Research

Faculty and Student Research

The Children’s Campus welcomes researchers to conduct relevant, well-designed studies at the center.  The center may be an appropriate setting for projects designed to advance knowledge in the fields of early childhood education; nature, music, and art education; teacher preparation; developmental psychology; kinesiology and physical education; communication studies and journalism; and social work and policies affecting children and families.  Research and collaborations that benefit and support the growth and development of teachers, staff, children, and their families are especially welcome. Pilot studies and instrument/measurement development projects are also appropriate.

Research proposals are to be submitted via email to Jeff Cookston, Chair, Children’s Campus Research Committee, at least 10 days prior to a Research Committee meeting. Interested parties should read the Guidelines for Conducting Research at Children's Campus before submitting a proposal.

Individuals conducting research that requires direct contact with children, either in the classroom or as pull-out must  comply with California Community Care Licensing (CCL) regulations for volunteers.  For research that involves direct contact with children in the classroom, the researcher must provide:

  • Proof of current (not more than one year old) negative TB test result for all individuals who will have direct contact with children.
  • Proof of current TDap (not more than 10 years ago)
  • Proof of MMR vacination or immunity 
  • Volunteer Statement of Good Health

For research that requires removing children from the classroom for a pull-out session (and for all research in which the researcher will be alone with children at any time and/or not under the supervision of Children’s Campus staff), the researcher must provide the documents for in-classroom research and:

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Research Committee Meetings

Time Date Deadline to Submit Proposal
11:00 - 12:30 September 11, 2015 August 25, 2014
11:00 - 12:30 October 2, 2015 September 18, 2015
11:00 - 12:30 November 6, 2015 October 23, 2015
11:00 - 12:30 December 4, 2015 November 20, 2015

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Research Committee Members

  • Jeff Cookston, Interim Committee Chair, Psychology
  • Anna Tobin-Wallis, Children’s Campus Director
  • David Anderson, Marian Wright Edelman Institute
  • Betty Yu, Special Education and Communicative Disorders
  • Mina Kim, Elementary Education
  • Luna Abdallah, Children's Campus Parent
  • Alison Baroody, Committee Chair, Child & Adolescent Development (On Leave) 

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Research Conducted at Children's Campus 2014-2015

Functional Strategies to Pick Up an Object from the Floor

  • Arwa Motiwala, MPT (MS Candidate, Kinesiology, SF State) 
  • David Anderson, PhD (Professor, Kinesiology, SF State)

The purpose of this study is to document the different functional strategies performed by children and adults to pick up an object from the floor. These movements will be studied in the context of a task that requires participants to repeatedly place a ball into the opening of a pipe located at eye level and retrieve it from a small basket on the floor beneath the other end of the pipe. Each participant will be video recorded performing the task and the video recordings will then be used to qualitatively describe the strategies and movements used to perform this movement. The study’s primary objective is to determine whether age-related differences are observed in the strategies and movements that are used to perform the task. We are particularly interested in how the head, neck, and back are coordinated and how this coordination influences the movements of the upper and lower extremities. Where possible, the video recordings will be analyzed quantitatively using a program named Dartfish to determine the displacements and velocities of different body segments and joints. Ultimately, the descriptions that result from the study may provide clinicians and therapists with a refined assessment for the evaluation and treatment of children and adults who have difficulty lowering themselves to the floor or rising from the floor.

Research Conducted at Children's Campus 2013 - 2014

Children’s Memory Strategies: The Contributions of Cognitive Control

  • Jérôme Clerc, PhD (Visiting Scholar, Psychology, SF State)
  • Patricia Miller, PhD (Professor, Psychology, SF State)
  • Jae Paik, PhD (Associate Professor, Psychology, SF State)

The purpose of this study is to see if children can apply a new learning strategy to a learning task that differs slightly from the learning task on which we teach them the strategy. Much of development involves not only learning new strategies but also knowing when to use each of these strategies. We will look at the strategy of focusing attention to relevant information (in this case, the items to be remembered) and ignoring materials that do not need to be remembered. Also, in order to look at why some children are better able to transfer these strategies than are other children, we will look at whether having better developed control over one’s own cognition leads to better transfer of a new strategy. Studies have found that preschoolers’ cognitive control, such as planning, controlling attention, and inhibiting impulsive behavior, is important because it predicts later school performance.

