CEHD News Center for Early Education and Development

CEHD News Center for Early Education and Development

CEED to establish international center for reflective practice

The Center for Early Education and Development (CEED) in the Institute of Child Development has received a $1 million grant from the Lynne & Andrew Redleaf Foundation to establish a center that will focus on reflective practice in infant and early childhood mental health.

Reflective practice is a professional development approach that encourages individuals to pay attention to relationships as they examine behavior and their responses to behavior. In the infant and early childhood mental health field, reflective practice asks practitioners to explore how they relate to the children and families they work with, who may be facing multiple challenges and risks. Practitioners engage in reflective practice in partnership with a supervisor or consultant.

The new CEED center will serve as an intellectual home for high-quality, cutting-edge research in reflective practice. It will also disseminate knowledge about reflective practice, help professionals incorporate reflective practice principles into their work, and inform policy dealing with infant and early childhood mental health. The center will be the first of its kind internationally.

“We are grateful to the Lynne & Andrew Redleaf Foundation for their support as we work to impact infant and early childhood programs and providers, both in Minnesota and across the country,” says Christopher Watson, Ph.D., IMH-E®[IV], director of the new center at CEED. “This generous gift will allow CEED to bolster its work in reflective supervision and to better support staff who serve families facing complex challenges. We look forward to carrying out this work in an effort to improve developmental outcomes for infants and young children.”

ICD hosts community symposium on play

ICD faculty member Stephanie Carlson, Ph.D., presents at the community symposium.On May 15, the Institute of Child Development (ICD) hosted a community symposium on the importance of play for learning.

For the symposium, which was co-hosted by the Minnesota Children’s Museum, ICD faculty and staff presented cutting-edge research on play and discussed why it is critical to child development.

Presentations covered topics including play’s impact on a child’s understanding of math, how play influences the development of executive function, and how the Children’s Theatre Company is incorporating research into a preschool storytelling program. Each presentation was followed by a play-based activity that asked participants to explore what they learned.

Experts from the Minnesota Children’s Museum also provided a sneak peek of their new facility and exhibits, which will open to the public on June 7.

To learn more about why play is critical to learning and child development, read the following articles from Connect, the College of Education and Human Development’s alumni magazine.

  • The power of play:” Play is essential for learning and growing, but it doesn’t get the respect it deserves. New research is changing that.
  • Play lab:” Children lead at the U’s laboratory preschool
  • Setting the stage for learning:” Supporting early literacy through theater arts

CE+HD Connect Magazine highlights CEED research on children’s theater program

A recent article in CE+HD Connect magazine discussed research by the Center for Early Education and Development that is examining the effectiveness of a children’s theater program. The story is one of three articles about play that appear in the magazine’s Spring/Summer 2017 issue.

Early Bridges is a preschool theater arts outreach program developed by the Minneapolis-based Children’s Theatre Company (CTC). Early Bridges aims to build early literacy through interactive storytelling and theater arts.

Through a research collaboration with CTC, CEED evaluates Early Bridges’ impact, such as whether students show improvement in certain areas. CEED also has helped develop new measures and rubrics for the program, which incorporate both theater arts and child development theory.

To learn more about Early Bridges and CEED’s research, read the full story, “Setting the stage for learning,” or register for ICD’s Community Symposium on “The Importance of Play for Learning.” The symposium will take place on May 15 at 8:30 a.m. at the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center.

Gunnar to participate in UMN’s first annual Research Ethics Day on March 9

Dr. Megan Gunnar

Megan Gunnar, Ph.D., director of the Institute of Child Development, will participate in the University of Minnesota’s (UMN) first annual Research Ethics Day conference.

The conference, which will take place on Thursday, March 9, will consist of training sessions and workshops that aim to foster a dialogue about how the university can strengthen human research protections. The morning portion of the conference will focus on informed consent, with afternoon sessions covering a variety of topics, including partnering with community members and managing conflicts of interest.

As part of the morning portion of the program, Gunnar is scheduled to moderate a panel at 9:30 a.m. that will discuss frontier issues in seeking pediatric or adolescent assent and parent or guardian permission.

Learn more about the event.

CEED partners with Reflection Sciences to offer training on Minnesota Executive Function Scale

The Center for Early Education and Development (CEED) has partnered with tech start-up Reflection Sciences to conduct on-site trainings on the Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS) in Minnesota.

The MEFS is a testing app that early educators can use to measure executive function (EF) and early learning readiness in children. It is the only early learning readiness assessment measuring executive function that can be used with children as young as two years old. The MEFS was developed by Institute of Child Development Professors Stephanie Carlson, Ph.D., and Philip Zelazo, Ph.D., who started Reflection Sciences.

