Rebecca Bulotsky Shearer, Ph.D.

Rebecca J. Bulotsky Shearer

Associate Professor, Child Division
Ph.D. earned from the University of Pennsylvania, 2004

Research Interests

Early identification of emotional and behavioral problems within the preschool classroom; development of reliable and valid assessment tools for diverse low-income children; use of assessment to inform intervention in early childhood education; longitudinal dynamic associations between early behavioral adjustment, academic achievement, and social adjustment for low-income children; community research partnerships to promote low-income children's school readiness.

Research Positons

We are currently recruiting for an early childhood mental health consultant position for our LOOK project, please click on the link below for more information

Information

Current Research

I am a child clinical and school psychologist and have worked both as a practitioner and researcher with very young children and families living in impoverished urban areas for the past 15 years. My research is guided by a "whole child" developmental-ecological systems perspective which is child-centered and considers both proximal and broader system-level influences on children's development over time. My research is also grounded in a community-based partnership model whereby research is conducted in close collaboration with key contributors to children's development (e.g., parents, peers, teachers; Fantuzzo, Bulotsky-Shearer, & McWayne, 2006). This process starts with genuine dialogue about children's needs and considers the strengths and intervention capacities of large programs; I feel this approach helps to ensure that research is relevant to community members (Gaskins, 1994) and holds the greatest promise to inform system-level interventions that can benefit low-income children and families. Currently, I am conducting several research studies in partnership with the Miami-Dade Head Start program with my research team, "The University of Miami Head Start Social Emotional Readiness Lab."

Measurement development: Understanding preschool behavior in context

Early identification and intervention is critical, as epidemiological studies suggest that 8-22% of preschool children exhibit moderate to clinically significant emotional and behavioral problems (Campbell, 1995; Lavigne et al., 1996) and prevalence rates for children living in poverty are cited as high as 38% (Fantuzzo, Bulotsky, McDermott, Mosca, & Lutz, 2003; Feil et al., 2005). Further, there is consistent evidence that early behavior problems interfere with children's ability to engage in classroom learning activities and to form important relationships with peers and teachers, placing children at risk for future social and academic difficulties (Huffman, Mehlinger, & Kerivan, 2000; Raver, 2002).

To address these gaps, my research has focused on (a) developing measurement tools for early childhood programs serving low-income children to assess classroom emotional and behavioral adjustment within routine social and learning activities, and (b) examining emotional and behavioral adjustment within learning contexts where cognitive and social readiness skills are intentionally taught (Bulotsky-Shearer, Fantuzzo, & McDermott, 2008). I am currently examining the validity of dimensions of classroom emotional and behavioral adjustment (Adjustment Scales for Preschool Intervention; ASPI; Bulotsky-Shearer, Fantuzzo, & McDermott, 2008; Lutz, Fantuzzo, & McDermott, 2002) in the Miami-Dade Head Start Program. The ASPI is an ecologically sensitive teacher report measure identifying (a) types of preschool behavior problems such as internalizing and externalizing behavior; and (b) classroom situations (peer, teacher, and instructional interactions) where problem behavior occurs. To extend the cultural and linguistic validity of the measure, we have adapted and translating a Spanish ASPI form in the Miami-Dade Head Start program through a Goal 5 Measurement Development grant recently funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education (funding period from 2010-2014). The goal is to develop and validate a culturally and linguistically comparable Spanish form for use by bilingual Spanish speaking teachers. We are currently in our second year of the project.

Longitudinal associations: Links between preschool problem behavior, academic, and social outcomes

I am currently conducting several longitudinal studies examining links between classroom problem behavior, academic learning, and social adjustment for Head Start children within preschool and across the transition to elementary school. Findings provide evidence for the consistent negative effects of early problem behavior within classroom peer and teacher interactions, on social competence at the end of preschool and kindergarten (Bulotsky-Shearer, Dominguez, Bell, Rouse, & Fantuzzo, 2010). In addition, preschool problem behavior within structured learning situations is negatively associated with lower literacy, mathematics, and approaches to learning outcomes in Head Start (Bulotsky-Shearer, Fernandez, Dominguez, & Rouse, 2010), and lower literacy and language outcomes at the end of kindergarten and first grade (Bulotsky-Shearer & Fantuzzo, 2010). We are currently examining relations between emotional and behavioral adjustment in Head Start and third grade school adjustment (reading, language, mathematics achievement, special education classification, truancy, and teacher-rated social adjustment). We also are examining longitudinal data collected at several measurement occasions in Miami-Dade Head Start to examine the nature of behavior problem trajectories across the preschool year [e.g., does the level of behavior problems change across the Head Start year? For what types of behavior problems? Within which classroom contexts?); (2) What child-level demographic variables predict change in behavior over time? (3) What are the relations between change in preschool behavior problems and cognitive and social outcomes?]

Profiles of preschool emotional and behavioral adjustment

There is a gap in our understanding of the complex behavioral trajectories of low-income preschool children who experience multiple risks to their development and who are at greatest risk for school failure. Extant research is limited by its focus on clinical populations, or middle class children, limiting generalizability to low-income, minority populations of preschool children. To understand variability within a sample of low-income children, we are currently conducting several studies using a child-centered (or typological) study of preschool emotional and behavioral adjustment. We are currently identifying which common subgroups of children comprise patterns of internalizing, externalizing, and situational problem behaviors; and identifying which children are at greatest risk for poor academic or social outcomes across the Head Start year, and in third grade.

