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Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy

Marsico Institute


While improving the quality of early learning experiences is a worthy investment in the future, real world practices have only recently begun to catch up with this idea. MIELL works to increase the connection between research and practice through:

  • our partnership with Colorado's early childhood system-building efforts.
  • our original research on innovative classroom- and home-based interventions
  • our work integrating and translating the best research in the early childhood field around the country and the world

Broadly speaking, MIELL's research agenda is focused on the contribution that adults make in creating stimulating and nurturing environments for young children, thereby establishing a foundation for lifelong learning. Our publications are described below:

Douglas Clements, PhD

The Importance of the Early Years Research provides findings—some surprising—about the importance of math for young children. Doug Clements and Julie Sarama explore these and suggest ways to build up children's mathematical concepts and skills.

Clements, D.H., & Saraman, J. (2014). The importance of the early years. In R.E. Slavin (Ed.), Science, Technology, & Mathematics (STEM) (pp. 5-9). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

The Building Blocks of Early Mathematics: Learning Trajectories for Young Children What are the mathematical and educational building blocks of early mathematics? What role should these building blocks play in early education, and why? Webinar for Early Childhood Investigations with 2,100 participants.

Clements, D.H., & Sarama, J. (2014, May 14). The Building Blocks of Early Mathematics: Learning Trajectories for Young Children [Webinar]. In Follett Growing Readers Series. Retrieved from

Preschoolers Getting in Shape Iris and Lauren are drawing triangles. Iris draws this on the chalkboard. Lauren says, "That's not a triangle! It's too skinny!" Iris responds, "I'm telling you, it is a triangle. It's got three straight sides, see? One, two, three! It doesn't matter that I made it skinny." Studies from around the world confirm that children can learn much more about geometry at earlier ages than most people assume. What does it mean to know shapes? What levels of mathematical thinking do preschoolers develop? How can we help them learn more sophisticated ways of thinking?

Clements, D.H., & Sarama, J. (2014). Preschoolers getting in shape. Teaching Young Children, 7(5), 30-31.

Learning and Teaching Early Math: The Learning Trajectories Approach (2nd Ed.) Everyone knows that effective teaching involves "meeting the students where they are" and helping them build on what they know. But that's easier said than done. Which aspects of the mathematics are important, which less so? How do we diagnose what a child knows? How do we build on that knowledge—in what directions, and in what ways? We believe that learning trajectories answer these questions and help teachers become more effective professionals. Just as important, they open up windows to seeing young children and math in new ways, making teaching more joyous, because the mathematical reasoning of children is impressive and delightful. Learning trajectories have three parts: a specific mathematical goal, a path along which children develop to reach that goal, and a set of instructional activities that help children move along that path. So, teachers who understand learning trajectories understand the math, the way children think and learn about math, and how to help children learn it better. Learning trajectories connect research and practice. They connect children to math. They connect teachers to children. They help teachers understand the level of knowledge and thinking of their classes and the individuals in their classes as key in serving the needs of all children.

Clements, D.H., & Sarama, J. (2014). Learning and teaching early math: The learning trajectories approach (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

Play, Mathematics, and False Dichotomies Some worry that the push for quality education even partially driven by a desire to improve achievement may deprive children of important childhood experiences. Others worry that unstructured play without teacher engagement does little to develop children's minds, particularly for children at high risk of academic failure. Let's stop the cycle of "abuse"—or at least confusion—that stems from false dichotomies in early education. "Play vs. academics" is arguably the main one. Of course children should play. But this does not mean they should not learn, and even play, with mathematics.

Clements, D.H., & Sarama, J. (2014). Play, mathematics, and False Dichotomies. Blog from Preschool matters... today!, W. Steven Barnett (Ed.). Retrieved from

Building Blocks, Volumes 1 and 2 Building Blocks builds on young students' math experiences by integrating engaging, hands-on activities and interactive technology into instruction. Building Blocks ranges from designated math activities to circle and story time to help kids relate their informal math knowledge to more formal mathematical concepts.

Clements, D.H., & Sarama, J. (2013). Building Blocks, Volumes 1 and 2. Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill (2 volumes, Teacher's Edition, Teacher's Resource Guide, Assessment Guide).

Background Research on Early Mathematics The National Governors Association hosted an expert roundtable meeting focused on state policies to strengthen early mathematics education – from early childhood through 3rd grade. A growing body of research shows that early mathematics proficiency is a predictor of later student achievement. This meeting brought together national experts and state policy leaders to discuss how state policy could more explicitly promote high-quality mathematics teaching and learning in both early childhood and early elementary settings.