“Executive function skills are vital for children’s school readiness and later achievement, and we now have a way to quickly and validly measure EF against national and local norms,” Carlson says. “We are delighted to be collaborating with CEED, the state’s premier training organization for public and private early education providers, to help others learn to use the MEFS in their organizations.”

“Early educators who are looking for new, effective ways to promote children’s learning and social skills will appreciate the ease of using the MEFS,” says Amy Susman-Stillman, Ph.D., a research associate at CEED. “It provides information about children’s development that no other assessment tool does and makes it simpler to understand a child’s individual needs.”

Click here to request a training on the MEFS.

Menninga receives MnAEYC Evelyn House Award

Menninga receives the Evelyn House Award from MnAEYC

Beth Menninga, project coordinator at the Center for Early Education and Development, recently received the Evelyn House Award from the Minnesota Association for the Education of Young Children (MnAEYC).

MnAEYC is a professional association devoted to representing early child care and youth programs across Minnesota. The award honors a current or former MnAEYC member who has made a significant contribution to the lives of young children in Minnesota and to the organization.

Menninga has worked in early childhood education for more than 30 years. In the 1990s, she was statewide coordinator of the Minnesota Infant-Toddler Training Initiative, which increased the quality of infant-toddler care by providing trainers with a high-quality curriculum. Menninga also has created programs, including Words Work! and Numbers Work!, and has co-authored the book, The Thinking Teacher: A Framework for Intentional Teaching in the Early Childhood Classroom (Griffin House, 2016).

“Beth is a longtime member of MnAEYC and has contributed much wisdom to MnAEYC and to the field as a past member of the board,” MnAEYC said. “Most importantly, she sees her work with young children, families and early childhood educators as a commitment to social justice, and has been a tireless advocate, spreading her influence and advancing the field across the state.”

Click here to learn more about Menninga’s work and the award.

Watson presents on reflective supervision research in Zero to Three webinar

Christopher Watson, Ph.D.

Christopher Watson, Ph.D., IMH-E (IV), a research associate at the Center for Early Education and Development, will be featured on ZERO TO THREE’s February Journal Author Spotlight on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, from 12:00-12:45 p.m. EST.

The live interactive spotlight, Next Steps in Reflective Supervision Research, will feature Watson and Sherryl Scott Heller, Ph.D., who will define reflective supervision and reflective consultation, and will present the history and process of building a research base focused on this form of professional development. The two authors also will discuss their research and describe the strategies they employed to create their research tools.

Register here for the webinar.

ICD unveils new online M.A. in applied child and adolescent development

The Institute of Child Development (ICD) has launched an online master’s degree program that will help prepare a new generation of professionals to meet the developmental needs of children in practice and through policy.

The Master’s of Arts (M.A.) in Applied Child and Adolescent Development program aims to equip students with a foundation in development science that can be applied in advocacy, community, and health care settings. Through the program, students will gain knowledge in cognitive and biological development, social and emotional development, research methods and ethics. The program is entirely online, allowing students to learn from where they are.

Students can apply to one of three specialized tracks: infant and early childhood mental health, child life, and individualized studies. Each track incorporates coursework specific to the specialization and requires a field experience internship or fellowship for graduation.  

“Children are our future — the nation’s future. At this critical time, we must ensure that children and adolescents receive the support they need to develop and grow into healthy, thriving adults,” says Megan Gunnar, Ph.D., director of ICD. “Our new master’s degree seeks to do just that by helping students build a foundation in development science that they can use in real-world situations.”

The M.A. is intended for individuals who would like to build a career working with children or adolescents or creating and implementing practices and policies that support their well-being and development. The M.A. also is ideal for professionals working in fields that serve children who are seeking to advance their career. The program currently is accepting applications for Fall 2017.

Sullivan and Susman-Stillman share research on how subsidy system impacts children with special needs

Amy Susman-Stillman
Amy Susman-Stillman
Amanda Sullivan

Amanda Sullivan, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, and Amy Susman-Stillman, Ph.D., research associate at the Center for Early Education and Development, recently hosted a research-to-policy briefing to discuss whether the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) equally benefits children with and without special needs.

The CCDBG is a $5.3 billion block grant program that provides funding to states, territories, and tribes in an effort to increase access to quality care for low-income families with young children. In 2014, Congress reauthorized the CCDBG and identified low-income children with special needs as a priority target population.

The briefing shared findings from a research project funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research, Planning and Evaluation. For the project, Sullivan and Susman-Stillman analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of young children with and without special needs to determine whether children with special needs equally access child care subsidies and how child care subsidies affect use of various care types and quality.

