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PEDAL Seminar: Play, self-regulation and early childhood – What does research say?

A rare opportunity to hear from two of the world’s foremost developmental psychologists about how their research has been applied to education and social policy.

Of particular interest to academics, teachers, early years practitioners, and third/public sector professionals, Professor Blair and Professor Sylva highlight the effects of early education on development, attainment and fulfilling individual potential.

Prof Blair’s talk is entitled ‘The Science of Self-Regulation: Supporting Executive Function Development in Early Childhood Through Play’. 

Prof Sylva’s talk is entitled ‘Nurturing 21st century skills in early childhood: evidence from the English EPPSE study and the EU CARE project’.

Professor Clancy Blair is a developmental psychologist who studies self-regulation in young children. His primary interest concerns the development of cognitive abilities referred to as executive functions and the ways in which these aspects of cognition are important for school readiness and early school achievement. He is also interested in the development and evaluation of pre-school and elementary school curricula designed to promote executive functions as a means of preventing school failure.

In 2002, Blair and his colleagues at Penn State University and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for a longitudinal, population-based study of family ecology and child development beginning at birth. In his part of the project, Blair is examining interaction between early experiential and biological influences on the development of executive functions and related aspects of self-regulation. Ultimately, Blair and his colleagues plan to follow this sample through the school years and into young adulthood.

Prior to coming to NYU, Blair spent ten years as an Assistant and then Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State. He received his doctorate in Developmental Psychology and a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1996.

After completing a doctorate in Developmental Psychology at Harvard, Professor Kathy Sylva moved to England for post-doctoral research with Jerome Bruner at the University of Oxford Department of Experimental Psychology. Her research interests fall into two themes. She has conducted several large-scale studies on the effects of early education and care on children’s development, acting as a lead researcher on the Effective Pre-school and Primary Education study (EPPE/EPPSE) which followed 3,000 children from pre-school entry to the end of compulsory schooling. She co-led the national Evaluation of Childrens Centres in England, another large scale study on the effects of early childhood services on development. Her second interest is in parenting programmes aimed at enhancing parents capacity to support their childs learning and behaviour. She has led three randomised controlled trials to evaluate parenting interventions, the most recent on a parent programme aimed at supporting early reading near the start of primary school.

Currently Kathy is researching the early childhood curriculum across Europe, funded by the EU. Kathy has published seven books and 200 papers/chapters/reports on early education/care, early literacy and ways to support families. She was Specialist Adviser to the UK Parliamentary Select Committee on Education 2000-2009, the Tickell Review of the early childhood curriculum in 2011, and the National College Expert Panel on Standards for Early Years Teachers in 2012. In 2014-15 she was specialist advisor to the House of Lords Enquiry into Affordable Childcare. She was awarded an OBE in 2008 for services to children and families and in 2014 was awarded the British Education Associations Nisbett Award for outstanding contribution to educational research. She was elected Fellow of the British Psychological Society and also a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.