Early Learning and School Readiness Program
The Early Learning and School Readiness Program supports research that attempts to specify the experiences children need from birth to age 8 to prepare them to learn, read, and succeed in school. In addition, the Program seeks to identify early interactions with adults and peers, the early childhood education teaching methods and curricula, and comprehensive early childhood interventions that support learning and development, specifically in domains that prepare children from diverse backgrounds experiencing diverse environments for kindergarten and the early grades.
Areas of Specific Research. The Program encourages research that focuses on the development of cognition, emergent literacy, language, numeracy and mathematics, social and emotional competence, metacognition, executive function, self-regulation, motor development, and physical health. One special interest is the development and evaluation of integrative and comprehensive early childhood curricula and programs to support learning and development for diverse populations of children in the areas listed above. Especially important are studies that test complex hypotheses, which will generate a body of knowledge about what early childhood experiences with adults and peers, what pedagogical strategies, and what early childhood curricula or programs are most effective in promoting learning and development in specific areas, for which children, and under what conditions.
The Program also supports cross-sectional and/or longitudinal research designed to specify cause-effect relationships between children's early experiences and the development of specific abilities and dispositions that lead to achievement, reading ability, social competence, and emotional well-being in kindergarten and early grades. Research that specifies the mediating processes responsible for observed outcomes in learning and development is another program focus, which may help explain how these processes and outcomes differ for individual children, families, communities, and early childhood programs with varied characteristics. Examples include exposure to high levels of stress, prolonged media exposure, and chaotic or otherwise over- and under-stimulating environments.
In addition, the program seeks to enhance knowledge about the preparation, training, and professional development of persons involved in the care and education of young children, the effectiveness of training strategies in promoting the positive modes of interaction identified by the research described above, and the causal linkages between adult behavior and school readiness outcomes for young children. Further, research exploring the interaction between characteristics of those receiving preparation, training, or professional development, and the impact of these experiences on their behavior and child outcomes is encouraged.
Integrating Basic and Applied Research on Early Learning and Development. A larger goal of this Program is to encourage the integration of basic and applied research that will simultaneously: (1) lead to a coherent base of knowledge to support healthy development and learning for diverse populations of children, in a range of settings that include parental and nonparental home- and center-based care; and (2) contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms of early learning and development by specifying the processes through which particular environments, interpersonal interactions, pedagogical strategies, and curricula influence learning and behavior at different phases of early development.
To address these issues, the program encourages the study of basic neurodevelopment and mechanisms of cognitive, language, social, emotional, motor, or physical development, as well as emergent literacy, in the context of applying this knowledge to early childhood tasks, activities, or early childhood curricula and programs. Such activities should be designed to develop specific capabilities and attitudes that lay foundations for school success. New and innovative methods and assessments for measuring child development and learning may be developed as part of this effort.
Program Director: James Griffin