Sullivan and Susman-Stillman’s analysis found that throughout early childhood, children with special needs are less likely to access subsidized child care and that subsidy use increased the likelihood that a family would use home- or center-based care. The analysis also found that subsidized children with special needs spend more hours in care than non-subsidized children with special needs, and that subsidy use does not ensure access to quality care.

According to Sullivan and Susman-Stillman, based on the study’s findings, stakeholders should address inequities in accessing subsidized care for children with special needs and reduce barriers parents and providers face in finding and supplying high-quality care.

Star Tribune interviews Susman-Stillman on changing role of play in kindergarten classrooms

Amy Susman-Stillman
Amy Susman-Stillman

Amy Susman-Stillman, Ph.D., director of applied research at the Center for Early Education and Development, was featured in a Star Tribune article that explored changes to the kindergarten curriculum in Minnesota.

Across the state, kindergarten curriculum has shifted from “learning-while-playing” to emphasizing reading and math in an effort to meet new standards.

According to the Star Tribune, Susman-Stillman said that in “the process, guided adult-supported playtime like sand and water play, dress-up corners and role-playing has largely vanished from kindergarten classrooms.”

The article noted that as the kindergarten curriculum has become more rigorous, teachers are working to balance academics and developmentally appropriate activities.

Gunnar appointed to governor’s Early Learning Council

Dr. Megan Gunnar
Dr. Megan Gunnar

Megan Gunnar, Ph.D., Regents Professor, Distinguished McKnight University Professor, and director of the Institute of Child Development, has been appointed to Gov. Mark Dayton’s Early Learning Council.

The council aims to ensure that all children are school-ready by 2020. Council members “make recommendations to the governor and legislature on how to create a high-quality early childhood system in Minnesota that will help improve educational outcomes for all children.”

Dr. Gunnar’s term runs from Sept. 19, 2016, to April 7, 2019.

CEED convenes advisory council to support early education in Minnesota communities

The Center for Early Education and Development (CEED) on Sept. 12 brought together community leaders to discuss ways to support and promote professional development in early education and human development.

CEED, a unit within the Institute of Child Development (ICD), aims to advance practices and policies that support all young children, their families, and the professionals who serve them through research, professional development and community engagement.

The CEED Advisory Council will meet regularly across the next several months with the goals of enhancing CEED’s current programming and identifying new ways to engage early childhood professionals in Minnesota and surrounding states.

Council members include:

Andre Dukes, Chair, Northside Achievement Zone
Barb Fabre, White Earth Nation
Barbara Hahn, Minnesota Children’s Museum
Kamyala Howard, People Serving People
Nancy Jost, West Central Initiative
Jane Kretzmann, Elders for Infants
Denise Mayotte, Sheltering Arms
Kelly Monson, Governor’s Children’s Cabinet

Dr. Megan Gunnar
Dr. Megan Gunnar

“Early life is a critical time for children to build trusting relationships that will help them thrive,” says Megan Gunnar, PhD, interim director of CEED and director of ICD. “We’re thrilled to work with leaders in the Minnesota early education and development community in an effort to better support those who serve young children and their families every day.”

First Annual Reflective Supervision Symposium

2016 Reflective Supervision Symposium
Mary Harrison, Jill Hennes, Christopher Watson, and Kristin Armbruster

Christopher Watson and Mary Harrison from the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED) attended the first annual Reflective Supervision Symposium at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor August 10-12. The Symposium was hosted by the newly incorporated Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health and the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health. On the first day of the Symposium, Watson presented a new research and training tool, the Reflective Interaction Observation Scale (RIOS), developed by the Alliance research committee. The team is led by the Minnesota team of Watson, Harrison, Jill Hennes and Maren Harris. The RIOS identifies five Essential Elements – the “active ingredients” – in reflective supervision/consultation that is grounded in infant mental health theory and practice. The Symposium featured live, unrehearsed individual and group reflective supervision sessions and facilitated reflective small group processing. One of the presenters was Minnesota independent consultant and trainer Jill Hennes. Kristin Armbruster, coordinator of the Minnesota Association for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, rounded out the Minnesota contingent at the Symposium.

CEED and Educational Psychology Partner to Research Impacts of Early Care and Education on Children with Special Needs

Amanda Sullivan, associate professor in Educational Psychology, and Amy Susman-Stillman, director of Applied Research and Training in the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED), are collaborating on two grant-funded projects aimed at examining whether early childhood care and education programs positively impact children with special needs.