Clements, D.H., & Sarama, J., & Baroody, A. J. (2013). Background research on early mathematics. Washington, DC: National Govenors Association. Retrieved from

Book Chapter - Lessons Learned in the Implementation of the TRIAD Scale-Up Model: Teaching Early Mathematics with Trajectories and Technologies Although the successes of research-based, visionary educational practices have been documented, equally recognized is the failure of these practices to be implemented at a scale that affects more than a trivial portion of children. Further, there may be no more challenging educational and theoretical issue than scaling up educational programs across a large number of diverse populations and contexts in the early childhood system in the United States, avoiding the dilution and pollution that usually plagues such efforts to achieve broad success. In this chapter, we describe a model of scale-up at the school district level and its initial evaluation. Although our intent is that the model should apply to all subject matter domains and grade levels, any evaluation must involve a specific instantiation. Our evaluations have focused on early childhood mathematics. Therefore, we begin with background information on the need for models of scale-up, especially in early childhood education, as well as a consideration of the particular needs in mathematics education. Next, we introduce the theoretical framework, the model we developed, and the research corpus on which they were based. We then summarize the empirical evaluations we have conducted of this model. In the final section, we summarize what we have learned and describe implications and challenges for the field.

Sarama, J., & Clements, D.H. (2013). Lessons learned in the implementation of the TRIAD scale-up model: Teaching early mathematics with trajectories and technologies. In T. G. Halle, A. J. Metz & I. Martinez-Beck (Eds.), Applying implementation science in early childhood programs and systems (pp. 173-191). Baltimore, MD: Brookes.

Book Chapter - Rethinking Early Mathematics: What Is Research-Based Curriculum for Young Children? We believe that researchers and practitioners can work together to ameliorate this situation and develop, evaluate, and use valid research-based approaches. To support such collaborative activity, we have developed two major conceptual tools. The first is a set of learning trajectories that describe how children learn major topics in mathematics and how teachers can support that learning. Based upon studies in fields ranging from cognitive and developmental psychology to early childhood and mathematics education, these guide the creation of standards, curricula, and teaching strategies. They also are at the core of the second conceptual tool, a framework for developing curricula and teaching strategies. This framework describes criteria and procedures for creating scientifically-based curricula.

Clements, D.H., & Sarama, J. (2013). Rethinking early mathematics: What is research-based curriculum for young children? In L. D. English & J. T. Mulligan (Eds.), Reconceptualizing early mathematics learning (pp. 121-147). Dordrecht, Germany: Springer.

Book Chapter - Solving Problems: Mathematics for Young Children

Clements, D.H., & Sarama, J. (2013). Solving problems: Mathematics for young children. In D. R. Reutzel (Ed.), Handbook of research based practice in early education (pp. 348-363). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Instructional Practices and Student Math Achievement: Correlations From A Study of Math Curricula This brief is directed to researchers and adds to the research base about instructional practices that are related to student achievement. Additional evidence on these relationships can suggest specific hypotheses for the future study of such instructional practices, which, in turn, will provide research evidence that could inform professional development of teachers and the writing of instructional materials. The results of this study revealed a pattern of relationships largely consistent with earlier research, but not in every case. Results that are consistent with previous research include increased student achievement associated with teachers dedicating more time to whole-class instruction, suggesting specific practices in response to students' work (1st grade only), using more representations of mathematical ideas, asking the class if it agrees with a student's answer, directing students to help one another understand mathematics, and differentiating curriculum for students above grade level (2nd grade only). Less consistent results were found in three 2nd-grade results, and include lower achievement associated with teachers' higher frequency of eliciting multiple strategies and solutions; prompting a student to lead the class in a routine; and with students more frequently asking each other questions. These findings suggest that practices associated with higher achievement gains include both student- centered and teacher-directed practices; however, some student-centered practices were associated with lower achievement gains.

Clements, D.H., Agodini, R., & Harris, B. (2013). Instructional practices and student math achievement: Correlations from a study of math curricula (NCEE Evaluation Brief). Washington, DC: NCEE (National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance).

Longitudinal Evaluation of a Scale-Up Model for Teaching Mathematics with Trajectories and Technologies: Persistance of Effects in the Third Year Using a cluster randomized trial design, we evaluated the persistence of effects of a research-based model for scaling up educational interventions. The model was implemented in 42 schools in two city districts serving low-resource communities, randomly assigned to three conditions. In pre-kindergarten, the two experimental interventions were identical, but one included follow-through in the kindergarten and first-grade years, including knowledge of the pre-K intervention and ways to build upon that knowledge using learning trajectories. Students in the experimental group scored significantly higher than control students (g = .51 for those who received follow-through intervention in kindergarten and first grade; g = .28 for non–follow-through), and follow-through students scored significantly higher than non–follow-through students (g = .24).