The Supermarket Study

  • Sacha Bunge, PhD (Faculty Affairs and Psychology, SF State)
  • Jennifer Arter, PhD (Psychology, SF State)

Our study examines mother-child interactions and how the daily details of these interactions are shaped by mothers’ own past experiences, their general ideas about parenting, and the temperament of their children. We are specifically interested in toddler-aged children, because this is an age when children are gaining more complex cognition and language, but yet are still in many ways dependent on the parent. Thus, it is a rich age at which to observe the interactions, negotiations, and conflicts that naturally occur between parents and children. To study these interactions, we are conducting “The Supermarket Study.” In this study, we first interview mothers regarding their own childhood relationships, then ask mothers to complete some self-report measures assessing things like parenting practices and their child’s temperament. Then, we ask mothers and their children to spend half an hour grocery shopping together, while we videotape their interactions using a small camera attached to the shopping cart. Our goal is to examine what aspects of mothers’ early experiences, and children’s temperament, are related to specific ways that mothers and children interact during normal daily activities. We hope that this research will make a valuable contribution to our understanding of how children build up mental “models” of how to interact with other people, and of what to expect in relationships, through the small details of their daily interactions with their mothers. In particular, we hope to contribute an understanding of these processes that is based on regularly occurring “real life” situations.

The Cognitive and Social Development of Preschool-Aged Children

  • Jeff Cookston, PhD (Chair and Professor, Psychology, SF State)

This study investigates the social and cognitive development of preschool children through the use of direct observations, interviews, and children’s performance on tasks. Specifically, three instances of direct naturalistic observation occur with a focus on social interaction and spoken language. The children are interviewed about how they actively make sense of complex ideas (e.g.., dreams, beliefs), determine their toy preferences, and map their playmate choices. Additionally, we interview parents about their parenting philosophy. In the fall of 2011, 21 children participated in the study, 19 more joined in the Fall of 2012, and in 2013 15 more children joined the study. Historically, studies have used similar data collection methods as used in this study to assess the cognitive and socioemotional development of preschool children. This study extends this vast body of research in two important ways. First, we include an analysis of tasks that capture a wide range of preschool development, rather than focusing on a single dimension. Second, by studying separate groups of children over several years, we will be able to assess similarities and differences among the different aspects of preschool development over time. We look forward to continued data collection in the Fall semester of 2014.

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Research Conducted at Children's Campus 2012-13

Gestures and Executive Function in Preschool-Aged Children

  • Candace Rhoads, Graduate Student in Developmental Psychology (SF State)
  • Faculty Advisor: Patricia Miller, PhD

This is an experimental study that investigates the relationship between gestures and executive function. Participants will be randomly assigned to the gesturing or control condition. In the control condition, participants will be given the Dimension Change Card Sort task, with no mention of gesture or instruction to gesture, and asked to sort on the relevant dimension. In the gesture condition, children will be implicitly encouraged use gestures while sorting on the relevant dimension. This research will contribute to the field by creating a novel way in which gestures and executive function will be examined in preschool-aged children. There has only been one research study that looks at gestures and executive function in pre-school aged children (O’Neil & Miller, in press) and this will extend the research in this age population by strengthening the argument that there is a causal relationship between gestures and executive function. This will contribute to the understanding of development of executive function. This is also a new method of examining gestures and their relationship to executive function, as we have changed the way that gesturing is encouraged.

