Current Research at ECRC

Excellence Academy Evaluation: Documenting Stories on the Journey toward Excellence

The University of Louisville's Early Childhood Research Center is partnering with Metro United Way in documenting the professional development of early childhood teachers as they participate in the Excellence Academy (EA). This research will particularly focus on how the EA focal classroom teachers move toward a Reggio Emilia orientation to organizing early childhood classroom environments, developing curriculum, and supporting and documenting student learning. The teachers’ change processes while in the program will be documented through narratives.

Promising Practices in Early Head Start: Children, Teachers and Families

Early childhood teachers in thirteen high-need childcare centers are earning the Child Development Association credential through a grant provided by the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative. Teachers attend classes to receive training in identifying effective classroom practices and discriminating those practices from ones that are ineffective. Promising Practices will also analyze the children’s development in the focal classrooms using assessment procedures that are part of existing practices as related to the Creative Curriculum for Preschool program.

Early Literacy Project

Group talking

Teachers in Louisville partnered with the University of Louisville faculty Tasha Laman and Kathy Whitmore and UL graduate students to explore inquiry curriculum in the second year of the Early Literacy Project (ELP). Teachers, students, and faculty have presented two years in a row at the Literacies for All Summer Institute in Decatur, Georgia and St. Louis, Missouri. The project is now in its data analysis and publication stage.

Disrupting Gender Binaries

Teaching Students

The University of Louisville worked with four-year olds in the UL Early Learning Campus in a project titled Disrupting Gender Binaries. The project used the power of children's books and related activities to disrupt gender stereotypes. The data collection is complete as we move into data analysis and publication. Teachers have presented at the Literacies for All Summer Institute in Decatur, Georgia, as well as published findings in the book Reclaiming Early Childhood Literacies: Narratives of Hope, Power, and Vision.

Anne Frank: Bearing Witness

Kids Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts

During the 2014-2015 school year, faculty members James Chisholm and Kathy Whitmore and doctoral students Ashley Shelton and Irina McGrath documented the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts project, Anne Frank: Bearing Witness, funded by the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence. Teachers and students in four 8th-grade classrooms (one in each of four middle schools) in Louisville participated in the project. All of the classroom teachers engaged in professional development about an approach to arts-integrated literacy instruction known as the Performance Cycle. Each teacher developed his or her own unit of study rooted in an enduring question related to the Anne Frank narrative. The results of our evaluation from Year I of the Anne Frank: Bearing Witness project indicated the importance of empathy, risk taking, and arts integration. Two journal articles that highlight the roles of embodiment and movement in the project are currently being reviewed for publication, a book prospectus is in preparation, and Year II of the study gets underway in October, 2015.

Investigating the Influence of Dramatic Arts on Young Children's Social and Academic Development: An evaluation study of the Jack and the Beanstalk Residency

Dr. Kathryn F Whitmore

Movement during dramatic play increases engagement - and JOY!

Haley represented a highly engaging moment in the Jack and the Beanstalk Residency when the children hid in a closet to escape the stomping, scary giant.

This study was a collaboration between the ECRC and the Blue Apple Players (BAP), an educational theater program in Louisville. Qualitative research methods of participant observation and interview were used to identify the learning opportunities for preschool children as they experienced a 2 10-week process drama residency at two different schools, including the University of Louisville's Early Learning Campus in which they joined BAP teaching artists to interactively tell the Jack and the Beanstalk folktale.

The results of this evaluation study indicate that the BAP Jack residency, and the manner in which it is shared with young children, accomplish many critical elements of early learning and preparation for kindergarten that are consistent with the Kentucky Early Childhood Standards and the NAEYC guidelines for developmentally appropriate practice. Prominent themes that emerged are (a) Movement within pretend increases engagement and joy; (b) Rituals increase comfort and thereby enable risktaking and self-efficacy, and (c) The world of story and navigating real to pretend and back to real supports development of imagination, early literacy, and social emotional learning. Recommendations include opportunities for teacher professional development and further study, including clinical quantitative and longitudinal designs.

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