Dr. Ryan Receives Grant for Research in Early Childhood Experiences


Dr. Sharon Ryan, Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs of the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, and Dr. Elizabeth Graue, of University of Wisconsin- Madison, were recently awarded a grant from the Spencer Foundation to further their study of the pre-school experience, named Life in Early Childhood Settings. Unlike past studies, Dr. Ryan and Dr. Graue will gain answers and insight to specific early education questions. For example, why structurally similar programs vary significantly in quality of instruction. To do so, Ryan and Graue will closely examine the interplay of state policy, program implementation, and children’s experience in two state systems – New Jersey and Wisconsin.

Many preschool-aged children spend at least some time in out-of-home care; yet, little information is known about some of the most important aspects of daycare. These include the quality of instruction children receive, the emotional climate children are subject to, and the type of learning opportunities children are given. With a comparative case study, Ryan and Graue will be able to gain a better understanding of the learning and teaching opportunities provided by each state’s early childhood education policy; also, how those policies are interpreted and administered. Their study is a unique effort to gain further insight into multiple levels of state administered pre-kindergarten systems at once.

To support the study’s focus on state policy, quality of program, and children’s experience, data will be gathered from a wide array of sources: policy documents, curricula, program descriptions, administrator and teacher interviews, classroom observations, child observations and interviews, and home visits. This study stands to improve our knowledge of how state regulations and understanding of the instructional staff combine to produce children’s experiences and success.

About Dr. Sharon Ryan

Dr. Sharon Ryan received her education doctorate from Columbia University. Her professional affiliations include the American Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators, American Educational Research Association, Association for Childhood Education International, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children and has published a number of books on both childhood and teacher education. Dr. Ryan’s main focus is the ways in which educators can improve their teaching methods to achieve educational equity for their students.

About the Spencer Foundation

The Spencer Foundation was established in 1963 by Lyle M. Spencer. The foundation began formal grant making in 1971 after Spencer’s death a few years earlier and has given approximately $250 million in grants since then. The foundation is committed to investigating ways in which education can be improved around the world and believes research is necessary to that improvement.