Bridging Research and Practice

In this time of increasing recognition of the importance of the early years, research is fundamental. As a leading publication for professionals in the field, Exchange seeks to provide a bridge linking research and practice and to bring this to professionals at all levels. The Bridging Research and Practice feature is an opportunity for researchers to write about why they study what they do as they reflect on the potential impact of their work. These articles will be about varied aspects of research related to early childhood education with links to the original research as well. Each article will be accompanied by a companion piece full of practical strategies and ideas for how to try using the research in your practice.

We are inviting each of you — if you are a teacher educator, administrator, principal, classroom teacher, or home child care provider — to take and use this! We have heard from many of you that you’d like to access new evidence in our field and understand ways to use it to inform your practice. We will be learning together as we enhance children’s lives through our individual and collective practices.

Help us make this just what you need by sending us your requests for topics you want to learn more about. You can also nominate a researcher who is doing interesting work — maybe it is even you. Send these to us by email:

We have an incredible team of advisors working behind the scenes framing the bridge. Their varied perspectives and experience, both as researchers and consumers of research, are shaping the direction of Bridging Research and Practice.

Advisory Team

Dr. Sharon M. Carver has been director of the Carnegie Mellon University Children’s School since 1993. She teaches courses in child development and educational design and is the associate training director for the graduate Program in Interdisciplinary Education Research, funded by the Institute of Education Sciences since 2004. Dr. Beth Hatcher is an early childhood consultant and writer. After a career in teacher education and program administration, she pursues interests in early childhood math development and school readiness. Recent projects include developing training modules for Maine’s Early Learning and Development Standards and research on technology and children’s social skills.

Dr. Iheoma Iruka is the director of research and evaluation at the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska and was formerly scientist and associate director of research at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Dr. Iruka is engaged in projects and initiatives focused on how evidence-informed policies, systems, and practices in early education can support the optimal development and experiences of low-income, ethnic minority, and immigrant children.

Dr. Zijia Li is an Assistant Research Professor at the National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER). Her research areas are statistical, psychometric, and measurement theories and their applications in early education and assessment; especially Rasch and item response models for dichotomous or polytomous item responses, and how they are extended to multilevel and longitudinal frameworks.

Dr. Michelle Rupiper has worked with students of all ages, from infancy through college. She feels passionately that young children deserve well-prepared, competent teachers who understand how children learn and are equipped to meet their needs. She works to support teachers through her teaching, writing, and workshop presentations.

Dr. Lori Ryan is senior instructor in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver. Her teaching, research, coaching, and consulting focus on building the capacity of teachers and leaders. Lori promotes within communities of practice a strong image of children, teachers, and families as co-constructors of their own learning stories within their unique cultural contexts.

Dr. Mary Sciaraffa is an associate professor in Child and Family Studies at Eastern Kentucky University. She holds a doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction and taught in an early childhood classroom and served as an administrator. She has presented within a variety of venues with a variety of audiences and has been published in peer-reviewed professional journals, textbooks, and practitioner’s books..

Janet Thompson, MA, is director of the Early Childhood Lab School at the University of California, Davis Center for Child and Family Studies. As an educator, her interests focus especially on the growth of social and emotional competency and its contributions to early learning. She was a primary author of California’s Preschool Learning Foundations and Curriculum Frameworks for Social-Emotional Development and Social Sciences Frameworks.

Dr. Ross A. Thompson is distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, where he directs the Social and Emotional Development Lab. He is also president of the board of directors of Zero to Three, a national nonprofit devoted to the healthy development of infants and toddlers and their families.

Rachel Robertson has had the privilege of teaching young children and the adults who work with them for over 25 years. She has been a teacher, center director, quality coach, curriculum developer, and adult education facilitator. Currently, she is the VP of Education and Development for Bright Horizons Family Solutions where she is responsible for supporting both the professional growth and development of early educators and developing and enhancing the curriculum and education resources for young children. She is also the author of numerous books and articles for, including a series of books for military children and families coping with deployment, books on quality early education, and children’s health and wellness. Her most recent books, published by Redleaf Lane, are for young children. Rachel holds a B.S. in Family Social Science and an M.A. in Human Development. Rachel lives in San Diego, and when she’s not working or writing, you are likely to find her with her two daughters and two dogs somewhere near the beach.


Dr. Pam Boulton is an instructor for the Center for Early Childhood Professional Development and Leadership in the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee School of Continuing Education and is UWM child care director emeritus.

Christine Kiewra, MA, is the director of research for the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation.