Child Development Lab

Department of Psychology

TASSEL Resource Page for Parents

  • If you’d like to learn more about who we are and what we do, please click on the questions below!

General Questions

      What does the GMU Child Development Lab study?

      Our lab studies young children's development of the social-emotional expressions, skills, and knowledge needed to succeed in family, peer, and school contexts. Within these contexts, we specifically highlight the development of emotional competence, which is defined as children's expression, mangagement, and knowledge of emotions. Children's development of emotional competence is impacted by their interactions with family, teachers, and peers and it is these processes that are of particular importance to our research. Our recent work centers on children’s development of emotional competence in the classroom. Read more about this area by downloading this informational brochure about emotions in the classroom.

      Why is emotional competence important?

      We believe that emotions are at the heart of the interactions that children have with their world, especially with others. Our research, as well as others, has demonstrated important connections between the facets of emotional competence and children's current and later success in interacting with parents, siblings, teachers, and peers, laying the foundation for the bonds that are important throughout development. Importantly, studies are also beginning to show that children who are socially and emotionally prepared to enter kindergarten do better in school.

      How do you study emotions in preschoolers?

      Our lab uses a variety of assessments to triangulate the different components of emotional competence within the context of what children experience. Some of our tools center on observing families in the home or on observing children's interactions with teachers and peers at school. Other assessments we use are one-on-one and designed to feel like games. Example of these assessments can be found here. We also collaborate with other researchers. We are pleased to be working with Dr. Tim Curby, who specializes in the Classroom Assessment Scoring System, on our current project.

      Are parents important for children's social and emotional development?

      Absolutely! Our past research has shown that children learn about emotions and how to mangage and express emotions from their parents and other family members. Much of the work in this laboratory has contributed to this important information about parents and their children, much of which can be accessed via our publications page Our current reserach project, TASSEL, explores how teachers are important for children's development of emotional competence.

Participant Specific Questions

      What is TASSEL? What is CAPSEL?

      • TASSEL stands for Teachers as Socializers of Social Emotional Learning. The study will examine preschool teachers' role in helping their students develop social and emotional competence as they prepare to move into kindergarten.

      • CAPSEL stands for Computerized Assessment of Preschool Social-emotional Learning. The study will be conducted in conjuction with TASSEL with the goal of creating and testing a battery of measures tapping children's social and emotional competence for use by teachers and researchers in the classroom.

      • You can read more about TASSEL and CAPSEL on our Current Projects page.

      What ages are you looking for in your current project?

      We are primarily focused on children between 3 and 6 years of age and teachers and parents of all ages!

      If my family chooses to participate, what will we be asked to do?

      Parents -

      • Parents will be asked to complete a few short questionnaires about their own and their child's experiences with him/her at home. These surveys can be completed online, through the mail, or over the phone.

      Children -

      • In the Fall and Spring, your child will be asked to play some games with a researcher. These activities will occur across a few days and will each take about 10 minutes. After each session, your child will receive a small gift. The activities will include:

        • 1. Playing with puppets and talking about how the puppets would feel in a few stories
        • 2. Drawing pictures with the researcher.
        • 3. Listening to stories and talking about how the characters would feel.
        • 4. Answering some questions about colors, shapes, and letters.

      Classrooms -

      • Trained research assistants will observe children in the classroom and take note of their social behavior.

      • Children's teachers will also note how well children are interacting with others in the classroom.

      • Children's future kindergarten teachers will be asked about how children are enjoying his/her time in the classroom or whether not they are having difficulties.

      Are there any risk or benefits to participating?

      Our assessments are designed to be fun activities. In prior projects, children often leave research sessions happy about their experience. Research assistants provide small gifts to children after each activity session. Our reserach assistants also enjoy these activities, are trained in child development, and enjoy being around children.

      Why is my participation important?

      As more and more children are spending time in the preschool setting, it is important to look at how teachers impact a child’s social and emotional development. There is little to no information available in this area. The information obtained through TASSEL and CAPS can be used to help develop methods and tools preschool teachers can use to help their students prepare to enter kindergarten.

      What if I have more questions?

      • We would love to speak with you further about our projects and our research!

      • At any point in the project, you can always reach us either by email at or call us at 703-993-1378