Clements, D.H., Sarama, J., Wolfe, C.B., & Spitler, M. E. (2013). Longitudinal evaluation of a scale-up model for teaching mathematics with trajectories and technologies: Persistence of effects in the third year. American Educational Research Journal, 50(4), 812 - 850. doi: 10.3102/0002831212469270.

Young Children's Understandings of Length Measurement: Evaluating A Learning Trajectory This study investigated the development of length measurement ideas in students from prekindergarten through 2nd grade. The main purpose was to evaluate and elaborate the developmental progression, or levels of thinking, of a hypothesized learning trajectory for length measurement to ensure that the sequence of levels of thinking is consistent with observed behaviors of most young children.

Szilágyi, J., Clements, D. H., & Sarama, J. (2013). Young children's understandings of length measurement: Evaluating a learning trajectory. ZDM-The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 44(3), 581-620.

Math in the Early Years This issue of The Progress of Education Reform reveals five surprising findings about the strong relationship between early math instruction and later student achievement. Researchers have found that early knowledge of math not only predicts later success in math, but also predicts later reading achievement even better than do early reading skills. The paper concludes with implications and recommendations for state policy that will support the development of early math competencies and young children.

Clements, D. H., & Sarama, J. (2013). Math in the early years [ECS Research Brief: The progress of educational reform]. Denver CO: Education Commission of the States.

Book Chapter - Mathematics for the Whole Child

Sarama, J., & Clements, D.H. (2012). Mathematics for the whole child. In S. Suggate & E. Reese (Eds.), Contemporary debates in childhood education and development (pp. 71-80). New York, NY: Routledge.

Book Chapter - Learning and Teaching Early and Elementary Mathematics Today's early childhood and elementary teachers work with more diverse students than ever before. Further, they have received little instructional support for the subject many are least prepared to teach - mathematics. Additional pressure to teach mathematics has emerged from recent research indicating that early mathematics learning is foundational for later academic success - possibly equal to or even more so than early learning of literacy.

Clements, D.H., & Sarama, J. (2012). Learning and teaching early and elementary mathematics. In J. S. Carlson & J. R. Levine (Eds.), Instructional strategies for improving student learning: Focus on early mathematics and reading (Vol. 3 of Psychological perspectives on contemporary educational issues, pp. 107-162). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Book Chapter - Mathematics Learning, Assessment, and Curriculum A discussion of what teachers should know about mathematics learning, assessment, and curriculum to develop children's interest and competence in mathematics, based on a select but substantial body of research on young children's learning of mathematics

Clements, D. H., & Sarama, J. (2012). Mathematics learning, assessment, and curriculum. In R. C. Pianta, L. Justice, S. W. Barnett & S. Sheridan (Eds.), Handbook of Early Education (pp. 217-239). New York, NY: Guilford.

The Impacts of an Early Mathematics Curriculum on Emerging Literacy and Language Competence in early mathematics is crucial for later school success. Although research indicates that early mathematics curricula improve children's mathematics skill, such curricula's impacts on oral language and early literacy skills are not known. This project is the first to investigate the effects of an intensive pre-kindergarten mathematics curriculum, Building Blocks, on the oral language and letter recognition of children participating in a large-scale cluster randomized trial project. Results showed no evidence that children who were taught mathematics using the curriculum performed differently than control children who received the typical district mathematics instruction on measures of letter recognition, and on two of the oral language (story retell) subtests, sentence length and inferential reasoning (emotive content). However, children in the Building Blocks group outperformed children in the control group on four oral language subtests: ability to recall key words, use of complex utterances, willingness to reproduce narratives independently, and inferential reasoning (practical content).

Sarama, J., Lange, A., Clements, D.H., & Wolfe, C.B. (2012). The impacts of an early mathematics curriculum on emerging literacy and language. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27(3), 489-502. doi: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2011.12.002

Early Mathematics Assessment: Validation of the Short Form of a PreKindergarten and Kindergarten Mathematics Measure In recent years, there has been increased interest in improving early mathematics curricula and instruction. Subsequently, there has also been a rise in demand for better early mathematics assessments, as most current measures are limited in their content and/or their sensitivity to detect differences in early mathematics development among young children. In this article, using data from two large samples of diverse populations of prekindergarten and kindergarten children, we provide evidence regarding the psychometric validity of a new theory-based early mathematics assessment. The new measure is the short form of a longer, validated measure. Our results suggest the short form assessment is valid for assessing prekindergarten and kindergarten children's numeracy and geometry skills and is sensitive to differences in early mathematics development among young children.

