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.”
The MAP Center was recently awarded a five year grant by the U.S. Department of Education to assist with desegregation and other civil rights issues in public schools in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Sullivan will contribute to the development of MAP products and services to facilitate implementation of culturally appropriate multitier systems of support for students’ academic, social-emotional, and behavioral development.
“I’m excited to partner with the MAP Center to support schools’ efforts to create equitable systems and support the learning and wellbeing of all learners,” she says. “This is as important now as it’s ever been and with the MAP center, we have a great opportunity to develop tools tailored to our local communities.”
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.
Clayton Cook, John W. and Nancy E. Peyton Faculty Fellow in Child and Adolescent Wellbeing and associate professor in the department of Educational Psychology’s school psychology program, was recently interviewed by Forbes for the article “The Science Behind Making New Year’s Resolutions That You’ll Keep.”
In the article, Cook explains which conditions make it more likely we’ll keep our resolutions and how can make them into habits.
Series kicks off Feb. 7 with discussion of retaining and engaging enrolled families
As part of ITR’s mission to connect leaders in the field of children’s mental health, we are excited to announce our 2017 Colloquia Series, featuring three discussions on new research from ITR faculty. Space is limited, so reserve your spot early — e-mail ITR@umn.edu to RSVP.
Feb. 7 – Project INTERFACE: Promoting Parent Engagement in Parent Education Programs | 3:30-5 p.m., ITR offices Dr. Richard M. Lee and Dr. Alisha Wackerle-Hollman
Problems in engaging and retaining enrolled families is a significant barrier to reaping the effects of evidence-based parenting interventions. Studies show modest rates of enrollment and retention in evidence-based parent training particularly among racial/ethnic minority families. We will describe our work to develop and test a brief group-based engagement and retention priming module for families from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds.
The work was funded by a seed grant from ITR in 2015.
About Dr. Lee: Rich’s research interests are in understanding the psychological aspects of culture, ethnicity and race that function as risk and protective factors for well-being, mental health, and achievement in ethnic and racial minority populations. Dr. Lee has received NIH, NSF, and foundation funding to support his research.(Full bio)
About Dr. Alisha Wackerle-Hollman: Dr. Wackerle-Hollman is an educational psychologist with a passion for engaging communities and young children to improve child and family outcomes. Alisha’s interest focuses on two primary strands of research: a clinical foci on parenting education and development and an applied foci centralized around early childhood assessment and intervention.(Full bio)
March 27 – Personalizing Treatment for Adolescent Depression: Challenges and Opportunities | 3:30-5 p.m., ITR offices Dr. Meredith Gunlicks-Stoessel
There are now a number of evidence-based interventions for adolescent depression; however, many adolescents who receive one of these interventions do not respond. There is increasing recognition that treating depression more effectively requires taking into account individual differences and providing adolescents with treatment that is optimally matched and adapted over time to their individual characteristics, needs, and circumstances. In this presentation, I will discuss our work developing and evaluating personalized interventions for adolescent depression.
About Dr. Meredith Gunlicks-Stoessel: Meredith’s research focuses on the development and evaluation of interventions for adolescent depression. She has a particular interest in the development of adaptive interventions, which provide clinical guidelines for selecting, combining, and sequencing interventions to personalize the intervention approach. (Full bio)
May 2 – An alternative model of personalized interventions: Findings from an adoption study | 3:30-5p.m., ITR offices Dr. Leslie Leve
It is widely known that parents play a crucial role in their child’s development, ranging from the disciplinary practices they engage in, to the quality of their own interparental relationship, to the educational context they provide. However, there is increasing evidence that genetic influences play a role in these associations, sometimes via their moderating role in increasing or decreasing children’s susceptibility to these environmental experiences, and other times because they shape the types of environments that children are exposed to.
This presentation focuses on the interplay between inherited and environmental influences on child development by describing findings from an adoption study where children were reared from birth by unrelated caregivers. The relevance of children’s inherited predispositions in the design and delivery of preventive interventions will also be discussed.
Dr. Leslie Leve is a developmental psychologist who has used natural experimental designs to examine the interplay between social and inherited influences on child and adolescent development. This includes adoption studies where children have been reared by unrelated caregivers, intervention studies with children in foster care, and studies of siblings who have been reared apart since birth. Leslie is the Associate Director of the Prevention Science Institute and the Associate Dean for Research in the College of Education at the University of Oregon. She currently serves as President-Elect of the Society for Prevention Research. Her research is currently funded by NIH and IES.
