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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Research that Benefits Children and Families – Uplifting Stories

As we have been learning this week through our learning resources and assignments, there are ethical considerations to take into account while doing research. This code of ethics may not necessarily be a long list of personal beliefs or values, but rather a precise plan how a particular study will be planned, conducted, and reported. Between you and me, I struggled a lot with the learning resources this week. All of the specific codes and regulation numbers confused me, and I had to re-read a few different articles several times. The bottom line that I came to after pondering all of the resources is that research must be carefully thought through, designed, and conducted with it comes to children. The four areas below typically are approved when research involves children:

  • The risks are nothing more than minimal (minimal equates to the typical discomforts and harms experiences in everyday life or in testings).
  • More than minimal risks may occur, but the research directly benefits the participant undergoing the study.
  • More than minimal harm may occur, however the results can lead to greater understandings and insights about the condition or disorder that the participant has (ie: learning more about effective strategies when instructing children with autism).
  • Research that may cause more than minimal risks, but the outcomes provide opportunities to learn more the general health and well-being of children and their development *special note, research studies that use this option must be approved by the HHS (Health and Human Services) secretary* (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP). (n.d.).

So, when research abides by one of the above ethical considerations, the results and outcomes can lead to a positive impact on the lives of children and families. File (2008) agrees by stating, “Applied research projects contribute information to our field that benefits young children and families we serve and all of us who work conscientiously to improve the quality of early care and education” (p. 87).

After seeing how research can have a positive influence on children and families, I asked myself how have I personally (and professionally) witnessed positive examples? Two instances quickly came to my mind …

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Research personally affected my life and saved my son’s. However, let me back up and provide a bit of a background for you. I was pregnant with my first born child in 2009 (and quite frankly, he is still my only child). I went into labor with him nearly 42 weeks gestational. Everything at the prenatal appointments looked excellent, and even during active labor, he was doing well. It was only the last hour of delivery that things took a turn for the worse.

While I can’t remember the full specifics of the half-hour leading up to his delivery, I do remember that he was pulled out of my belly (emergency C-Section) at 6:32 pm on a Saturday evening. I thought it was odd that I didn’t hear him cry, and I learned a few hours later why this was. You see, he was born blue, with no heartbeat or a breath of life. If you know anything about APGAR scores, his were 0 across the board. After 2-3 minutes of CPR, he was resuscitated and rushed to the NICU. However, the brain damage from the loss of oxygen was imminent.

At the hospital where I delivered, they had begun a new experimental program for babies born with potential brain damage. It was called a “cooling mat.” Babies were placed on this cooling mat, which significantly reduces the body temperature for 3 days. Fortunately, my son qualified for this experimental program and was placed on the cooling mat for the first 3 days of his life. He was sedated and on a ventilator, but it was all in hopes that the brain damage wouldn’t continue. Essentially, it was an experiment – a part of research. A trial and error. Nobody could tell me if he would be significantly brain damaged or even wake up. We just had to wait …

Three days later, my son was removed from the cooling mat and started the process of warming up. He began to

Ephraim on the cooling mat

Ephraim on the cooling mat

wake up and slowly make progress. The brain damage from his birth was already present on the MRI, but thankfully it was not any worse due to the cooling mat procedure. He spent 24 days in the NICU, learning how to doing multiple feats that many babies are typically born with (like sucking), but he is a trooper and managed to pull through it all.

Due to the new cooling mat program, he became a participant in a longitudinal study that would follow him until he is five years old. Every six months or so, he would go for developmental testing to determine where he was in comparison to those his age. Even though this program has dissolved in my area, there is still a research study going on about the long term benefits of children who were on a cooling mat immediately after birth.

Fast forward nearly three and a half years, my son (Ephraim) is one of the happiest little boys I have ever known (and I’m not saying this just because he’s my son). He had a lot of challenges and struggles, but this doesn’t stop him. He can’t sit up yet, but he scoots all around the floor in an army crawl. Eating is a huge issue, but he has overcome the possibility of a feeding tube numerous times. While he is on a pureed diet, he is able to eat all of his meals orally. With the addition of multiple therapies each week, he is slowly making process in all developmental areas. He is a miracle, for sure. My miracle, indeed.

The research study of the cooling mat saved my son. Or at least I like to think of it like that. Had my son not had

Ephraim today in his gait trainer (a device designed to help him walk).

Ephraim today in his gait trainer (a device designed to help him walk).

the chance to be on the cooling mat, his brain damage could have been significantly worse. Sure, he faced more than minimal discomfort by being sedated and chilled for nearly the first three days of his life. I was aware of the risks that surrounded this experiment, but the benefits for my son far outweighed these risks. The discomfort was worth it, in my eyes, for a chance that the brain damage wouldn’t get worse. In addition, this research study also affected my life as a mother. The cooling mat had just come to this hospital a few weeks prior to my son’s birth. Otherwise, my son would have had to be transferred to a children’s hospital nearly two hours away. I was thankful that I was able to stay close by my son’s side, rather than worry about his care and prognosis in a different hospital. This research study, while it was brief and disseminated before my son turned 5, was a lifesaver for my son.

