Child Development Lab

Department of Psychology

Resource Page for Teachers

Research into children’s social and emotional development depends on teachers like you!

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 teachers important for children's social and emotional development?

      Absolutely! Research has shown that teachers are important, but little is known about how teachers are important. Our current reserach project, TASSEL, attempts to figure this out.

Research 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 I choose to participate, what will I be asked to do?

      Depending on the year, your particpation may consist of up to three areas:

      • 1. Focus groups

      • 2. Classroom observations

      • 3. Teacher and student assessments

      Are there any risk or benefits to participating?

      We realize that as teachers, your time is very limited! Depending on your involvement, your time and effort is compensated accordingly.

      What will happen in my classroom?

      Depending on the stage of our project, you may have research assistants observing your classroom. We also may ask you to lead a story reading activity with the children. During periods where we'll be collecting child data, we'll also be working with participating children one on one in another room.

      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 this study 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