Weiland, C., Wolfe, C.B., Hurwitz, M.D., Clements, D.H., Sarama, J. H., & Yoshikawa, H. (2012). Early mathematics assessment: Validation of the short form of a prekindergarten and kindergarten mathematics measure. Educational Psychology, 32(3), 311-333. doi: 10.1080/01443410.2011.654190

Book Chapter - Geometry

Sarama, J., Clements, D.H., Parmar, R.S., & Garrison, R. (2011). Geometry. In F. Fennell (Ed.), Achieving fluency: Special education and mathematics (pp. 163-196). Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Book Chapter - Measurement

Parmar, R.S., Garrison, R., Clements, D.H., & Sarama, J. (2011). Measurement. In F. Fennell (Ed.), Achieving fluency: Special education and mathematics (pp. 197-218). Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

Early Childhood Mathematics Intervention Preschool and primary grade children have the capacity to learn substantial mathematics, but many children lack opportunities to do so. Too many children not only start behind their more advantaged peers, but also begin a negative trajectory in mathematics. Interventions designed to facilitate their mathematical learning during ages 3 to 5 years have a strong positive effect on these children's lives for many years thereafter.

Clements, D.H., & Sarama, J. (2011). Early childhood mathematics intervention. Science, 333(6045), 968-970.

Focus in Grade 2: Teaching with the Curriculum Focal Points Focus in Grade 2: Teaching with Curriculum Focal Points describes and illustrates learning paths for the mathematical concepts and skills of each grade 2 Focal Point as presented in Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten through Grade 8 Mathematics. It includes representational supports for teaching and learning that can facilitate understanding, stimulate productive discussions about mathematical thinking, and provide a foundation for fluency with the core ideas. This book also discusses common student errors and misconceptions, reasons the errors may arise, and teaching methods or visual representations to address the errors.

Fuson, K. C., Clements, D.H., & Beckmann, S. (2011). Focus in Grade 2: Teaching with the Curriculum Focal Points. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics/Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

TEAM - Tools for Early Assessment in Mathematics Tools for Early Assessment in Math (TEAM) is an assessment screening tool for students in Grades Pre–K–2. This tool can be used to determine where a student is proficient in math skills by providing meaningful diagnostic reports and by prescribing additional activities to accelerate their learning of these skills based on the reported data.

Clements, D.H., Sarama, J., & Wolfe, C.B. (2011). TEAM—Tools for early assessment in mathematics. Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill Education.

Evaluation of a Learning Trajectory for Length in the Early Years Measurement is a critical component of mathematics education, but research on the learning and teaching of measurement is limited, especially compared to topics such as number and operations. To contribute to the establishment of a research base for instruction in measurement, we evaluated and refined a previously developed learning trajectory in early length measurement, focusing on the developmental progressions that provide cognitive accounts of the development of children's strategic and conceptual knowledge of measure. Findings generally supported the developmental progression, in that children reliably moved through the levels of thinking in that progression. For example, they passed through a level in which they measured length by placing multiple units or attempting to iterate a unit, sometimes leaving gaps between units. However, findings also suggested several refinements to the developmental progression, including the nature and placement of indirect length comparison in the developmental progression and the role of vocabulary, which was an important facilitator of learning for some, but not all, children.

Sarama, J., Clements, D.H., Barrett, J.E., Van Dine, D.W., & McDonel, J.S. (2011). Evaluation of a learning trajectory for length in the early years. ZDM-The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 43, 667-680. doi: 10.1007/s11858-011-0326-5.

Early Childhood Teacher Education: The Case of Geometry For early childhood, the domain of geometry and spatial reasoning is an important area of mathematics learning. Unfortunately, geometry and spatial thinking are often ignored or minimized in early education. We build a case for the importance of geometry and spatial thinking, review research on professional development for these teachers, and describe a series of research and development projects based on this body of knowledge. We conclude that research-based models hold the potential to make a significant difference in the learning of young children by catalyzing substantive change in the knowledge and beliefs of their teachers.

Clements, D.H., & Sarama, J. (2011). Early childhood teacher education: The case of geometry. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 14(2), 113-148.

Mathematics Knowledge of Low-Income Entering Preschoolers  For more than a century, researchers have surveyed the specific mathematics skills of children entering school. With increasing numbers of children entering preschool (especially programs designed for children at risk), there is a need for such studies of younger children, especially those from low-resource communities (LRC). We review previous work and report two studies investigating the mathematics knowledge and competencies of children entering preschools in two states in the U.S., using theoretically-based assessments emphasizing psychological developmental progressions. Results suggest that children are acquiring mathematical concepts and skills at younger ages than previous generations. Children from LRC enter preschool with a range of mathematical skills and concepts upon which educators can build, but are not achieving their full potential. These results are intended to assist those responsible for developing standards, writing curricula, and assessing and teaching all children by providing updated information about what children know when they enter school, including the specific levels of achievement along research-based developmental progressions.

