School’s in Session

Looking Ahead to a Great Year of Research in the Haring Center’s Classrooms


School is back in session at the UW Haring Center’s lab school, Experimental Education Unit (EEU), for kids, teachers, and University of Washington researchers.

EEU staff continuously partner with UW College of Education student and faculty researchers to develop and test cutting edge strategies to improve the quality of inclusive early learning and early intervention for all children. This year, one such partnership will be between EEU preschool and kindergarten teachers  and  Haring Center researcher Dr. Maggie Beneke to examine conversations with young children about ability and race through shared book reading.

This is study is an extension of Beneke’s dissertation, titled “Race and Ability Talk in Early Childhood: Critical Inquiry into Shared Book Reading Practices with Pre-service Teachers,” which won the American Educational Research Association’s 2018 Disability Studies in Education Outstanding Dissertation Award.

Conversations about ability and race in early childhood can have a significant impact on their views about themselves and those in their communities. In the EEU study, teachers will select which books they read to ensure book topics are relevant and interesting to the specific children in their classrooms. Teachers will then be videotaped while engaging in shared reading during regularly scheduled literacy times in the classroom. Participating teachers will have the opportunity to review the videos with Dr. Beneke. Together, Beneke and the teachers will analyze the video with the goal of increasing opportunities for children to participate in conversations about ability and race.

“The teachers are excited,” said Beneke. “This work is hard. We talked about how aspects of this work will be uncomfortable, but the teachers have shared how they’ve wanted to engage in anti-bias practices. This study will be a supported opportunity for the teachers to explore anti-bias practices in their own classroom settings.”

Beneke’s study at the EEU extends her dissertation in several ways. For example, while Beneke’s dissertation focused on teacher candidates, at the EEU Beneke will work with experienced teachers. Additionally, Beneke has designed the EEU study to examine the role of professional learning communities in supporting teachers’ practice – participating head teachers will engage in five study groups to discuss their practice, analyze classroom discourse, and provide each other with feedback.

“This study has shared goals and commitments with the EEU’s Equity Change Team to build anti-bias learning communities, as well as to build stronger anti-bias skills for staff,” said Beneke.

UW College of Education professors conduct dozens of studies at the EEU annually. In addition, the EEU’s classrooms are where student research by undergraduate, graduate and doctoral candidates occurs throughout the year. EEU teachers have a rich history or participating in all studies that impact future generations of students, as well as those currently in their classroom. In 2017-18, teachers worked to develop a comprehensive screening for a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) for children in preschool and kindergarten. Read more about that study here.

The EEU is the heart of the Haring Center, which act as ‘living laboratories’ for researchers who seek to innovate and discover new best practices for children of all abilities and backgrounds. Once verified, those practices are then taught and coached by Haring Center staff to professional educators throughout Washington state and beyond.