The Development In School Contexts (DISC) Lab examines how children develop in classroom settings and what teachers do to facilitate that development. Our interests focus on two related sets of aims. First, we examine how teacher-child interactions serve as a mechanism for children’s development. In other words, we are interested in exploring how different types of interactions teachers have with students (emotional, organizational, instructional) relate to children's growth (academic, emotional, social). Second, we are interested in the measurement of teacher-child interactions. Interactions are difficult to quantify, and if we can’t measure these interactions well, then we are going to have difficulty (reliably) relating these interactions to children’s development. Thus we examine, the stability, variability, and reliability in the measurement of teacher-child interactions.
Dr. Susanne Denham and her graduate and undergraduate assistants are currently working on three different projects. Most recently, Dr. Denham and the lab members have undertaken a study in response to a growing need for social-emotional assessments for school readiness. The goal is to develop a comprehensive battery of social-emotional competence measures for educators and researchers to use to determine whether children will be able to function adequately in a school setting. Lab members are also currently collecting and analyzing data for a longitudinal study regarding children's emotional competence. This is a study that has followed children from preschool to middle school, and examines how early childhood emotional competence, combined with parent and friend contributions, predicts current social and emotional competence. Finally, lab members are analyzing data for the Forgiveness project, a study that examined how children in primary school overcome transgressions affectively, cognitively, and behaviorally.
Dr. Pasnak’s Cognitive Interventions laboratory has focused on helping children who lag in cognitive development to catch up to their peers. This sometimes involves blind or mentally challenged youngsters, or those with ESL or minority status, but more often it is children who are behind their peers cognitively for no identifiable reason. "Learning set" methods are used to teach children the key cognitive constructs appropriate for their age. The synthesis of content and method leads to meaningful gains on IQ tests and in academic achievement that endure for at least a few years, and some gains in self esteem for the children. This research has been supported by large grants from the Institute of Educational Science. New work will be with first-graders, or with children with mild intellectual deficits, or with autistic children, depending on funding. Dr. Pasnak is now involved in research on socioemotional development with Dr. Susanne Denham, and research on autistic children with Drs. Thompson and Perez-Edgar and is very open to new lines of research if students have some pet ideas in the general area of socioemotional development.
Dr. Winsler's research lab is currently exploring four different areas: 1) the quality and type of early childcare experiences for ethnically-diverse, urban children in poverty, and the school readiness and early public school trajectories for such students. Multiple family, child, preschool, public school, and neighborhood predictors of children's delayed entry to kindergarten, early grade retention, early academic performance, special education placement, and high-stakes standardized test results are explored for both typically developing at-risk students and students with disabilities; 2) private speech (self-talk) and parent-child interactions and development of children's behavioral self-regulation and executive functioning in both typical children and those with autism and/or ADHD; 3) Bilingual language development and maintenance, and the acquisition of English among English Language Learners (ELL) and its role in early and later school performance. Also studied is the sociolinguistic language environments of early childhood classrooms with linguistically diverse children; and 4) Motivation and self-regulated learning as predictors of academic performance and retention among college students. A combination of methods are employed in Dr. Winsler's lab, including direct child-assessments, tasks, and interviews; parent- and teacher-report instruments; secondary analysis of archival datasets; surveys; classroom observations; and the qualitative and quantitative coding and analysis of behavior from video and/or audio tapes.