Sarama, J., & Clements, D.H. (2011). Mathematics knowledge of low-income entering preschoolers. Far East Journal of Mathematical Education, 6(1), 41-63.

Mathematics Learned by Young Children in an Intervention Based on Learning Trajectories: A Large Scale Cluster Randomized Trial This study employed a cluster randomized trial design to evaluate the effectiveness of a research-based intervention for improving the mathematics education of very young children. This intervention includes the "Building Blocks" mathematics curriculum, which is structured in research-based learning trajectories, and congruous professional development emphasizing teaching for understanding via learning trajectories and technology. A total of 42 schools serving low-resource communities were randomly selected and randomly assigned to 3 treatment groups using a randomized block design involving 1,375 preschoolers in 106 classrooms. Teachers implemented the intervention with adequate fidelity. Pre- to posttest scores revealed that the children in the Building Blocks group learned more mathematics than the children in the control group (effect size, g = 0.72). Specific components of a measure of the quantity and quality of classroom mathematics environments and teaching partially mediated the treatment effect.

Clements, D.H., Sarama, J., Spitler, M.E., Lange, A.A., & Wolfe, C.B. (2011). Mathematics learned by young children in an intervention based on learning trajectories: A large-scale cluster randomized trial. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 42(2), 127-166.

"Concrete" Computer Manipulatives in Mathematics Education The use of "concrete manipulatives" in mathematics education is supported by research and often accepted as a sine qua non of "reform" approaches. This article reviews the research on the use of manipulatives and critiques common notions regarding concrete manipulatives. It presents a reformulation of the definition of concrete as used in educational psychology and educational research and provides a rationale of how, based on that reformulation, computer manipulatives may be pedagogically efficacious. The article presents 7 hypothesized, interrelated affordances of manipulatives and briefly reviews evidence for their empirical validity.

Sarama, J., & Clements, D.H. (2009). ''Concrete'' computer manipulatives in mathematics education. Child Development Perspectives, 3(3), 145–150.

Teaching Math in the Primary Grades Children's thinking follows natural developmental paths in learning math. When teachers understand those paths and offer activities based on children's progress along them, they build developmentally appropriate math environments. The authors explain math learning trajectories and why teaching math using the trajectories approach is effective. A chart gives examples of instructional tasks for the learning trajectory for addition and subtraction.

Sarama, J., & Clements, D.H. (2009). Teaching math in the primary grades: The learning trajectories approach. Young Children, 64(2), 63-65.

Carrie Germeroth, PhD

Self-Regulated Learning for Academic Success Just as all teachers know what it's like to teach students who struggle to set goals, follow rules, stay on task, and stay motivated, all teachers can recognize students who are able to self-regulate. They are the ones who approach challenge with confidence, plan their learning tactics, maintain focus, work well with peers, monitor their progress, seek help when they need it, and adjust their approach for next time. They are the ones who succeed in school. Fortunately, self-regulated learning can be taught in every content area and at every grade level, from preK through high school. In this resource, Carrie Germeroth and Crystal Day-Hess of Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) present instructional strategies and specific ideas you can implement in your classroom today to put all your students on the path to positive, empowered learning and greater academic success.

Germeroth, C. & Day-Hess, C. (2013). Self-regulated learning for academic success. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Play and Self-Regulation: Lessons from Vygotsky The authors consider the analysis of the literature on play research by Lillard and others in the January 2013 Psychological Bulletin, an analysis that questioned the prevailing assumption of a causal relationship between play and child development, especially in the areas of creativity, reasoning, executive function, and regulation of emotions. The authors regard these connections as critical for teachers in early-childhood classrooms and for other advocates of child play. They claim that the conclusions of Lillard and her coauthors place these professionals in a difficult position because they already face sharp pressure to replace play with academic activities. The authors suggest that the difficulty researchers have in linking play to development partly results from a failure to account for both cognitive and non-cognitive developments across a complex trajectory. To help see the problem more clearly, they argue for a return to the Vygotskian and post-Vygotskian theories that differentiate between immature and mature play. The authors then describe their creation, an observational tool based on such theories, that helps researchers and practitioners judge the quality of pretend play.

Bodrova, E. Germeroth, C., & Leong, D. (2013). Play and self-regulation: Lessons from Vygotsky. American Journal of Play, 6(1), 111-123.

Stopping Childhood Obesity Before it Begins Preschool is a crucial time for obesity prevention, as children are developing eating and physical activity habits. A lack of physical activity at preschool may contribute more to overweight children than parental influences such as modeling and supporting physical activity or providing fitness equipment in the home. Let Me Play is a comprehensive program implemented in Head Start classrooms in various locations across the country, offering training to teachers, and providing them with developmentally appropriate physical activities that can be easily incorporated into existing curriculum.

