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5 researchers who can help us understand how children succeed

PBS News Hour |

When Paul Tough first began reporting on the skills that help children succeed both in and out of the classroom, he drew upon an already robust body of research on the subject. 

The scholars he turned to had looked at how adverse childhood experiences affected one group of kids attending a pediatric clinic in San Francisco, as well as how children’s classroom environments could help build non-cognitive skills key to long-term success. In addition to this body of research, Tough was also influenced by studies that had been done on initiatives to help parents and teachers better support children growing up in adverse environments. 

  • Nadine Burke Harris is now the surgeon general of California. She and a few colleagues published an important study on how children were affected by adverse childhood experiences.
  • Mary Dozier, a researcher in psychology at the University of Delaware and is the inventor of a parenting intervention called Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up, or ABC, which sends trained coaches into children’s homes to help support parents in creating a warm, responsive caregiving environment.
  • Phil Fisher helps lead the Center for Translational Neuroscience at the University of Oregon. He and his team created a video-coaching program for at-risk parents, called Filming Interactions to Nurture Development, that allows home visitors to film parents playing with their children.
  • Cybele Raver is a professor of psychology at New York University. She launched the Chicago School Readiness Project, or CSRP, an intervention that trained and supported teachers in low-income pre-K classrooms.
  • Camille Farrington is a researcher at the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research and the author of a 2012 study, “Teaching Adolescents to Be Learners,” that considered non-cognitive factors like grit and perseverance not as inherent traits, but as the product of children’s environments.

In “Helping Children Succeed,” Tough delves into how teachers and caregivers can foster environments where children develop these character traits, and looks at examples of how schools across the United States are working to do so.