Current and Recent Research
Conducted by the Center for Early Childhood Education
Teacher-Child Interactions and Scaffolding During Educational Technology Use
Undergraduate students Ariel Levesque, Erin Murphy, Suzanne Slater (Faculty mentor: Dr. Sudha Swaminathan)
The purpose of this study was to determine the best way to support and facilitate children’s interactions with educational technology.
Each teacher was video-recorded for 20-30 minutes using the iPad and/or Proscope with one or more children during free choice time. Researchers coded each two-minute portion of the videos on an adapted Teacher-Child Interactions instrument. “Good-fit” interactions were significantly higher than “poor-fit” interactions, and all teachers modulated their scaffolding to match both the level of guidance needed by the child & the content of their interactions. Children needed some guidance more frequently (67%), than much guidance (20%), or no guidance (12%).
View PowerPoint slides describing the study and findings.
TIMPANI Toy Study 2012
Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith and undergraduate students Jenny Wolff, Marley Koschel, and Jamie Vallarelli
Spring – Summer 2012
This annual study looks at how children interact with toys in their play with the purpose of identifying which toys best engage children in intellectual, creative, and social interactions in preschool classrooms. Toys for the 2012 study were nominated by parents and grandparents, early childhood teachers, and faculty. After an initial screening by the TIMPANI Advisory Committee to determine the appropriateness of recommended toys, each toy to be studied was placed in four different preschool classrooms for a specified number of days. During that period, a remote video camera records children’s activities for three 20-minute periods during the “free play” part of the day. Videos of each toy were studied and rated using a faculty-developed instrument. Scores were tabulated to determine which toys receive the highest ratings on three subscales: thinking and learning, cooperation and social interaction, and self-expression and imagination. Researchers also looked at the effects of the ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status of the children playing with each toy on overall scores. The highest scoring toy in the 2012 study was DUPLO bricks. Rainbow People, a set of simple, wooden figures, also received high scores, but did not score as highly with children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
Watch a video or read about about the results of the 2012 study.
The Relationship of Teacher-Child Interactions in Preschool Play to Young Children's Mathematical Ability
Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, Dr. Sudha Swaminathan, Dr. Xing Liu
Fall 2010 – Summer 2011
Funded by the Spencer Foundation
The purpose of this study was to identify classroom interventions in play that are associated with math achievement in three- and four-year-olds. While researchers have long found strong relationships between young children’s play and literacy, studies of teacher interactions in play and mathematics learning have not been conducted—despite the fact that math ability in preschool has been found to be one of the best predictors of later school success. For this study, 47 preschool children were video recorded during free play periods in their classrooms. All interactions with teachers during play time were coded. Informal teacher interactions related to number sense and to communication about mathematics were found to be associated with gains on a measure of mathematical thinking. “Good-fit” interactions in play—those in which a teacher’s guidance matched the kind of support children needed in their play—were also related to math scores. Authors conclude that teachers can promote mathematical thinking through informal play interactions, but these must support, not interrupt, children’s own, on-going play activities.
Watch a video about the study and findings.
Watch a presentation by Dr. Swaminathan and Dr. Trawick-Smith describing the findings. (Requires Adobe Flash Player)
TIMPANI Toy Study 2011
Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith and Kelly Zimmermann (student)
Spring – Summer 2011
This annual study looks at how children interact with toys in their play with the purpose of identifying which toys best engage children in intellectual, creative, and social interactions in preschool classrooms. Toys are selected for inclusion in the TIMPANI study based on recommendations from parents, teachers, and faculty. After an initial screening by the TIMPANI Advisory Committee to determine the appropriateness of recommended toys, each toy to be studied is placed in a preschool classroom for a specified number of days. During that period, a remote video camera records children’s activities for two 30-minute periods during the “free play” part of the day. Videos of each toy are studied and rated using a faculty-developed instrument (raters achieved 95% inter-rater reliability on the instrument). Scores are tabulated to determine which toys receive the highest ratings on three subscales: thinking and learning, cooperation and social interaction, and self-expression and imagination. The highest scoring toy in the 2011 study was TINKERTOYS.
Watch a video or read about about the results of the 2011 study.
Handheld vs. Desktop Computers: Effective Usage by Preschoolers in Natural Learning Environments
Dr. Sudha Swaminathan and Meghan Ryczek (student)
The purpose of this research project was to study preschoolers’ natural use of two educational technology devices, a handheld computer and a desktop computer. Select children will be introduced to these devices within a learning center environment. Children’s interactions will be documented using a participant observation methodology and measured on five dimensions, namely ease and comfort of use, effectiveness for video revisiting, use as a literacy tool, use as a cognitive tool, and for expressing creativity. Results will be compiled to inform both research and teaching practice about preschooler’s preference, competency, and learning potential using both devices. The project will also involve the development of a rating scale to evaluate children's applications available for the iPad.
Read an abstract about this study.
The Effects of Physical and Outdoor Play on Young Children's Development
Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, Dr. Darren Robert, Dr. Ann Gruenberg, and Julia DeLapp
Summer – Fall 2010
Funded by Head Start Body Start
Researchers reviewed over 100 studies to explore the benefits of physical and outdoor play on young children’s cognitive, motor, and social and emotional development. The research resulted in the development of a number of products, including and annotated bibliography outlining relevant studies, a comprehensive literature review analyzing study findings, five research-into-practice briefs, and videos of teachers demonstrating best practices in promoting physical play.
View project description, documents, and videos.
Data-Driven, Language Differentiated Professional Development for Teachers
Dr. Maureen Ruby and Dr. Ann Anderberg
Spring 2009 – Spring 2011
Funded by the U.S. Department of Education
This study is assessing the impact of a three-year Early Reading First grant aimed at improving the language and literacy skills of approximately 240 preschool-aged children in Willimantic, Connecticut. The study is exploring how providing bi-weekly professional development sessions and weekly coaching sessions to teachers and paraprofessionals affects a number of outcomes, including educator knowledge of literacy instruction strategies, classroom literacy environment, and children’s performance on assessments measuring a variety of early and pre-literacy skills.
Read more about the project.
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