Mazzeo, D., Arens, S., Germeroth, C., & Hein, H. (2012). Stopping childhood obesity before it begins. Phi Delta Kappan , 93 (7), 10-15.

An Eye-Tracking Analysis of the Effect of Prior Comparison on Analogical Mapping The present research examined the effect of prior experience on the distribution of attention during judgments of analogical similarity. Identifying analogical similarity requires mapping a set of relations in one situation onto a matching set of relations in an analogous situation. Analogical mapping is difficult when the common relational structure is embedded in contexts with dissimilar surface features and irrelevant surface similarities. Prior comparison of analogs may help subjects find future relational correspondences and ignore surface similarity (Markman and Gentner 1993). In the present study, attention was measured with eye tracking, which was monitored while subjects rated the similarity of analogous scenes. Experimental but not control subjects had previously compared scenes with the same structure. Eye fixation data indicated that prior comparison did not affect attention to structure-relevant objects, but significantly reduced attention to irrelevant surface-similar objects. Scanning data showing that both groups scanned within scenes more than between scenes were consistent with structure-mapping models of analogy.

Clement, C., Harris, R.C., Burns, B., & Weatherholt, T. (2010). An eye-tracking analysis of the effect of prior comparison on analogical mapping. Current Psychology, 29 (4), 273-287.

Attention Regulation in Low-Risk Very Low Birth Weight Preschoolers: The Influence of Child Temperament and Parental Sensitivity Even in the absence of major disabilities, children born prematurely are at high risk for academic delays and deficits. Research suggests that some differences in outcomes may relate to problems with self‐regulation, especially attention regulation. Previous research has demonstrated that individual differences in attention regulation is associated with both child and parent factors. This study examines the role of child temperament and parental sensitivity for attention regulation in preschool‐age children (n = 95) born with very low birth weights (VLBW) by using both questionnaire and observational data. Regression analyses demonstrate differential effects of specific child temperament characteristics and specific aspects of parental sensitivity on attention regulation. Early assessment of temperament and individualised parent sensitivity training may be important for improving outcomes for VLBW children.

Davis, D., Harris, R.C., & Burns, B. (2010). Attention regulation in low-risk very low birth weight preschoolers: The influence of child temperament and parental sensitivity. Early Child Development and Care, 180 (10), 1019-1040.

Motivation and School Readiness: What is Missing from Current Assessments of Preschooler's Readiness for Kindergarten? In the late 1990s, a National Educational Goal was set in the United States that by the year 2000 all children should start school with the skills necessary for learning (Meisels, 1995 ) and assessment measures should be put in place to provide the screenings. Thus, readiness testing became widespread and kindergarten curricula shifted to more structured academic programs and away from programs that provided opportunities for exploration and play. Readiness screenings are typically used for identification and placement purposes for children who are at risk for developmental and learning delays or for curriculum planning (Meisels, 1987). Practitioners often select between standardized screening tests or developmental assessments. However, many tests have been shown to lack validity and predictability. In light of the reliability and validity problems and inefficiency in predicting future success, some researchers have suggested reconsideration of the issue while others suggest that the practice be eliminated altogether. Recently, researchers have suggested that a more comprehensive approach is needed and that readiness measures should include an assessment of socio-emotional functioning (La Paro & Pianta, 2000). This article presents a new perspective on school readiness assessment that incorporates a broader view of readiness that includes social-emotional and cognitive development, including self-regulated learning behaviors such as those seen in children with mastery-motivation orientations. The author discusses the definitions of school readiness, purpose of readiness assessment and its controversies, and describes what is missing from readiness measures for kindergarten. The author stresses that with the availability of motivation assessments, intervention programs to support the development of more adaptive learning behaviors prior to entering elementary school can be developed. This article concludes that motivation provides a new perspective for teachers and school systems to consider when making decisions on school readiness.

Harris, R.C. (2007). Motivation and school readiness: What is missing from current assessments of preschooler's readiness for kindergarten? NHSA Dialog: A Research-to-Practice Journal for the Early Intervention Field, 10 (3-4), 151-163.

Characterizing Preschool Children's Attention Regulation in Parent-Child Interactions: The Roles of Effortful Control and Motivation This study examined relations among effortful control, motivation, and attention regulation in preschoolers within the context of parent–child interactions. Sixty-one low-income children and their mothers participated in a puzzle-matching task. One week later, the children completed a puzzle-matching task independently. Hierarchical regression analyses supported the hypothesis that children's effortful control and motivation is related to the amount of children's attention regulation in the parent–child interaction. The role of effortful control on attention regulation differed for children classified as having mastery- or performance-oriented motivation. Analyses also supported the hypothesis that children's effortful control, motivation and attention regulation predicted children's accuracy on the puzzle-task when working independently. Findings from this study demonstrate the utility of studying individual differences in temperament, motivation, and attention regulation within the context of the parent–child learning environment. Implications for understanding how children's social–cognitive status is related to academic success in impoverished environments are discussed.

