Early Childhood Institute Research

Physical Activity in Early Childhood and Early Elementary School Settings

Do you work with 4-6 year old children in an Early Childhood/Preschool, Transitional Kindergarten, or Kindergarten classroom? 

Researchers working with the Early Childhood Institute are interested in learning more about teachers' use of physical activity in their classrooms. If you are currently (or recently) working with a licensed center or public elementary school in California, please consider participating in this brief study.

Eligible participants will be invited to engage in an online interview which should take no longer than 45-60 minutes to complete. As a small token of appreciation, participants who complete the interview will receive a $60 gift card.

Click here [pdf] to download more information. 

Please sign up by filling out the form below or by following this link: https://forms.gle/fEbxjt5sTNbaiYq49 

Please feel free to reach out to earlychildhoodinstitute@sjsu.edu with any questions you might have.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Exploring the Connection Between Language and Math Learning

At ECI, we strive to do research within an equity lens. Dr. Emily Slusser, ECI Co-Founder and Chair of SJSU’s Child and Adolescent Development Department, used this approach to investigate children’s early understanding of math and various factors that influence learning and academic achievement. Dr. Slusser and her colleagues conducted a longitudinal study that yielded some surprising results (Slusser et al., 2019), with evidence that early math skills are more closely connected to early language development than socioeconomic context.

These findings led Dr. Slusser to partner with Dr. Patrick Cravalho from SJSU’s Psychology Department, and a team of six undergraduate research assistants, to launch another study evaluating math learning trajectories of children from diverse backgrounds. The study focused on when and how children connect individual number words (like ‘one,’ ‘two,’ and ‘three’) to different representations of quantity (like size and volume). Again, the team found that language development is a key factor in children’s early understanding of mathematical concepts.

Initial findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Mathematical Cognition and Learning Society (Slusser & Cravalho, 2020) and sparked a new international collaboration seeking to reevaluate traditional methods of assessing early math and number knowledge. This work would not be possible without the support of San Jose State University’s Lab School, Mission College’s Child Development Center, Head Start, and several local early childhood education centers. SJSU’s Early Childhood Institute is grateful to our community partners and looks forward to new and innovative ways to connect research with practice in the future.   


Imagination and Fantasy: Correlates of Preschoolers’ Science Relevant Inquisitiveness

Authors: Dr. Maureen Smith, SJSU Professor, Child and Adolescent Development, and Dr. Maria Fusaro, SJSU Professor and Director, ECI

Young children naturally engage in a variety of science activities, demonstrating a range of skills (such as exploration and inquisitiveness) that promote science learning in preschool. Research suggests there are individual differences in the development of these scientific skills. It is important to understand these differences, so educators can effectively promote science skills for children in their classroom. A compelling new study by Professor of Child and Adolescent Development Dr. Maureen Smith and ECI Director, Dr. Maria Fusaro examines the role of imagination in children’s curiosity about science. They discovered that children who engage in fantasy-themed play, children with imaginary companions, and children who produce highly-imaginative drawings asked more science-relevant questions about pictures of the natural world (for example, magnified pictures of frost or orange stalactites). Interestingly, simply engaging in pretend role play was not related to children’s science inquisitiveness. These results suggest that educators can enhance early science learning by providing opportunities for children to engage in fantasy-based play, as well as experiencing stories and games with fantasy-themed content.


Adapted Shared Reading: A Study of Its Effectiveness in Inclusive Preschool Classrooms

Author: Dr. Andrea Golloher, SJSU Professor and Co-Founder, ECI

Adapted shared storybook reading has been demonstrated to be effective at increasing both engagement and comprehension during shared storybook reading for elementary-aged students with exceptional needs. Research on these methods has primarily been conducted with students in self-contained elementary classrooms and has lacked evidence of generalization to new texts. This study examined the use of the adapted shared reading program in inclusive early childhood classrooms. Using a multiple baseline across participants design, the program was shown to be effective at increasing engagement, listening comprehension, and communication during shared reading interactions. These skills were generalized to novel adapted texts. Teachers’ perceptions of the reading program were explored. Pre- and post-intervention interviews suggest that the teachers found the goals, procedures, and outcomes of the reading program generally appropriate for preschool students. Read more HERE [pdf].