Understanding How Lab Schools Provide Field Experience in Early Childhood Education: Possibilities for Brazil 

  • Patricia Alba, Graduate Student in Early Childhood Education (SF State)
  • Faculty Advisor: Daniel Meier, PhD 

Ms. Alba’s research involved observations and interviews with teachers. The goal of her study was to understand how lab schools can provide early childhood education field experience for students with the goal of implementing such methods in her native country of Brazil.

Activity and Psychological Development 

  • Dr. David Anderson, Department of Kinesiology, SFSU 

The potential contribution that movement makes to the working of the mind has fascinated philosophers and scientists for centuries. Contemporary research has shown that movement indeed makes a central contribution to the mind and this contribution is particularly evident in the major changes in perceiving and thinking that occur after motor milestones are acquired during infancy. For example, the infant experiences a psychological revolution following the onset of crawling, characterized by dramatic changes in perception and action, spatial thinking, memory, emotions, and social communication. Research from our laboratory has confirmed that some of these changes can be induced in pre-crawling infants by providing them with opportunities to drive a motorized go-cart. The current project builds on the go-cart experiments by attempting to understand the processes by which experience with self-controlled locomotion brings about psychological changes. Pre-crawling infants are initially tested on three paradigms that assess spatial thinking, they then observe or control the motion of a toy train around a track during several training sessions, and finally they are tested on the spatial thinking paradigms again. The study represents a novel attempt to understand the role of attention and self-control in the changes in spatial thinking that have typically been observed after the onset of crawling.

The Effect of Context on Teaching Approaches and Preschool Students’ Learning and Motivation

  • Tara Chiatovich, Ph.D. Student at the Stanford University School of Education 

This study examined the effects of pressure to maximize student performance on teacher intrinsic motivation for teaching and behavior (autonomy support versus control) and on child intrinsic motivation for the learning tasks and performance on the tasks. It also assessed the association between child distractibility and teacher behavior and tested whether child distractibility moderated the effect of pressure on teacher behavior. Forty-six undergraduates who volunteered or worked in preschool classrooms served as teachers for a one-on-one teaching session with a preschooler, with teachers randomly assigned to either a pressure condition (in which they were told that the child would be tested on the tasks at the end of the teaching session) or control condition (with no mention of testing). In contrast to the study’s hypotheses, teachers in the pressure condition were rated as more autonomy supportive than teachers in the control condition for the tangram task. Results for distractibility were also opposite of what was hypothesized; teachers of children who were high on distractibility were rated as more autonomy supportive than teachers instructing children with relatively low levels of distractibility for both tasks.

 

This study examines the influence of different approaches to teaching on children's motivation for learning and of children's ability to focus their attention on teachers' approaches to teaching. Each child participant takes part in one-on-one instruction from a college student who has spent time in a preschool classroom. The college student teaches two developmentally appropriate learning tasks, one involving shapes and the other using patterns. Following the instruction, the child answers questions on how enjoyable the tasks were as one way to gauge their motivation. Then the child has a short free-play period and can choose between playing with the learning tasks, which indicates high motivation, or playing with other preschool activities. To capture both teacher and child behavior, the entire session is videotaped. Additionally, the classroom preschool teacher completes a short questionnaire on the child's ability to pay attention. This research has important implications for early childhood education for two reasons. First, students who show more interest and enjoyment of a learning activity (e.g.., are more motivated) are more likely to engage in it even when they don't "have to" (e.g.., when a teacher is not instructing them on it) with potential benefits for their learning. Second, children who have difficulty focusing their attention risk making lesser strides in their learning than their peers. Understanding how teachers adjust their teaching for such children will shed light on the differences between their preschool experience and that of other children.

