Bridget Hamre talks with
ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about
this month's Fast Moving Front in the field of Social
Sciences, general. The author has also sent along
images of their work.
Article: Can instructional and emotional support in
the first-grade classroom make a difference for children at
risk of school failure?
Journal: CHILD DEVELOP, 76 (5): 949-967 SEP-OCT 2005
Addresses: Univ Virginia, POB 800784, Charlottesville, VA
Univ Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22908 USA.
Why do you think your paper is highly
This paper came out at a time when there was renewed interest in
understanding the ways in which classrooms and teachers can contribute to
positive outcomes for students. Despite a lot of evidence in the
developmental literature about the importance of children's relationships
and interactions with adults in early childhood settings and a considerable
research base on effective teaching practices in the K-12 educational
literature, few studies had used developmental, observational methodologies
in K-12 classrooms.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study
of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) was quite innovative in
this way and has produced the largest number of papers to date on the ways
in which students' interactions in classrooms can facilitate both social
and academic development.
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or
synthesis of knowledge?
This was one of the studies published out of the NICHD SECCYD study which
took advantage of unprecedented classroom level data on teachers and
students in a large number of classrooms (over 800) across the country. The
observational methodology used in this study allowed us to examine
classroom level processes in a way that hadn't been done often before.
In the past five years since this paper was published, this type of
classroom observational research in preschool to 12th grade
classrooms has expanded rapidly. For example, the measure that we
ultimately derived from this work, the Classroom Assessment Scoring System
(CLASS) is now being used in hundreds of studies
across the country and internationally.
Would you summarize the significance of your paper
in layman's terms?
These findings provide evidence of the potential for everyday interactions
between teachers and students to close achievement and social gaps in the
early school years. The findings support school reforms aimed at improving
teacher quality, but only when such efforts focus on the actual
instructional and social-emotional interactions that take place in
Unfortunately, classroom quality is highly varied and overall rather
mediocre and few children are consistently exposed to high quality from
year to year, even within the same school. If children are not
systematically exposed to high levels of classroom support across time, the
effects of such positive placements are likely to be short-lived.
How did you become involved in this research and
were any particular problems encountered along the way?
I am interested at conducting research at the intersection of developmental
and educational sciences. I was not directly involved in collecting data
for this study, but I know from other studies the incredible challenges of
collecting high-quality data in the messy real world of schools.
There is a real need to increase institutional capacity to support
educational research, both at the university and the K-12 level. Schools
are often too busy to support research efforts which make recruitment and
data collection quite difficult.
Where do you see your research leading in the
I am focused now on work that seeks to improve teachers' use of effective
teacher-child interactions from preschool through 12th grade.
Along with Bob Pianta and other colleagues at the Center for the Advanced
Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) and the National Center for Research
in Early Childhood Education (NCRECE), we have developed and tested several
forms of interventions for teachers, including coursework and a
consultation model called MyTeachingPartner.
These studies indicate the ways wherein intentionally designed
interventions in which teachers are focused explicitly on their
interactions with students can help improve the educational system and
promote more positive outcomes for students.
Do you foresee any social or political implications
for your research?
There have been pretty major policy implications from this work. The best
example of that comes from the Office of Head Start's use of the CLASS
observational measure as a monitoring tool nationwide. OHS decided that the
CLASS offered a unique way to help them provide feedback and support to
Head Start programs about the kind of teacher-child interactions that can
really make a difference for young children.
As one OHS staff member said: "In many ways I feel that we are standing on
the precipice of a transformative moment in Head Start. With an assessment
tool like the CLASS, we've found a missing piece of the puzzle that we've
been looking for, for a very long time. A tool that helps assess the
quality of teacher–child interactions can help strengthen the
qualities of our programs by focusing on something that we know is so
important to a young child's life—supportive relationships built on
quality interactions." (Amanda Bryans, Director Educational Development and
Partnerships Division, Office of Head Start – November 2008)
Bridget K. Hamre, Ph.D.
Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA, USA