Day 1 of my Journey at the Society for Research in Child Development Conference  

Since taking a break from my academic position in 2018 to spend more time at Teachstone, I haven’t had a chance to attend many academic conferences. And none in person since before COVID. 

But today I am on my way to Salt Lake City for the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) conference, and as I look through the program, I have to say I am excited to spend a few days immersed in the latest research. I’m also excited to interact, in person, with the amazing people doing this work! There are so many opportunities to connect, engage and be inspired to learn in the days ahead that I thought I’d share a bit of that journey with our Teachstone community.

No sessions on my first day here – but as I prepare for the next few days on the plane ride over, I am reflecting on three trends in research on early childhood education based on my quick read of sessions.

  • There is more research coming out of true partnerships between researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.
  • More researchers are actively pursuing equity-informed agendas.
  • There are innovative approaches to measurement in classroom settings that help us understand more about children’s experiences.

Below I share a few thoughts on how these trends align with some of our work at Teachstone – but look out in the next few days where I’ll share more about what I am learning.

There is more research coming out of true partnerships between researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.

One of the things that was hardest to leave behind at UVA was the research-practice-policy partnerships in which I was engaged in Louisiana and Virginia. Partnerships such as these, when done well, are a revolution in how we conduct research in early childhood. If you want to learn more, read this great compilation by the Foundation for Child Development. They summarize the importance of this work well:

To build a system of high-quality early care for all children, some early education research must pivot to questions, methods, and timelines that align with the needs of policymakers and practitioners who are making high-stakes, systems-level decisions. At the same time, research must stay firmly rooted in the science of how children develop. RPPs are a particularly promising strategy for doing this well.

A few things we’ve learned from these partnerships in recent years include:

  • It is possible to improve quality at very large scale when systems:
  • Getting teachers immediate and meaningful feedback is important – and can be done effectively and efficiently using automatic reports that greatly reduce the cost and time burden of report writing. 
  • We, at Teachstone, need to continue to evolve our support for using CLASS® to best support the needs of every child and every educator. In addition to our release of CLASS 2nd Edition, we are working to make sure all CLASS users have the supports they need, including:
    • A free series for certified observers that helps support more effective observations across settings.
    •  Pages and resources dedicated to supporting CLASS in Family Child Care and with Dual Language Learners. Stay tuned for a page on using CLASS in classrooms serving children with disabilities.

More researchers are actively pursuing equity-informed agendas.

Many leading scholars have done research on the experiences of diverse learners for years – I have been highly influenced by the work of people like Iheoma Iruka, Stephanie Curenton, and Carola Oliva-Olson (to name just a small few). But in reading through the program I see more research examining the ways in which children’s experiences in classrooms are influenced by both what they experience and who they are – including more research on the classroom experiences of black children, dual-language learners, indigenous children, and children with disabilities.

A few years ago we highlighted research on CLASS in diverse populations , but clearly there is a need to update that review. And as I look through the presentations I am also seeing more research that actively elevates the voices of educators and that is really exciting! We’ve been working to not just change our core products and services, but change how we are developing them and making sure that the voices and perspectives of a diverse range of educators are reflected in our work. This quote from a participant in a CLASS 2nd Edition training demonstrates just one example of why this shift in our approach is so critical:

“To know that now I won't be scored negatively or get scored high in the negative climate area because I'm loud is amazing. I'm not yelling. I'm really just talking. I'm really excited. We're doing a fun activity…. So just to know that you know I won't be penalized for me being loud the loud person I am it's amazing to know that.”

There are innovative approaches to measurement in classroom settings that help us understand more about children’s experiences.

As we worked on CLASS 2nd Edition we reviewed the most recent literature on classroom experiences that supported learning and development and worked to incorporate some of those elements into CLASS. A few examples include highlighting the critical importance of home language exposure for dual language learners and better describing the ways in which playful learning experiences can enhance cognitive development.

But we also acknowledged in the CLASS 2nd Edition manual that no single measure can assess everything. I am excited to attend sessions that provide further evidence on the ways in which interactions, as measured by CLASS, support children’s learning and development, which you can read about here. But I am also really excited to attend sessions in which researchers are learning more about the ways in which content-specific practices in social-emotional learning, math, and literacy support development as well as children’s individual experiences in classrooms matter, above and beyond the overall classroom quality.

Are you at SRCD? If so, let's connect! If you follow research in child development, what other trends are you seeing? How can we work together to make sure we are learning from and contributing to the science of early childhood education? Looking to share more from SRCD and interact with you in person or virtually at InterAct this spring.