Currently, Varma is designing programming promoting positive mathematical mindsets, including dealing with math anxiety and supporting math learning in 3rd – 6th grade students. Parents attend monthly meetings that include presentations and small group discussions. Next semester, her workis expanding to include text messaging to support interactions between parents and teachers and encourage curriculum-informed math activities at home.
Experiencing negative events and living in a high-stress environment can inhibit a child’s brain development and lead to negative health consequences later in life. Through her research, Brown aims to uncover the factors that may help children overcome adversity and lead to positive long-term outcomes.
Brown is especially interested in research centered around children and their families. “Working with the entire family really opened my eyes to see why kids were acting in certain ways,” Brown says.
One of her goals is to inform researchers, advocates, and social support networks about the tools they can use to help victimized children and adolescents. “The experience that you have in childhood doesn’t have to define you for the rest of your life. You can overcome it, and you can emerge resilient,” Brown says.
The article discusses the value of early access to visual language for d/Deaf children—specifically those with hearing parents. After noticing a gap between the literacy skills of sixth grade deaf children who had been exposed to ASL from birth and those who had not, Golos developed a video series calledPeter’s Pictureto promote language and literacy development in DHH children. Increasing evidence shows that learning ASL can benefit all children—deaf, hard of hearing, hearing, and deaf children who use spoken language. ASL helps increase children’s spoken language skills because it provides a foundation for language. Penny, whose first language is ASL, says videos, like the Peter’s Picture series, are an extremely effective way to teach ASL. “Whether the parents are skilled or not skilled (in ASL), it’s important to give children a way to learn ASL because ASL is their natural language, period,” he told theMinnesota Daily. In the article, Golos discussed plans for future research—creating additional videos in the series and supplemental materials for teachers and deaf children but also adding voice over options for those who are not fluent in ASL. Finally, she’d like to conduct additional studies to see how these types of educational media can be used both in the classroom and at home.
FSOS professors Abi Gewirtz and Bill Doherty offered post-election thoughts in local and national media outlets, respectively.
Local NBC affiliate, KARE 11 featured Abi Gewirtz and her thoughts on talking to kids regarding the current mood in the country.
The Wall Street Journal featured Bill Doherty and his thoughts on moving forward in familial relationships when parties disagree on the outcome of the election. Independent.co.uk also featured Doherty’s thoughts.
The article highlighted a new, small study in JAMA Pediatrics that examined the link between neighborhood factors – like liquor store density, domestic violence and violent crime rates – and stress in children.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at Tulane University and included 85 children in New Orleans, found that children who lived near more liquor stores or crime, experienced high cortisol levels that were less likely to return to normal after a stress test.
Commenting on the findings, Gunnar said that “[e]arly adverse experiences do get under our skin to influence our biology,” noting that “children need safe places to live in order to grow into healthy and productive adults.”
Despite this, Gunnar said many children who experience adverse neighborhood factors will be resilient. “Identifying the protective factors that support that resilience and building on them, especially for children showing the effects of toxic exposures, is the appropriate response to the pediatric health issues revealed by this study.”
Clayton Cook, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s school psychology program, was recently featured in a News Tribune article for his work helping the Sumner School District in Washington implement its Go! Project (Growing Opportunities for Hope) Whole Child program to prevent bullying. The project is an effort to provide well-rounded social emotional supports to students and establish school culture that create prosocial norms to promote respect for self, others, and the environment. John Norlin, Sumner School District program administrator, explained one of the tactics Cook shared to help the district prevent bullying. “Clayton Cook said if you have teachers greeting at the door, and they’re connecting and students have a task when they arrive, in an hour-long class period you will get 20 percent more active engagement. They’re less likely to act out in negative ways.”
Executive function refers to a set of skills that helps individuals pay attention, control impulses and think flexibly. During the interview, Carlson explained how executive function is related to the achievement gap and offered suggestions for how parents, educators and policymakers can help children develop the skills they need to succeed in the classroom.
“Difficulties with executive function really set kids up to fail in school,” Carlson said, later adding, “I would like to encourage educators and parents to get involved in these issues. There’s no powerless figure: ‘There’s nothing I can do for my class or for my child that’s going to make any difference.’ You really can and it’s a collective form of empowerment.”
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.
Opportunity gaps among children in our society are growing, and part of the problem is how we assess and educate them. Michael Rodriguez, Campbell Leadership Chair in Education and Human Development, co-director of the Educational Equity Resource Center, and professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s quantitative methods in education program, is being featured in this year’s Driven to Discover campaign for his work to close these gaps by helping schools understand how to work with diverse students, families, and communities. View the campaign.