The Cognitive and Social Development of Preschool-aged Children 

  • Dr. Jeff Cookston, Department of Psychology, SFSU 

This study, now in its second year, investigates the social and cognitive development of preschool children through the use of direct observations, interviews, and children's performance on tasks. Specifically, three instances of direct naturalistic observation occur with a focus on social interaction and spoken language. The children are interviewed about how they actively make sense of complex ideas (e.g.., dreams, beliefs), determine their toy preferences, and map their playmate choices. Additionally, we interview parents about their parenting philosophy. In 2011-2012, 21 children participated in the study, and in 2012-2013 we anticipate working with a similar number of children. Historically, studies have used similar data collection methods as used in this study to assess the cognitive and socio-emotional development of preschool children. This study extends this vast body of research in two important ways. First, we include an analysis of tasks that capture a wide range of preschool development, rather than focusing on a single dimension. Second, by studying separate groups of children over several years, we will be able to assess similarities and differences among the different aspects of preschool development over time

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Research Conducted at Children's Campus 2010-11

Preschool Children's Gestures and Cognitive Flexibility 

  • Gina O'Neill, M. A. San Francisco State University, currently a doctoral student University of California-Davis
  • Patricia H. Miller, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, San Francisco State University 

This research was carried out at the Children's Campus from January to April of 2011 as a graduate student's Master's Thesis project. The participants in this project were forty-one children between the ages of 2.5- and 6-years-old. In light of previous research findings indicating the benefits of expressive gesture for children's learning and performance on cognitive tasks, this project assessed how children's use of gesture affects their performance on a "working memory" card-game task. Working memory in the context of this task was defined as how well children could sort cards by specific dimensions—color, shape, size, and orientation—and how well they could switch between different sorting rules over the course of a 28-trial, ten-minute period. Children's use of gesture when sorting the cards by dimension-type, and the explanations they provided for their sorting were assessed. When sorting and providing explanations, children would often use their hands to represent the different dimensions. For example, in order to demonstrate they had sorted one of the cards by the dimension of size, they would indicate if something was big or small using their hands.

Results indicated that older children tended to perform faster and more accurately than younger children. Of more interest is that children producing more gestures tended to perform faster and more accurately than children producing few gestures. This exciting finding both supplements the growing gesture literature regarding the general benefits of gesture use for children's learning and, more specifically, provides the first evidence for an association between expressive gesture and "working memory skills". It is believed that by using their hands to express qualities of the different dimensions, children were better able to keep the changing sorting rules in mind, and better able to communicate why they sorted the way they did. Importantly, these findings further our understanding of ways to promote children's thinking skills and maximize early education.

Since completing the project in 2011, an article discussing the study's findings has been accepted at a highly-ranked American Psychological Association psychological journal—Developmental Psychology—and is slated for publication in 2013. The researchers involved in this project would like to thank the staff, families, and children at Children's Campus for their participation and, consequently, for their contributions to the field of children's learning and development. The children participating in the project enjoyed the card game task tremendously, and the researchers hope to conduct further research informing children's learning at the Children's Campus.

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Research-Related Edelman Institute Town Halls

Doing & Hosting Research in Early Childhood Settings (May 15, 2014)

The Children’s Campus Program Coordinator, Anna Tobin-Wallis, served as a panelist for this town hall, which addressed the benefits and challenges of doing research (from the researcher perspective) and hosting/facilitating research (from the Center Director & Teacher perspectives) in the ECE setting. As part of this discussion, panelists shared perspectives on various methods and approaches to research in the ECE setting, and on communication about research rationales and findings to families.

Ethics of Research with Children (December 11, 2013) 

The Interim Director of the Children’s Campus, Marjorie Weiss, participated in this town hall discussion about pertinent ethical issues encountered by researchers who work with children and youth, including parental/guardian consent, assent by children, and handling sensitive topics.

Teacher Research in Early Childhood Settings (October 8, 2013)

One of the Children’s Campus’ Infant Head Teachers, Nodelyn Abayan, served as a panelist for this town hall focused on how teacher research and inquiry can make a difference in the professional lives of ECE teachers and administrators. The town hall discussion addressed topics including collaborative oral inquiry processes, inquiry and nature education, and rethinking play curriculum in ECE.

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Publications

Anderson, D. I., Campos, J. J., & Barbu-Roth, M. (in press). Locomotion. In B. Hopkins, E. Geangu, & S. Linkenauger (Eds.), Cambridge Encyclopedia of Child Development (2nd Ed.).

