Researchers in Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences have been awarded $4.6 million in federal grants to study how to better prepare at-risk children for school.
Oregon State researcher Dr. Shannon Lipscomb will receive $1.5 million to develop and test a program to help teachers improve the school readiness of preschoolers who have been exposed to trauma. The four-year grant is the largest research grant ever awarded to a faculty member at Oregon State’s branch campus in Central Oregon.
Oregon State researcher Dr. Megan McClelland will receive two grants totaling $3.1 million to continue and expand her work in the area of self-regulation skills among preschool children. Self-regulation skills help children pay attention, follow directions, stay on task and persist through difficulty. Children with stronger self-regulation are more likely to do well in school and graduate from college compared to children with weaker self-regulation.
The grants were announced by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Educational Sciences. In all, 15 Early Learning Program grants were awarded; OSU received three of the grants and was the only Oregon institution to receive funding from that program.
A priority of the U.S. Department of Education is to enhance learning and development for children with high needs through early learning programs.
“Research shows the importance of high-quality, early learning experiences for children’s later success not only in school but also in other key aspects of life such as avoiding criminal behavior,” said Dr. Lipscomb, an assistant professor in the human development and family sciences program at Oregon State-Cascades.
Dr. Lipscomb will use her grant to develop and test a program to help teachers improve the school readiness of preschoolers who have been exposed to trauma. Selected teachers will participate in online classes to gain knowledge about childhood trauma and how to promote learning and development in children exposed to trauma.
Regular video coaching sessions will help teachers take their understanding and incorporate it into practices in the classroom with children. A benefit to the online and video implementation is its ability to reach teachers in rural areas, where professional development programs may not be available.
Dr. McClelland, the Katherine E. Smith healthy children and families professor in Oregon State’s main campus, will receive $1.6 million to improve a measure called the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task, which assesses school readiness. The new research will look at ways to improve the assessment, such as expanding the range of the assessment and broadening the use of the task.
Dr. McClelland’s second grant, for $1.5 million, will focus on intervention activities using music and games to help preschoolers strengthen their self-regulation skills. The grant will allow Dr. McClelland and her research team to improve existing intervention activities that have shown to improve children’s self-regulation and academic achievement and to develop new games that promote those skills.
“Both of these grants will allow us to increase and extend our work in ways we haven’t been able to before,” Dr. McClelland said.