Harris, R.C., Robinson, J., Chang, F., & Burns, B. (2007). Characterizing preschool children's attention regulation in parent-child interactions: The roles of effortful control and motivation. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 28 (1), 25-39.

Analysis of Attention and Analogical Reasoning in Children of Poverty This study examined the relationship between specific attentional aspects of processing capacity and analogical reasoning in children from low-income families. 77 children aged 48–77 (M = 56.7) months were assessed on an analogical reasoning task (matrices subtest of the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test) and on computerized attention tasks designed to assess orienting, vigilance, and executive attention abilities [Posner, M.I., and Petersen, S.E. (1990). The attention system of the human brain. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 13, 25–42]. Results showed that analogical reasoning abilities were associated with the executive attention network abilities, suggesting that skills associated with this network, such as the resolution of conflicts between competing demands on attention, may be particularly important for relational mapping. This was evident in girls only. Implications for understanding how attentional components of processing capacity can affect children's academic success in impoverished environments are discussed.

Weatherholt, T., Harris, R.C., Burns, B., & Clement, C. (2006). Analysis of attention and analogical reasoning in children of poverty. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 27 (2), 125-135.

Melissa Mincic, PhD

Administrative Strategies for Implementing the Pyramid Model for Supporting Children's Social-Emotional Competance This study investigated an administrative perspective of the early childhood education program policies, procedures, and funding allocation adaptations necessary to fully implement the Pyramid Model with fidelity. An interview protocol was developed for the purposes of the research. Participants included 10 program directors and staff from 6 CSEFEL and TACSEI demonstration sites in 4 states. Quantitative results revealed that more than half of programs altered a policy, procedure, or budget allocation to fully implement the Pyramid Model; about half were documented in writing. Qualitative results revealed nine themes across interview responses and relevant program documentation. The three most frequently coded themes – alterations reflecting alignment with the Pyramid Model, collaboration among program staff and stakeholders, and written documentation of program policies and procedures – were also coded in various combinations, highlighting these as especially salient for implementation. Findings provide useful information for early childhood program administrators considering Pyramid Model implementation.

Mincic, M. S., & Smith, B. J. (accepted for publication pending final revisions). Administrative strategies for implementing the pyramid model for supporting children's social-emotional competence. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education.

Observing Preschoolers' Social-Emotional Behavior: Structure, Foundations, and Prediction of Early School Success Social-emotional behavior of 352 3- and 4-year-olds attending private child-care and Head Start programs was observed using the Minnesota Preschool Affect Checklist, Revised (MPAC-R). Goals of the investigation included (a) using MPAC-R data to extract a shortened version, MPAC-R/S, comparing structure, internal consistency, test-retest reliability, and stability of both versions; and, using the shortened measure, to examine (b) age, gender, and risk status differences in social-emotional behaviors; (c) contributions of emotion knowledge and executive function to social-emotional behaviors; and (d) contributions of social-emotional behaviors to early school adjustment and kindergarten academic success. Results show that reliability of MPAC-R/S was as good, or better, than the MPAC-R. MPAC-R/S structure, at both times of observation, included emotionally negative/aggressive, emotionally regulated/prosocial, and emotionally positive/productive behaviors; MPAC-R structure was similar but less replicable over time. Age, gender, and risk differences were found. Children's emotion knowledge contributed to later emotionally regulated/prosocial behavior. Finally, preschool emotionally negative/aggressive behaviors were associated with concurrent and kindergarten school success, and there was evidence of social-emotional behavior mediating relations between emotion knowledge or executive function, and school outcomes. The importance of portable, empirically supported observation measures of social-emotional behaviors is discussed along with possible applications, teacher utilization, and implementation barriers.

Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., Thayer, S. K., Mincic, M., Sirotkin, Y. S., & Zinsser, K. (2012). Observing preschoolers' social-emotional behavior: Structure, foundations, and prediction of early school success. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 173(3), 246-278.

Preschoolers' Emotion Knowledge: Self-Regulatory Foundations, and Predictions of Early School Success Preschoolers (N=322 in preschool, 100 in kindergarten) were assessed longitudinally to examine the self-regulatory roots of emotion knowledge (labelling and situation) and the contributions of emotion knowledge to early school adjustment (i.e., including social, motivational, and behavioural indices), as well as moderation by age, gender, and risk. Age, gender, and risk differences in emotion knowledge were also examined. Emotion knowledge skills were found to be more advanced in older children and those not at economic risk, and in those with higher levels of self-regulation. Overall, the results support the role of emotion knowledge in early school adjustment and academic success even with gender, age, and risk covaried, especially for boys, older preschoolers, and those at economic risk.