Anderson, D. I., Campos, J. J., Rivera, M., Dahl, A., Uchiyama, I., Barbu-Roth, M. (2013). The consequences of independent locomotion for brain and psychological development. In R. C. Shepherd (Ed.). Cerebral palsy in infancy and early childhood. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Anderson, D. I., Campos, J. J., Witherington, D. C., Dahl, A., Rivera, M., He, M., Uchiyama, I., Barbu-Roth, M. (2013). Locomotion and psychological development. Frontiers in Psychology, 4 (440), 1-17.

Ueno, M., Uchiyama, I., Campos, J. J., Dahl, A. & Anderson, D. I. (2013). Infant postural compensation to virtual optic flow patterns specifying ascending and descending movement. Behavioral Science Research, 52(1).

Dahl, A., Campos, J. J., Anderson, D. I., Uchiyama, I., Witherington, D. C., Ueno, M., Lejeune, L. & Barbu-Roth, M. (2013). The epigenesis of wariness of heights. Psychological Science, 24, 1361-1367.

O’Neill, G., & Miller, P. H. (2013).  A show of hands:  Relations between young children’s gesturing and executive function.  Developmental Psychology, 49(8), 1517-1528.

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Presentations

Anderson, D. I. Understanding the link between locomotion and psychological development: Where do we go from here? Presented at the Annual Conference of the French Society for Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Paris, France, September, 2014.

Anderson, D. IThe consequences of locomotor experience for psychological development: Extending the scope of study. Presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, Berlin, Germany, July, 2014.

Rivera, M., Anderson, D. I., & Barbu-Roth, M. A. Locomotion and spatial-cognitive development in infants with and without spina bifida. Presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, Berlin, Germany, July, 2014.

Zanka, M., Uchiyama, I., Campos, J. J., & Anderson, D. I. Effect of self-produced locomotion on infant spatial localization. Presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, Berlin, Germany, July, 2014.

Gorgas, A. M., Hamel, K., Anderson, D. I.  Gaze behaviour during obstacle crossing in children and young adults. Presented at the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity annual conference, New Orleans, LA, June, 2013.

Chand, K., He, M., Dahl, A., Anderson, D. I., & Campos, J. J. The role of visual proprioception in wariness of heights. Presented at the International Society for Research in Emotions annual conference, Berkeley, CA, August, 2013.

Rivera, M., & Anderson, D. I. Lost in space: The effects of immobility on infant spatial-cognitive development. Presented at the Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association, Las Vegas, NV, February, 2014.

Mauskopf, S. S. & Cookston, J. T. (2013, May). Are unpopular children more likely to be ignored by teachers? Links between social behavior and peer ratings in a preschool sample. Poster session presented at the 15th Annual College of Science & Engineering Student Project Showcase at San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA.

Maddocks, D. L. S. (2012, April). Preschool Social Ratings: The Influence of Visibility and Negativity.  Poster presented at the Graduate Research and Creative Works Showcase at San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA. 

Remy, L. (2012, April). The Social Cognitive Preschooler: A Comprehensive Study of Children. Poster presented at the Graduate Research and Creative Works Showcase at San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA. 

Wong, A. (2012, April). Social interactions, age and aggression: negative behaviors in preschoolers. Poster presented at the Graduate Research and Creative Works Showcase at San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA.

Rhodes, C., Miller, P. H., & O’Neill, G. Teaching gesturing helps children's executive function. Poster presented at the meeting of the Association for Psychological Science, San Francisco, CA, May 2014.

Rhodes, C., Miller, P. H., & O’Neill, G.  Put your hands up!:  Gesture helps preschool children’s executive function.  Poster presented at the meeting of the Western Psychological Association, Portland, OR, April 2014.

O’Neill, G., & Miller, P. H.  A show of hands: Relations between young children’s gesturing and executive function.  Presented at the meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, WA, April 2014.

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