Child Development Lab

Department of Psychology

Completed Projects

Teachers as Socializers of Social Emotional Learning (TASSEL)


Teachers as Socializers of Social Emotional Learning (TASSEL) was a three-year IES-funded study conducted in conjunction with CAPSEL. This study examined the preschool teacher’s role in helping their students develop social and emotional competence as they prepared to move into kindergarten. Children’s abilities to regulate their behavior, emotions, attention, and effort (self-regulation) and get along well with others (social cognition and behaviors) are identified as crucially important school readiness skills. There has been extensive study on parents’ roles in this area. However, as more and more children are spending time in the preschool setting, it was important to examine this venue, as little work has been done in this area.  The results of this study continue to help in the development of methods and tools preschool teachers can use to help their students prepare social and emotionally for kindergarten entrance.

Over the course of the three-year study, TASSEL studied approximately 400 children in 60 preschool classrooms. Social and emotional factors were examined on both the teacher and child level.  Teachers were observed in their classrooms, and asked to complete self-assessment questionnaires. Children's emotional and social competence were studied both in the traditional pen and paper method along with new computer based versions of the assessments. 

Classroom observations in this project were completed in conjunction with Dr. Curby's lab. For more information about his part of the project, please see his website.

Computerized Assessment of Preschool Social-emotional Learning (CAPSEL)


Computerized Assessment of Preschool Social-emotional Learning is a two-year NIH-funded study conducted in conjunction with TASSEL. Because social-emotional learning (SEL) is so crucial, assessment tools to pinpoint children’s skills and progress are vitally necessary. Thus, this study adapted, via computerization, research-based SEL assessment tools with strong empirical predictive validity for school adjustment and achievement. These computerized tools were used in early childhood educational settings for instructional and outcome-based purposes. Throughout schooling, but perhaps most especially during these early years, a child’s abilities to express healthy emotions, understand emotions of self and others, regulate emotion, attention, and behavior, make good decisions regarding social problems, and engage in a range of prosocial behaviors, all work together to promote successful school experience. However, many children have deficits in these skills by school entry, and educators lack the requisite tools to identify, track and assess skills these children need to learn. Work to ameliorate these conditions may help children have the chance to fulfill their potential to live healthy and productive lives, a key mission of NIH.

Over the two-year period, we collected a wealth of information allowing us to transform an existing assessment battery to maximize utility and feasibility in preschool, Head Start and prekindergarten classrooms. We see the future of this assessment battery, in its later, ultimate form, for both formative and summative child assessments and classroom or program evaluation; it will be used to inform overall classroom instruction and instructional plans for specific students, measure school readiness, and evaluate program accountability. Thus, our first aim in this exploratory/developmental project was to design a computer-based version of our SEL assessment battery.

We completed our computerization of game-like measures assessing emotion knowledge, social problem-solving, and prosocial behavior, and piloted these early versions, examining their usability with teachers and 3- to 4-year-old children, as well as their relation to teachers’ attitudes about computer, computer usage in the classroom, gender, age, and children’s early school success and cognitive ability. Additionally, we continue to revise the measures as necessary after holding focus groups and examining the utility of the computerized measures via field testing. With this foundation, we continue to work toward validation of the complete computerized battery against the original noncomputerized assessment tools, and in relation to children’s early school success. This work will provide a springboard to finalization of this battery and continued exploration of its usefulness.

Other projects

At the same time, we continue our interest in assessing children's emotional and social competence, and anticipate both finishing reports from our 6-year NICHD-funded Assessing Social-Emotional Skills for School Readiness (ASESSR), and refining new computer based versions of the assessments.

Our data on preschoolers’ social-emotional competence, as well as older children’s forgiveness , and parents’ socialization of these abilities – collected in several longitudinal studies – continue to bear fruit.