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Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development

Christine McWayne

Director of EXCELS Lab

Christine McWayne

Director of EXCELS Lab

Phone 617-627-0478
105 College Avenue, Medford, MA

I am an applied developmental scientist and community-based early childhood educational researcher whose career has been focused upon fostering better understandings of the early social and learning successes of young children growing up in urban poverty. The existence of seeming intractable achievement gaps between children growing up in poverty and their more affluent peers represents, arguably, the most important educational concern of our time. A particular focus, recently, of my research is understanding how to better support the adult contributors to children's early development: their parents and teachers. With my colleagues and students, I have sought to document the ways in which families from non-dominant groups are supporting their children and how, by having more culturally-grounded information, we can bridge the divides that often exist between the primary helpers in children's lives (i.e., parents and teachers). In more recent research, my colleagues and I have worked to co-construct curriculum and professional development supports for Head Start teachers around science and engineering learning for dual language learners, which incorporates children's home and community contexts and familiar knowledge. Underpinning the research with these adults are attempts to "flip the script," so to speak, to allow for practitioners and family members supporting children's development to tell us what they know, what they do, and how they do it, so that their expertise can inform our scientific knowledge base.

My work involves four main themes, reflecting my overarching commitment to researching, creating and sustaining strong systems of support for young, low-income, urban-residing and dual language learning children. First, my research seeks to document and understand strengths in context. I believe this approach has the greatest potential for informing intervention, because it leverages the positive elements in children's lives while also acknowledging the challenges that exist for many children.

Second, because much of our research has tended to view children and families through the lens of the dominant U.S. culture, the uniqueness of the experience of many children and families has been missed. By obscuring within-group variability that exists, researchers have failed to document the, perhaps, culturally-nuanced forms of support that could be leveraged within the lives of young children to promote well-being and engagement in school. Therefore, through my research, I seek to understand the nature of supports that exist within socioculturally diverse families, and to document within-group variation.

A third theme of my research is grounded in the notion that what we measure and how we measure it matters. Consistent with the commitments described above, I focus on measurement development from a within-group and strengths-based perspective. I employ community-collaborative, mixed-methods (quantitative and qualitative) approaches in my measurement development and validation work. By doing so, my colleagues and I hope to provide the field with critical information for enhancing the lived experiences (at home and at school) of our nation's increasingly diverse student population by conducting research with new measures that reflect their lived experiences.

Finally, as an applied developmentalist, my scholarship is deeply integrated with considerations for practice. Consistent with the other themes, through my most recent research (see more below about the RISE project), I seek to develop and refine early childhood curriculum that is responsive to and inclusive of children's home contexts and cultural communities.

Ph.D., School, Community, and Clinical-Child Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
M.S.Ed., Psychological Services, University of Pennsylvania
B.S., Psychology (Minors in Public Service and English), Abilene Christian University

Early childhood education, school success of young children at risk due to poverty, parenting and family-school partnerships in diverse ethnocultural communities, community-based research collaborations.

Selected Professional Activities: 
  • Excellence in Reviewing. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. (April 2020)
  • Director of Early Childhood Education, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, 2010-2018
  • Community Hero. Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD). Boston, MA. November 2017
  • Invited Participant in the Fostering STEM Trajectories: Bridging ECE Research, Practice & Policy. Hosted by New America and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Washington, DC. May 2016
  • Invited Expert for Symposium Roundtable by AERA President-Elect, "Creating Opportunity and Educational Pathways for Young Children and their Families," at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Washington, D.C. April 2016
  • Tisch Faculty Fellow, Tufts University, 2012-2013
  • Reviewer of the Year Award from the Journal of School Psychology, August 2008
  • Goddard Faculty Fellowship Award, Steinhardt School of Education, NYU, September 2006
  • Moving on Ceremony Invited Speaker and Award of Appreciation from the Williamsburg Y Head Start Program, Brooklyn, NY, June 2006
  • Daniel E. Griffith's Research Award, Steinhardt School of Education, NYU, May 2005
  • Early Career Scholar Award from the Society for the Study of School Psychology, September 2004
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (2012-2018)
  • Associate Editor, Educational Researcher (2013-2018)
  • Associate Editor, Journal of School Psychology (2009-2011)
  • Currently serves on editorial boards of several early childhood development research journals
Selected Publications and Presentations: 

(* asterisk indicates student coauthor)

*Hyun, S., McWayne, C. M., & Mendez, J. (2021). “I See Why They Play”: Chinese immigrant parents and their beliefs about young children’s play. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 56, 272-280.  