Sullivan is principal investigator, collaborating with Susman-Stillman and assisted by graduate student Elyse Farnsworth from Educational Psychology, on a project funded by a CEED SEED grant that aims to understand how early childhood special education (ECSE) preschool classroom environments and services for high-performing children differ from those for low-performing children, and which preschool ECSE services are associated with positive outcomes at kindergarten entry. The goal is to identify key practices and environmental conditions that facilitate successful transitions for children with disabilities in order to promote practice and policy change at the local and national level to improve the effectiveness of pre-3 ECSE.

Sullivan is also principal investigator and Susman-Stillman co-principal investigator, again assisted by Elyse Farnsworth, on a related project funded by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This project is using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) to look at the nature and impact of child care subsidy use in low-income families who have children with special needs. These families represent a substantial proportion of the general population under age 5, and poverty has been shown to increase risk for developmental delays and disabilities, as well as negatively impact school readiness. The child care subsidy program is intended to help low-income children access high quality care, but little is known about whether the program is benefiting young children with special needs. The goals of this project are three-fold: first, to provide nationally representative data on subsidy use and impact in low-income families who have children with special needs; second, to compare the type and quality of care received by children with special needs who do and do not receive subsidies; and third, the educational outcomes for those children who do receive subsidies.

For more information about this work, please visit:

Minnesota Risk and Reach Report

ICD and CEED contribute to the 2015 Minnesota Early Childhood Risk and Reach Report.

The Minnesota Risk and Reach Report was produced by a partnership of the University of Minnesota, Wilder Research, and the Minnesota Departments of Education (MDE), Health (MDH), and Human Services (DHS). The report describes potential risks to the healthy development of young children and the extent of coverage of publicly-funded services to meet their early learning, health, and basic needs. The partnership is an ongoing collaborative working to continue to improve data collection and infrastructure to support integrative early childhood systems. Authors included Elizabeth Carlson, Senior Research Associate (ICD) and Director of the Harris Training Programs (CEED), and Alison Giovanelli, Graduate Student (ICD). The report was made possible by funding from the Irving Harris Foundation to the University of Minnesota.

Knowing Numbers: Research Shows the Way to Support Mathematical Thinking from Early Childhood

MazzoccoM-PrefMichele Mazzocco, professor in the Institute of Child Development and research director for the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED), wrote the article “Knowing Numbers: Research Shows the Way to Support Mathematical Thinking from Early Childhood.” Read the article in the Winter 2015 issue of the College of Education and Human Development’s Connect.

How early is too early for adults to start teaching kids about math and science? “It’s never too early.”

MazzoccoM-2013“It’s never too early,” says Michele Mazzocco, professor of child development at the Institute of Child Development and research director for the Center for Early Education and Development. According to developmental psychologist Jean Piaget, children ages 2 through 7 are in the symbolic function stage and begin to explore math and science concepts. Parents and teachers can help build a strong  foundation for fostering written and oral math and science skills that can enhance children’s future success. Read the full article in The AtlanticTurning 3-Year-Olds Into Scientists (Nov. 5, 2014, http://www.theatlantic.com).

Scott McConnell is a Member of the Bridging the Word Gap Research Network Leadership Team

Scott McConnellScott McConnell, professor of educational psychology and director of community engagement for the Center for Early Education and Development, is a member of the new Bridging the Word Gap Research Network leadership team. The two-year $593,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for which this team will serve, was announced and endorsed on October 16 at a White House event.

Led by University of Kansas researchers, the leadership team will work to help bridge the “30 million word gap,” which refers to the “difference in the number of words that some children from poverty backgrounds hear by age 4 compared with the experiences of other more affluent children,” according to a news article posted on the University of Kansas website. Read the full article.

UROC director of research Lauren Martin and partners expose market structure behind sex trafficking in Minneapolis

Mapping the Market for Sex with Trafficked Minor Girls in Minneapolis: Structures, Functions and Patterns is a report released to the public on September 10, 2014, co-authored by Lauren Martin, UROC’s director of research and affiliated faculty with CEED@UROC, and Alexandra Pierce, President, Othayonih Research.

Read the University of Minnesota news release.

Read more and download the report or executive summary on UROC’s website.

CEED presented at NAEYC National Professional Development Institute

2014 NAEYC Presenters

CEED staff and affiliated CEHD faculty participated in the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) 2014 National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development on June 8-11, 2014. The Institute was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Christopher Watson, Amy Susman-Stillman, Vicki Hawley, Ann Bailey, LeAnne Johnson, Mary Harrison, and Chloe Webb presented posters and led sessions at the Institute. Vicki Hawley offered one of the Institute’s three featured sessions. The National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development is designed for professionals who prepare, mentor and train early childhood professionals.