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Even though I did experience research first hand, I also took a step back and looked for positive examples I have come across in my professional career. While I have read numerous research articles, one in particular revealed positive examples of how research affects children and families.

A research study was conducted on a group of migrant children and their families during kindergarten. Parents were offered an opportunity to participate in a voluntary program that taught them how to be involved and engaged in their child’s academic activities. Parents could opt to attend just one session or all of them if desired. It was the hopes of the study that if parent quality and involvement increased, academic achievement, as well as social and behavioral development, would rise.

Once the children completed kindergarten, they were then re-evaluated at the end of first grade to see if there was an increase in academic knowledge. It was discovered that the children in the experimental group had greater language scores when compared to those children in the control group. Already this experimental study had begun to see the impact of increasing parent involvement and quality.

Six years later, this group of children was re-evaluated once again. (This is actually what the article mainly discussed – the results from the initial study six years later.) The state reading assessments were examined for both groups. Although not a surprise, it was found that the experimental group, children whose parents attended the parent program, had significantly higher scores in comparison to those in the control group (children whose parents did not participate in the parent program).

This research study produces positive effects for the experimental group, as they continue to reap the benefits from their parents attending the parent program. This journal article is an excellent example of how research positively contributes to the optimal development and learning of children. If you want to read this article in depth, the citation is as follows:

Clair, L. S., Jackson, B., & Zweiback, R. (2012). Six Years Later: Effect of Family Involvement Training on the     Language Skills of Children from Migrant Families. School Community Journal, 22(1)

questionstoponderSince we are in this journey together, I will conclude my blog post with some questions for you to ponder (and even perhaps respond to):

  • How has the research simulation project been going for you? Have you experienced any rough spots, like I did this week with reading about ethics?
  • If you have identified any positive examples within research, has this encouraged you to continue to further your research exploration?
  • Have you identified any positive research examples that correlate to your specific topic?
  • What have you found helpful to you as you complete your research simulation?

References:

Clair, L. S., Jackson, B., & Zweiback, R. (2012). Six Years Later: Effect of Family Involvement Training on the Language Skills of Children from Migrant Families. School Community Journal22(1), 9-19.

File, N. (2008). When researchers come to your program. YC: Young Children63(5), 80–87.

Mac Naughton, G. & Rolfe, S.A. (2010). Doing early childhood research: International perspectives on theory and practice (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP). (n.d.[a]). Research with children—FAQs. HHS.gov. Retrieved from http://answers.hhs.gov/ohrp/categories/1570

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Posted by on March 23, 2013 in Week 3

 

My Personal Research Journey

Welcome to Building Research Competency!

Over the next several weeks, we will learn about the in-depth process of research! The research process is relevant to early childhood education, as it continuous provides additional evidence and support to further enhance the quality and effectiveness this field has to offer. Therefore, it is crucial that we support and learn from each other as we work towards becoming critical consumers of research.

One of the initial steps in the research simulation project was identifying a general topic. From there we narrowed our focus and identified three related subtopics. After contemplating what ignited my personal and professional passion for early learning and development, I decided on the following:topic&subtopic

howthiscametobeWhen I first encountered the research simulation project, I will admit that I was overwhelmed by the amount of “diversity of issues, as well as the complexity within each issue” (Mac Naughton & Rolfe, 2010, p. 15). To choose just one general topic seemed like a daunting task to me, as I wasn’t sure where to even begin. Therefore, I compiled a list of topics that kindled my professional passion and challenged me to gain deeper insights and information. While my list was lengthy, I was able to narrow down to three general topics, with family relationships and partnerships ranking near the topic. I contemplated each issue, weighing which one interested me on a professional and passionate level and would “be of interest and significance to other people” (Mac Naughton & Rolfe, 2010, p. 16). Despite the fact that the other two topics captivated me, the desire to learn more about effective strategies to foster positive family relationships and partnerships far out weighed any other topic, and further research on this area would assist me personally, as well as benefit the families and other professionals I work with.

So, I went through this entire process to whittle down my topic to one specific focus. After I completed this task, I sat back and asked myself, Why did this area trump every other one? What was it about this topic that captivated me and motivated me to dig deeper? I recalled my personal experience as a parent of a young child. My son, who is currently 3, struggles with multiple disabilities that require numerous doctor appointments monthly and countless therapy sessions weekly. On top of this, I am a single mom juggling two jobs (which equate to about 48 hours a week), graduate school, and a beautiful son who needs more attention than a typical three year old. By the time I get to his child care center each day, my mind is already floating away with the long list of things to do. I do want to be an actively involved parent in my child’s early learning days. The desire is there. Yet, I struggle with how to get there. What are the strategies that I can utilized (and fit into my crazy schedule appropriately) to help increase my participation, which will then build family participation and cooperation? Therein lies one aspect behind the topic of choice for research.