*Limlingan, M. C., McWayne, C. M., & Hassairi, N. (2021). Habla Conmigo: Teachers’ Spanish talk and Latine dual language learners’ school readiness skills. Early Education and Development.  

McWayne, C. M., *Hyun, S., Diez, V., & Mistry, J. (2021). “We Feel Connected… and Like We Belong”: A parent-led, staff-supported model of family engagement in early childhood. Early Childhood Education Journal.  

*Hyun, S., *Li, L., McWayne, C.M., & *Cheung, K. (2021). Incorporating emic perspectives in defining social competence: Validation of parental assessment of peer play interactions at home for low-income Chinese-heritage children. Early Childhood Education Journal.  

McWayne, C. M., Greenfield, D., Zan, B., Mistry, J., & *Ochoa, W. (2021). A Comprehensive Professional Development Approach for Supporting Science, Technology, and Engineering Curriculum in Preschool: Connecting Contexts for Dual Language Learners. In S. T. Vorkapić & J. LoCasale-Crouch(Eds.), Supporting children’s well-being during the early childhood transition to school (pp. 222-253). IGI Global.  

McWayne, C.M., & Mistry, J. (2020). Relationships and power in transforming school spaces: A review of Natural Allies by Soo Hong. Teachers College Record. Published January 27, 2020. ID Number: 23195 

Melzi, G., McWayne, C. M., & *Ochoa, W. (2020). Family engagement and Latine children’s early narrative skills. Early Childhood Education Journal.  

Mattis, J., McWayne, C. M., *Palmer, G. J. M., *Sparks, H., & Johnson, M. (2020). Color him father: Generative parenting among low-income, urban-residing, co-residential Black fathers. Psychology of Men & Masculinities.  

McWayne, C. M., Mattis, J., & *Li, L. W. (2020). Parenting together: Understanding the shared context of positive parenting among low-income Black families. Journal of Black Psychology, 46, 312-339.  

McWayne. C. M., Mistry, J., *Hyun, S., Diez, V., Parker, C., Zan, B., Greenfield, D., & Brenneman, K. (2020). Incorporating knowledge from children’s homes and communities: A home-to-school approach for teaching STEM in preschool. Young Children, 75 (5), 20-26.  

McWayne, C. M., Mistry, J., Brenneman, K., Zan, B., & Greenfield, D. (2020). A model of co-construction for curriculum and professional development in Head Start: The Readiness through Integrative Science and Engineering (RISE) Approach. Teachers College Record, 122 (11). 

*Limlingan, M. C., McWayne, C. M., Sanders, E., & Lopez, M. (2020). Classroom language contexts as predictors of Latino preschool dual-language learners’ school readiness. American Educational Research Journal, 57(1), 339-370.   

McWayne, C. M., Doucet, F., & Sheridan, S. (Eds.) (2019). Research on Family-School Partnerships: Understanding Ethnocultural Diversity and the Home-to-School Link. Springer Publishers. 

McWayne, C. M., Doucet, F., & Mistry, J. (2019). Family-school partnerships in ethnocultural communities: Redirecting conceptual frameworks, research methods, and intervention efforts by rotating our lens. In C. M. McWayne, F. Doucet, & S. Sheridan (Eds.), Research on Family-School Partnerships: Understanding Ethnocultural Diversity and the Home-to-School Link. Springer Publishers.

Limlingan, M. C., McWayne, C. M., Sanders, E. A., & López, M. L. (2020). Classroom Language Contexts as Predictors of Latinx Preschool Dual Language Learners’ School Readiness. American Educational Research Journal, 57(1), 339–370. 

McWayne, C. M., Mistry, J., Brenneman, K., Greenfield, D., & Zan, B. (2018). Supporting family engagement in STE curriculum among low-income immigrant families with preschool children. In M. Caspe, T. A. Woods, & J. L. Kennedy (Eds.), Promising practices for engaging families in STEM learning: volume in family-school-community partnership issues (pp. 79-95). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Sarama, J., Clements, D., Nielsen, N., Blanton, M., Romance, N., Hoover, M., Staudt, C., Baroody, A., McWayne, C., & McCulloch, C., (2018). Considerations for STEM education from PreK through grade 3. Education Development Center, Inc.


Teaching/Courses Taught: 
CSHD 121/CVS 142: Working with Communities: Research-Practice Integration
CSHD 165/E 145/CVS 132: Family-School Connections in a Global Society