Denham, S., Bassett, H., Way, E., Mincic, M., Zinsser, K., & Graling, K. (2012). Preschoolers' emotion knowledge: Self-regulatory foundations and predictions of early school success. Cognition and Emotion, 26(4), 667-679.

The Structure of Preschoolers' Emotion Knowledge: Model Equivalence and Validity Using A Structural Equation Modeling Approach Research Findings: A theory-based 2-factor structure of preschoolers' emotion knowledge (i.e., recognition of emotional expression and understanding of emotion-eliciting situations) was tested using confirmatory factor analysis. Compared to 1- and 3-factor models, the 2-factor model showed a better fit to the data. The model was found to be equivalent for gender, race, age, and socioeconomic risk. Theory and the high correlation between the 2 latent factors suggested a hierarchical nature of development, in which a higher level of emotion knowledge is built upon a lower level. In our validity model, we found significant paths from the recognition to the situation factor and from the situation factor to teachers' reports of preschoolers' learning behaviors and social competence. Results provide further evidence of the significant role emotion plays in preschoolers' school readiness. Practice or Policy: Early childhood educators can benefit from knowing that recognition of expressions and understanding of emotion-eliciting situations are appropriately teachable in this age range and can focus such teaching upon negative emotions and those that may vary across individuals. Furthermore, relations between these aspects of emotion knowledge and school readiness add to accumulating evidence that early childhood programming focusing upon emotion knowledge has multiple benefits.

Bassett, H. H., Denham, S., Mincic, M., & Graling, K. (2012). The structure of preschoolers' emotion knowledge: Model equivalence and validity using a structural equation modeling approach. Early Education and Development, 23(3), 259-279.

Social-Emotional Learning Profiles of Preschoolers' Early School Success: A Person-Centered Approach Examined how aspects of social-emotional learning (SEL)-specifically, emotion knowledge, emotional and social behaviors, social problem-solving, and self-regulation-clustered to typify groups of children who differ in terms of their motivation to learn, participation in the classroom, and other indices of early school adjustment and academic success. 275 four-year-old children from private day schools and Head Start were directly assessed and observed in these areas, and preschool and kindergarten teachers provided information on social and academic aspects of their school success. Three groups of children were identified: SEL Risk, SEL Competent-Social/Expressive, and SEL Competent-Restrained. Group members differed on demographic dimensions of gender and center type, and groups differed in meaningful ways on school success indices, pointing to needed prevention/intervention programming. In particular, the SEL Risk group could benefit from emotion-focused programming, and the long-term developmental trajectory of the SEL Competent-Restrained group requires study.

Denham, S. A., Bassett, H., Mincic, M., Kalb, S., Way, E., Wyatt, T., & Segal, Y. (2012). Social-emotional learning profiles of preschoolers' early school success: A person-centered approach [Special issue]. Learning and Individual Differences, 22(2), 178-189.

Assessing Socio-Emotional Protective Factors Among Ethnically Diverse Preschoolers in Poverty: Parent-Teacher Agreement on the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment (DECA) Research Findings: Social-emotional competence is especially important for children living in poverty, and effective assessment of social-emotional skills is critical. This study examined parent–teacher agreement and reliability of the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment (DECA; P. A. LeBuffe & J. A. Naglieri, 199931. LeBuffe , P. A. , & Naglieri , J. A. ( 1999 ). Devereux Early Childhood Assessment: User's guide . Lewisville , NC : Kaplan Press. View all references) English and Spanish forms in a large (n = 7,756) sample of impoverished, ethnically diverse preschoolers. Both forms were reliable. Parents reported greater social-emotional protective factors and behavioral concerns than teachers. Parent–teacher agreement was moderate (rs = .20–.28) and consistent with previous research. Parent–teacher agreement was higher when both informants completed the survey in the same language. Agreement was highest for average-functioning children, according to a standardized assessment of cognition, language, and motor skills that was also administered. Parents rated low-functioning children more favorably than did teachers; teachers rated high-functioning children more favorably than did parents. Practice or Policy: The English and Spanish DECA forms demonstrate reliability for examining social-emotional skills and behavioral concerns for impoverished, ethnically diverse preschoolers.

Crane, J., Mincic, M. S., & Winsler, A. (2011). Assessing socio-emotional protective factors among ethnically diverse preschoolers in poverty: Parent-teacher agreement on the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment (DECA). Early Education and Development, 22(3), 520-547.