Stepping aside from a personal perspective, I reflected on an earlier observation in a child care center, where I looked specifically for the involvement and cooperation of families. I tied a lot of professional passion for building family partnerships back to this sole observation. While I witnessed a few techniques that were used (like families being able to celebrate birthdays), I wanted to know what more can this center do to include more families? What about the families behind the scenes who appear shy and timid upon drop off and pick up? Or how about those moms or dads who struggle with a similar schedule like mine? What effective strategies are there that professionals can incorporate to include most, if not all, families in the learning and development of their young children? All of these questions remained with me, even months after the observation was complete. My passion was peaked. I want to know more about these effective strategies to help satisfy both my personal and professional questions ab

odetoexperienceAs I sit here, constructing this week’s blog post, I must admit one small thing to you all: I have had little experience with research. My personal experience is relatively slim. I usually shy away from research articles, as the unfamiliar terminology and statistics overwhelm me. I would incorporate bits and pieces from certain articles to help support research-based papers for undergraduate and graduate courses. Aside from this, I have dabbled little in the process of research.

With that confession out in the open, I can now freely pen my personal experiences thus far with this research simulation. Although it’s only been about two weeks since this course started, I can bravely state I have accumulated some personal experience. I have started to read through a handle from of research articles. I say a handful because my experience is just that: it takes time. Oh my, my poor mind fully expected to breeze through an article, yet two hours later I still sat at the table, trying to draw all of the connections throughout the process. I read each section of the articles at least a dozen of times (yes, a dozen as in 12), and after that I only began to understand the depth of the article. My personal experience quickly acquired the fact that this research simulation will consume more time and knowledge than I initially expected, yet I have high hopes that it will shape and mold me. Furthermore, I have begun my search for literature to support my subtopic. I am pleased to say that I have located several articles that support my research simulation. I am excited to begin to weed through them, identifying those articles that are well-supported and will enhance my efforts. Aside from these small feats in this research simulation, my personal experience halts to a stop. Yet, I am prepared to pick up pace, perhaps in dou

insightsRather than bore you to death with the droning on of my overflowing word count, I have decided to make it easier on your eyes with breezy bullet points of those insights I have gleaned thus far (and it’s only been two weeks!):

  • As stated above, research is time-consuming. Now I understand why dedicated researchers make a career out of it. Instead of simply glancing, one must explore deeply the article to gain the full connections, main points, results, and conclusions. While this may not be the case for the trained eye who just knows how to read research, I am beginning to understand that those completing research need time – lots of it!
  • There is a lot of terminology in research. One must be familiar and actually know the definitions to these words in order to fully grasp the depth of a research article. I speak from experience. I read through an article, not knowing any of the main terms used. Then I found the Appendix in the main course text book, which explained the main terminology. Using this as a resource, I went back to the article, and I could understand it much better. Terminology is key in research!
  • Not all research is of quality and value. Going through the checklists of criteria and acceptable standards, I was able to see how certain research articles and resources shouldn’t be used. All research needs to be approached cautiously and critiqued carefully. If we were to haphazardly use all of the research we just happen to come by, it could skew the results or lead us to one side or opinion of the issue.
  • There are a lot of steps in research. Read through this week’s chapter in the main text book, my eyes were really opened to just how much effort is put into the process of research. These steps must be completed, for if even one were skipped, the whole research process could be null and void. While there are a lot of steps in research, it is necessary. These steps contribute to the level of quality and credibilit

yourtakeThis is where you, my colleagues, come into play. Just as we can see in the research process, it can not be completed thoroughly and efficiently by a single person. It takes teamwork. So, how can you contribute? How can we work together as a team? Answering one or more of these questions is a great start!

  • What advice do you have in regards to the research process in general?
  • Are there any tips you use and have come to really enjoy when doing research?
  • What do you tend to shy away from in research?
  • What has been your biggest fear with research and how have you overcome this?
  • Do you use any strategies to comprehend a research article that is time-effici

resourcesAs stated above, we are a team. Therefore, I would love to share with you the insights I gained (see above for the start to the list), as well as any resources that I have come to greatly appreciated. Listed below are a few resources if you would like additional support for the research process:

What resources have you acquired that you want to share with your colleagues?

Come back for more posts about my personal experience and journey with research.

References:

Mac Naughton, G. & Rolfe, S.A. (2010). Doing early childhood research: International perspectives on theory    and practice (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2013 in Week 1

 

Consequences and a Goal

Throughout these past several weeks, we have navigated through various resources including educational organizations, pod casts, connections with international early childhood educators, and organizations putting forth global efforts to address the issues and trends in this field. As a result of this exploration, there were consequences that occurs from learning about the international early childhood field. Below you will find the consequences that I perceived for my personal and professional development:

consquence 2consquence 1

 

consquence 3

consquence 4

 

 

 

 

Based on these consequences, I created the following goal for collaboration and cooperation among the field of early childhood education worldwide:

goal

A special thanks to all of my colleagues who read my blog and made comments on posts. I have appreciated every word you said and am grateful for your support throughout the past several weeks!

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2013 in Week 8