Recent conference posters and presentations are available for download on the Resources page

Also see Brief Reports

Current and Ongoing Research Projects

Computerized Assessment of Preschool Social-emotional Learning (CAPSEL)

With funding from the UIC Office of Social Science Research, The SETL team is replicating a validation study of the Computerized Assessment of Preschool Social-emotional Learning (CAPSEL). Because social-emotional learning (SEL) is so crucial, assessment tools to pinpoint children’s skills and progress are vitally necessary. Research-based SEL assessment tools with strong empirical predictive validity for school adjustment and achievement, have been adapted to be collected via touch-screen tablet computers, maximizing utility and feasibility in preschool, Head Start and prekindergarten classrooms. Once validated against the previous "live" version, this assessment battery will be used to inform overall classroom instruction, measure school readiness, and evaluate program accountability for SEL. More information about the previous validation study can be found here.

Early Investment Initiative and Consortium

Dr. Zinsser and the SETL team will join experts that the University of Illinois Institute of Government & Public Affairs in an initiative is to help policymakers and practitioners access, understand, and contribute to the latest evidence about programs and policies in early care and education. The Early Investments Initiative will encourage and support the State of Illinois and its local cities, school districts, and communities as they aim to build the strongest scientific evidence about new programs and their impacts. The Early Investments Initiative will also build cross-disciplinary and cross-campus networks to foster conversation among the scholarly, practitioner and policymaker communities, improve state and local data collection efforts, and make a case for embedding rigorous scientific evaluation into new program initiatives in early childhood policy. The Cosortium meets on the first Monday of each month. More information about joining our regular meetings can be found here.

The Assessment of Positive Early Emotional Leadership Project (APEEL)

Although there have been calls for research to identify what effective leadership practices look like in the ECE field (Muijs, Aubrey, Harris, & Briggs, 2004), the research remains focused on the more tangible aspects of program administration, including compliance with health, safety, legislative, and contractual requirements; coordinating family and social services; and financial management (e.g. Osgood & Stone, 2002). Surprisingly little is known about teachers’ feelings about working in ECE, how those feelings result in teacher frustration, burnout, and turnover, and to what degree those feelings translate into lower quality SET in the classroom. To respond to Muijs’ call, preliminary work must be undertaken to identify key concepts related to workplace climate, teacher emotional well-being, and children’s SEL. In the APEEL project, we aim to understand the role that program directors play in formulating the emotional climate of their ECE center; what impact leadership behaviors and decisions have on teachers’ emotional experiences at work; and the extent to which those feelings influence teachers’ classroom practices, especially pertaining to social-emotional teaching and learning.

Teachers as Socializers of Social-Emotional Learning (TASSEL)

In conjunction with researchers at George Mason University, the SETL lab is studying preschool teachers’ roles in helping their students develop social and emotional competence as they prepare to move into kindergarten. Children’s abilities to regulate their behavior, emotions, attention, and effort (self-regulation) and get along well with others (social cognition and behaviors) are identified as crucially important school readiness skills. As more children are spending increasing amounts of time in preschool settings, it is important to examine this venue of social and emotional learning. Based on findings of this project, we are developing professional development modules to foster and support greater social and emotional teaching practices in early childhood classrooms. More information on the TASSEL project can be found here.  

Center Director Observation Tool

Preschools are busy places and both teachers and program administrators struggle to balance the paper-work demands associated with running a high quality early childhood education program.  One such important demand is the timely task of observing and evaluating classroom quality. Additionally, such evaluation observations can be intimidating and stressful for teachers and the gathered information is inconsistently communicated. In an effort to streamline and de-mystify the teacher evaluation process, and hopefully enhance the positive experiences of target teachers, Dr. Zinsser in collaboration with Dr. Timothy Curby at George Mason University,  are devising a recording tool which preschool directors can utilize the record their observations and impressions of teachers’ classroom practices and interaction quality with students. The resulting tool will be valid and require minimal training to be reliably used. Furthermore, the tool will serve to structure directors’ professional development and debriefing conversations with teachers, providing valuable (and practical) feedback without unnecessary stress.