Three Institute of Child Development (ICD) faculty members will be featured as part of the University of Minnesota (U of M) Driven to Discover campaign.
This year’s campaign emphasizes the U of M’s collective strengths in tackling big challenges in four key areas, including abolishing hunger, closing the opportunity gap, ending addiction and protecting human rights.
For the campaign, ICD faculty Megan Gunnar, Philip Zelazo and Jed Elison shared how their research is helping to close the opportunity gap.
Gunnar, director of the institute, Regents Professor and Distinguished McKnight University Professor, discussed the importance of investing in early childhood and promoting healthy development for all children.
Zelazo, a Nancy M. and John E. Lindahl Professor, highlighted his research on executive function, which can help predict kindergarten readiness and academic success.
Elison, an assistant professor, discussed how he is working to detect autism earlier to help children and families access interventions and achieve better outcomes.
The campaign, which launched in TV, print, digital, and social media on Sept. 26, will feature Gunnar, Zelazo and Elison throughout Fall 2016.
The University of Minnesota created the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (DDF) program to allow the “the University’s most accomplished PhD candidates an opportunity to devote full-time effort to an outstanding research project by providing time to finalize and write a dissertation during the fellowship year.” This academic year, the Department of Curriculum & Instruction was honored to receive the award for four of its outstanding PhD candidates.
What constitutes an outanding research project? We find out more about the four DDF recipients and their dissertation projects, career interests, and how they are planning to create change and promote knowledge for learners of all ages:
Revitalizing language, reframing expertise: An ecological study of language in one teacher-learner’s Ojibwe classroom
When Melissa Engman was a graduate student in applied linguistics, she worked with associate professor Mary Hermes transcribing Ojibwe videos. The work led her to take a class in language revitalization—the process of reviving declining, often indigenous languages—and there she found resonance in the inherent social justice issues that arose with cultures who have seen their native language use dwindle. “I became aware that I’m a white person living here on land that was once Ojibwe and Dakota land. I began to think about assumptions and power that come with speaking a dominant language,” Engman says.
Engman’s work focuses on a classroom in the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in Northwest Wisconsin where Ojibwe language is part of the curriculum. Due to the fact that Ojibwe language instruction materials are very few and many of the teachers have varying experiences with formal language training, Engman is trying to understand how to model the language revitalization program to be effective.
Engman attributes her research success partially to an atmosphere of collaborative support in her with her peers in Second Language Education. “Our cohort has very different research areas, but critical thinking is what unites our work,” Engman says. “We’re not afraid to challenge and push each other. That’s created a real sense of camaraderie and support. The faculty have done a really good job of fostering those relationships.”
Recuperating heritage languages, becoming transformative educators: Multilingual teachers and students of color transforming schools
After completing a Fulbright Scholarship teaching German to Turkish students in Austria, Cushing-Leubner realized that the non-native language learners in the schools were being left behind. She found a similar situation for Spanish-speaking students in the United States, which led her to focus her dissertation on developing a “heritage language” curriculum for students who speak Spanish at home. These students can use their home language as a springboard to learning more about their history, heritage and be included more effectively in a classroom setting.
“Multilingual kids are not represented in the current curriculum at all. They don’t see school as a space that’s designed for them,” Cushing-Leubner explains the problem with current foreign language classrooms. “Heritage language classes can reverse the trend of excluding home-language speakers.”
Cushing-Leubner is working with new teachers in high schools and middle schools across the Twin Cities metro. They have already successfully implemented heritage language classes in Spanish that use Latino-American history as a way for students to practice reading and writing the language they already speak proficiently. For these students, “keeping ties to their heritage languages is a point of strength and hope, and helps create community with one another,” says Cushing-Leubner.
Enabling Space Cadets: Quality Science Fiction for Children under 12 Years Old
Emily Midkiff got sidetracked while working on a class project to analyze a library’s circulation data. She noticed how little children’s science fiction existed compared to children’s fantasy literature, though the check-out rates were the same. This led Midkiff to create her dissertation to examine science fiction for children under 12, an area that is largely neglected but important to the development of interest in the STEM education fields.
“There are all these interview on how engineers, scientists and people at NASA read sci-fi when they were little. It shaped how they view science; Not a lot of people make that connection,” Midkiff says. She plans to look for strong girl characters and diverse heroines in children’s science fiction to better understand the lack of women and minorities in the STEM fields as part of her research.
