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Critical Contributions of Classroom Ecology to Children's Learning

EHE Office of Research
March 20, 2017

In July of 2016, the Institute of Education Sciences awarded Principal Investigator Laura Justice (Educational Studies) and her colleagues Kelly Purtell (Human Sciences), Tzu-Jung Lin (Educational Studies), Jessica Logan (Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy), Mileidis Gort (University of Colorado at Boulder), and Richard Lomax (Educational Studies) $4.5M to generate a comprehensive, empirically driven model of the dimensions of classroom ecology that shape the academic and social development of children from pre-K to third grade.

This research project aims to identify features of the classroom ecology—including the objective (e.g., classroom composition) and subjective (e.g., student experiences) properties of the classroom environment—that exert a strong influence on children’s development. It also examines educational policies and practices via systems-level analysis that serves to shape the classroom ecologies.

This five-year research project includes three studies that will lead to a unified, comprehensive model of the classroom ecology and its multiple and inter-related dimensions. The comprehensive model will include an examination of policies and practices that affect classroom ecology and how these are generated and diffused; it will also include a description of the dimensionality of classroom ecology, and the extent to which specific dimensions are associated with children’s outcomes during each of the first years of schooling. In addition, this work will describe stability and change in classroom ecologies, as experienced by a longitudinal sample of children followed through third grade, and describe how stability and change are associated with the transition to kindergarten and subsequent trajectories for preschool participants and nonparticipants.

This work is part of an IES initiative called The Supporting Early Learning From Preschool Through Early Elementary School Grades Network (Early Learning Network). The purpose of a network is to work together to address a critical education problem or issue. The network is composed of five research teams (The Ohio State University, University of Virginia, University of North Carolina, Boston University, University of Nebraska), an assessment team (Arizona State University) and a network lead (University of Nebraska). These teams meet regularly to discuss research plans and progress and to identify ways that they can strengthen their work by collaborating on data collection tools, common measures, dissemination of study findings and other activities.

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