Spotlight on Research: Psychology Professor Studies Urban Preschoolers

Posted: January 21, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Stephanie Hay

Adam Winsler, associate professor of psychology, in conjunction with another researcher from Florida International University and the Miami-Dade County School Readiness Coalition, has spent more than a year researching three- and four-year-old children attending low-income, government-subsidized preschool programs to determine how to best suit their special growth needs.

“I’ve always been interested in early childhood,” Winsler says. “The transition to school is a particularly important and difficult time, especially for low-income children from diverse cultural and language backgrounds.”

adam winsler
Adam Winsler

Winsler and colleague Charles Bleiker just completed the initial year of a three-year longitudinal study, “School Readiness Among Urban, Ethnically-Diverse and Low-Income Preschool Children,” which involved cognitive, physical, language, emotional, and behavioral assessments of about 7,000 four-year-olds by trained assessors, teachers, and parents.

Their initial findings already have spurred teacher training and professional development interventions in the community, Winsler says, and papers based on the research will soon be published.

In the second year of the study, three-year-old children are being included, bringing the number of participants to about 14,000, to be followed by another 15,000 next year. The children will be followed throughout their entry and ascension into public schooling to determine the variables that best predict future success as well as which developmental interventions work best with various types of children.

“It’s very rewarding, and a huge challenge,” Winsler says. He conducts data analysis on test results and maintains the universities’ central database. “This exciting project is an excellent example of applied psychological science and university-community partnership at its best.”

George Mason graduate students have worked with Winsler on the study, and he believes they benefit greatly from becoming involved in the hands-on project. “We’re teaching them about contemporary social issues and intervention,” he says. “George Mason University is extremely fortunate to be involved in what appears to be the largest, community-based, early childhood school readiness assessment and intervention program ever attempted in the country.”

Winsler points out that the wider science community will benefit from the research because it provides an opportunity to understand the school readiness needs of an understudied, low-income, culturally diverse population as found in the Miami-Dade area. Creole, Spanish, and English are the three languages used to assess the children. “No one to date has looked at this many kids from this diverse a population,” Winsler says.

Winsler will be presenting findings as the project continues to unfold. He is scheduled to present at the Conference of Human Development in Washington, D.C., in April, and will likely present at the national Head Start research conference in July and the National Association for Education of Young Children conference in November.

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