Migrant Adult Learners and Digital Literacy: Collaborative Study for Sustainable Change
Jen Vanek has been working in the field of adult literacy and second-language learning for 20 years, the last 10 of which she has focused on digital literacy. Her dissertation is aimed at helping adult ESL teachers integrate online learning into teaching. She is working closely with four community-based organizations to to design digital homerooms stocked with learning resources for adult English-language learners to use in their computer learning labs.
“I hope that what emerges at the end are not only instructional resources that solve local problems, but also observations on how learning happens that can be applied to other learning environments,” says Vanek.
Diane Tedick, professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, received a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support English learners (ELs) through programs focusing on dual language and immersion teacher education and professional development, as well as parent education. The five-year grant project will be called the “Dual Language and Immersion Pathways to English Learner Success Through Professional Development and Parent Engagement Project (DLI3P).” Tedick received significant contributions from Tara W. Fortune, the immersion project director in the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) in both conceptualizing the project and writing the grant proposal.
The need to improve English learner education is imperative as English learners are the fastest growing and lowest achieving group of learners in U.S. schools, according to recent data. Research has consistently shown that dual language and immersion (DLI) programs are the most effective in preparing ELs to achieve academically in English. ELs in well-implemented DLI programs do as well as or better on standardized tests in English than peers schooled only through English.
The project aims to address the issue by improving instruction for English learners through the development and implementation of three programs:
a two-year, elementary education licensure program specifically teachers in DLI contexts. The new program is slated to start its first cohort in January 2017.
a two-year, in-service professional development certificate program for licensed DLI teachers aimed at better serving English learners, which will be offered in the coming year.
multiple DLI, parent-family education and engagement curriculum modules that can be accessed to supplement existing, district-sponsored parent education programs or to inform the creation of programs in participating districts throughout the country. Scholars in the field have found that educators who work to involve parents and families in their children’s education can improve their effectiveness with English learners. This piece of the program, led by Tara Fortune, will be important to ensure student success.
The project will involve a consortium of partners at the University including CARLA and the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI). The project is also partnering with six area school districts and a private school in the Twin Cities Metro that have existing two-way bilingual immersion programs. Throughout the project, evaluators will gather high-quality data to assess project efforts with the aim of feeding back into the project for review and improvement on the question of how to prepare and support a diverse cadre of bilingual teachers better prepared to serve English learners and DLI programs effectively.
The grant projects are designed to provide teachers with high quality, DLI-specific preparation and professional development to ensure that programs are well-implemented and to expand the skills, strategies and knowledge of DLI parents and families to improve engagement. The end goal is to make progress toward closing the achievement gap between native English speaking students and English learners and promote equity in the education system.
Dr. Tedick teaches in the Second Language Education program area in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. Learn more about the second language education programs offered for graduate and undergraduate students.
A project titled “Impact of an East African Mother-Daughter Physical Activity Program and Co-Designed Activewear” received a $75,000 University of Minnesota Extension FY 2016-2018 Block Grant. The project is led by:
Elizabeth Bye, Ph.D., Professor and Department Head of the Apparel Design Program in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota
Jennifer Weber, Behavior Specialist and Volunteer Coordinator/Athletic Director at the Cedar-Riverside Community School
Mary Marczak, Director of Urban Family Development and Evaluation at University of Minnesota Extension
The project aims to engage 10-15 urban, East African mother-daughter (in 2nd-5th grade) pairs in a two-year intergenerational physical activity program. The goal of the program is to increase physical activity opportunities through physical activity and healthy living education, practice and the co-design of culturally sensitive activewear. The study extends Bye, LaVoi, Thul & Hussein’s 2013-2015 culturally sensitive activewear co-design project with East African adolescent girls, which resulted in the design of a general physical activity garment and the first-ever sport uniform for adolescent Muslim girls in the U.S., to a wider range of girls and their mothers.
The Center for Resilient Families, funded with a $3 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is a partnership between Ambit Network at the University of Minnesota (PI, Dr. Abigail Gewirtz), developers of evidence-based family programs at Arizona State University’s REACH Institute, Implementation Sciences International, and the Research Consortium on Gender-based Violence.
Over the next five years, the Center for Resilient Families will adapt and put into practice five parenting interventions that have been found through rigorous testing to be effective at strengthening resilience among traumatized families. These interventions will serve more than 35,000 people and specifically target isolated families in transition, such as:
those with a parent deployed to war
Native American families on reservations
immigrant and refugee families
families involved in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems
families in which a parent has been killed
ITR is excited to house the groundbreaking work of this center, which furthers its mission of bridging the vast gap between research and practice in children’s mental health. Learn more about ITR’s work at itr.umn.edu.