Penn State researcher receives federal grant to study early learning program

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A Penn State researcher has a major role in a $3.3 million federal grant award to study the impact of MindUp, an early-learning program aimed at improving children's readiness for kindergarten and later grades.

MindUp is designed to help children develop social-emotional and self-regulation skills, including learning how to manage their emotions, get along and cooperate with others, focus their attention, follow directions and be persistent at completing tasks.

Robert Roeser, professor of human development and family studies and Bennett Pierce Professor of Caring and Compassion, and thePEACE (Promoting Empathy Awareness and Compassion in Education) program in the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center (PRC) at Penn State, will partner with Andrew Mashburn, psychology professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Portland State University and lead investigator, to study MindUp. The MindUp program was started by actress Goldie Hawn's foundation.

The investigators will be testing the impacts of the MindUP program on the cultivation of self-regulation skills through mindfulness-based, social-emotional learning during the preschool years (ages 3-4). The study will compare the short and long-term effects young children who participate in the MindUP program to those who do not participate in it in preschool.

Specifically, the investigators will look at children's self-regulation, and the longer-term effects on the quality of their adjustment following their transition to kindergarten.

“This transition to formal schooling is a key ‘window of opportunity’ for providing enrichment and preventing behavioral and academic problems that can cast a long shadow on a child's school career,” Roeser said. “This is especially true for young children who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and who may not have access to such enrichment opportunities. Examining the impacts on such children is a key aim of the study.”

The PEACE program in the PRC seeks to promote health and well-being in children, youth and families through the scientific understanding and promotion of awareness, compassion and empathy. The program includes faculty, research associates and students whose work focuses on developing a strong multidisciplinary science in this emerging area. 

“The PEACE program in the PRC at Penn State is excited to partner with our colleagues at Portland State to conduct this ground-breaking study,” Roeser said.

The study will be conducted within three large counties in the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area, and the sample will comprise classrooms operating within three types of center-based, licensed pre-K programs — publicly-funded, community not-for-profit, and small for-profit — that serve large numbers of four-year-old children from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds who speak Spanish and/or English as their primary language.

People Mentioned in this Article

Robert W. Roeser Max Crowley