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. Goldstein's lab, The Social Skills, Imagination, and Theatre Lab (SSIT Lab), investigates how involvement in fictional worlds affects children's social and emotional understanding and how children understand social information in fictional worlds. The lab is currently conducting research on: 1) How various levels of embodiment affect learning, memory, and understanding of fiction/reality boundaries for preschool-aged children. 2) The types of activities and statements in high-quality high school level acting classes that are explicitly and implicitly related to cognitive, social, emotional and academic gains. 3) The relationship between emotional granularity, acting experience, performance, and social understanding of others in middle childhood. 4) How an in school theatre program can help social communication in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Dr. Goldstein's lab uses qualitative, quantitative, experimental, field, observational, and survey methods in its work. Studies range from one-time visits to the lab involving brief stories or games to longitudinal interventions of various types of play or arts activities.
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 who are 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.