed learning, early childhood education
Improving Co-Teaching Relationships
Dr. Cynthia DiCarlo, ECEI, Dr. Ashley Meaux, University of Montana, Missoula; Graduate Student – Caroline Hulin, MEd
Lack of coordinated action between two adults in the classroom can lead to disjointed instruction for young children and teacher stress. The purpose of the present study was to measure the effects of a multi-component intervention, Responsive Partnership Strategies, on teacher satisfaction with their co-teaching relationship. Teachers were observed within the context of their classroom and during weekly planning sessions to record their use of the components of the Responsive Partnership Strategies. Following baseline observations, teachers completed the Relationship Satisfaction Questionnaire and the Responsive Partnership Strategies Checklist. The intervention introduced teachers to the Responsive Partnership Strategies and discussed how these could be implemented across the school day. Following intervention, tools were readministered. Results indicated that there was an increase in teachers' use of components of the Responsive Partnership Strategies as well as an increase in teacher satisfaction with their co-teaching relationship. These results suggest that when teachers are more aware of collaborative practices, they can improve co-teaching relationships.
Keywords: co-teaching relationships, collaborative practices, teacher satisfaction
Leadership in Preschoolers
Dr. Cynthia DiCarlo, ECEI, Dr. Michelle Brunson, Northwestern State University, Dr. Margaret Mary Sulentic Dowell, School of Education, Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, School of Education; Graduate Student – Sarah West, MEd
The purpose of the present study was to examine the leadership behavior exhibited by preschool aged children and to determine if teacher prompting could increase the frequency of leadership behaviors exhibited by preschool children. A multiple baseline design across children was used to measure child leadership behaviors and teacher prompting. Baseline observations revealed that children engaged in Parten’s original 1933 framework of both directing and following, reciprocally directing or sharing leadership and directing the group at varying levels. Using Pigors (1933) definition of “guidance of others toward a desired goal”, a Leadership Prompting Intervention was used to increase children’s leadership behaviors. Results indicated that all three teachers increased their level of leadership prompting and all three children increased the behaviors of directing the group.
Keywords: preschool, child leadership, teacher prompting
Mindfulness in Young Children
Dr. Cynthia DiCarlo, ECEI, Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, School of Education, Dr. Thompson Davis, Department of Psychology; Graduate Student – Ellyn Culotta
Self-regulation is identified in the literature as an early predictor of later life success and an important skill that develops over the course of a lifetime. beginning in early childhood (Flook et al., 2015; Montroy et al., 2016; Murray et al., 2017). The purpose of this research study was to assess whether direct instruction of mindfulness practices, such as guided meditation and yoga poses (Lee et al., 2020; Poehlmann-Tynan et al., 2016; Zelazo et al., 2012) would increase self-regulatory behaviors, such as impulse control, emotion regulation, and problem-solving in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten aged children. METHOD: Target children were chosen based on teacher nomination of children who displayed a lack of self-regulatory behaviors in combination with the results of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (Squires & Bricker, 2009). A Mindfulness Practices Intervention, consisting of yoga poses and guided mediation was implemented using a multiple baseline design across classrooms. Data were collected using interval recording for a 10-minute observation daily over a six to nine-week period using a video camera. Child’s self-regulatory behaviors were recorded using behavior definitions modified from the Regulation-Related Skills Measure (RRSM) (McCoy et al., 2017). All three targeted children displayed increases in self-regulatory behaviors after the Mindfulness Practices Intervention was introduced. Teacher should consider integrating mindfulness practices within their daily classroom schedule, as these practices can positively impacts students’ self-regulatory behaviors.
Keywords: mindfulness, self-regulation, early childhood, yoga, guided meditation
Dr Cynthia DiCarlo, ECEI, Dr. Ashley Meaux, , University of Montana, Missoula; Graduate Student – Erin Hebert, MEd
Teaching has been identified as the most stressful profession in the human service industry (Greenberg, Brown & Aberavoli, 2016). Elevated teacher stress not only affects the teacher's well-being and likelihood of burnout, but also the classroom climate of young children. The purpose of the present study was to assess whether mindfulness practices can increase positive classroom climate and decrease perceived stress in early childhood teachers. Participating teachers were selected based on results of the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS, Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983). Data were collected on the positive and negative climate objectives from the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS; Pianta, LaParo, & Hamre, 2018), which were operationally defined. The Mindfulness Practices Intervention included yoga poses, intentional breathing, and guided mediation (Harris, Jennings, Katz, Abernavoi, & Greenberg, 2015), which were implemented within the school day during arrival, mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon, and after work in the evening. Perceived Stress Scale scores decreased for two of the participating teachers; all three teachers' increased positive climate and decreased negative climate. Results of the current study suggest that this low-cost, low labor-intensive intervention was effective in improving classroom conditions for both teachers and young children.
Keywords: early childhood, mindfulness, perceived stress scale, positive climate