Identifying malleable factors: Protection and risk in a national Head Start sample

There is a gap in our current understanding of the protective influences within the child, the home, and the classroom context that can buffer the detrimental effects of early problem behavior on academic and social outcomes, for children living in poverty. To identify mechanisms to inform intervention, we are currently studying malleable factors within the child, and within home and school contexts that may serve as mediators or moderators of the effects of early problem behaviors on school readiness outcomes. I am particularly interested in identifying protective influences within preschool classrooms (e.g., teacher-child relationships, peer interactions, classroom quality) and within the home context (e.g., family involvement). In the national Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES, 1997) I am currently examining longitudinal associations between profiles of family involvement and classroom quality in Head Start, and academic and social outcomes across preschool, kindergarten, and first grade. With colleagues, I am also identifying with the Head Start FACES (2006 cohort), profiles of social emotional readiness skills, and family and classroom quality factors associated with stability and change in these profiles across the transition to kindergarten.

Identifying malleable factors: Protection and risk in Miami-Dade Head Start

My research team and I are currently involved in several studies examining the moderating effects of classroom quality as measured by dimensions of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS; LaParo, Pianta, Hamre, & Stuhlman, 2002) and the mediating effects of child-level skills such as peer play interactions, on associations between classroom problem behavior and academic outcomes. Children's active engagement in high quality social and instructional interactions with peers and teachers are identified as important mechanisms that support the development of academic skills (Hamre & Pianta, 2007; Mashburn et al., 2008). We are currently collecting data within Miami-Dade Head Start and analyzing data collected over the past two years. The goal is to examine whether high quality instructional support, emotional support, and classroom organization practices buffer or exacerbate negative associations between problem behavior and learning outcomes. In addition, my research team and I are examining reasons why children with problem behavior have difficulty engaging successfully within the learning context, particularly children exhibiting shy or withdrawn behavior. We are currently examining mediation models identifying the role of positive and negative peer interactions in explaining associations between problem behavior and learning. Our goal is to provide more information to early childhood programs to guide strategic interventions by educators to support more adaptive strategies and successful learning experiences for children within the classroom.

Selected Publications (*indicates graduate student author)

Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J., *Dominguez, X., & *Bell, E.R. (in press). Preschool classroom behavioral context and school readiness outcomes for low-income children: A multilevel examination of child- and classroom-level influences. Journal of Educational Psychology.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J., *Bell, E.R., *Romero, S., & *Carter, T. (in press). Interactive peer play mediates the effects of classroom problem behavior on learning outcomes for low income preschool children. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.

Wen, X., Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J., Hahs-Vaughn, D., & Korfmacher, J. (in press). Examination of Head Start program quality: Combining classroom quality and parent involvement to understand children's language, literacy, and mathematics achievement trajectories. Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J., Manz, P., Mendez, J., McWayne, C., Sekino, Y., & Fantuzzo, J. (in press). The importance of interactive peer play competencies for low-income African American preschool children. Child Development Perspectives, Special Issue on Positive Child Development among Minority Children.

Hahs-Vaughn, D. L., McWayne, C., Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J., Wen, X., & Faria, A. (2011). Methodological considerations in using complex survey data: Applied examples with the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES). Evaluation Review, Special Issue on Methodological Considerations in Secondary Data Analysis of Head Start Data, 35(3), 304-313. doi: 10.1177/0193841X11412071.

Hahs-Vaughn, D. L., McWayne, C., Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J., Wen, X., & Faria, A. (2011). Complex sample data recommendations & troubleshooting. Evaluation Review, 35(3), 304-313. doi: 10.1177/0193841X11412070.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J., *Fernandez, V., *Dominguez, X., & Rouse, H. (2011). Behavior problems in learning activities and social interactions in Head Start classrooms, and early reading, mathematics, and approaches to learning. School Psychology Review, 40 (1), 39-56.

*Dominguez, X., Vitiello, V., *Fuccillo, J., Greenfield, D., & Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J. (2011). The role of context in preschool learning: A multilevel examination of the contribution of context-specific problem behaviors and classroom process quality to approaches to learning. Journal of School Psychology, 49 (2), 175-195.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J., & Fantuzzo, J.W. (2011). Preschool behavior problems in classroom learning situations and literacy outcomes in kindergarten and first grade. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 26, 61-73. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2010.04.004.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J., *Dominguez, X., *Bell, E.R., Rouse, H. & Fantuzzo, J.W. (2010). Relations between behavior problems in classroom social and learning situations and peer social competence in Head Start and kindergarten. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 18 (4), 195-210. doi: 10.1177/1063426609351172.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J., Fantuzzo, J.W., & McDermott, P.A. (2010). Typology of classroom emotional and behavioral adjustment for urban Head Start children: A child-centered, contextually relevant approach. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 31, 180-191.

*Dominguez, X., Bulotsky Shearer, R., Greenfield, D. B., & Manrique, S. (2009). Promoting classroom learning for Head Start children: The importance of identifying early behavior problems and fostering adaptive learning behaviors. National Head Start Association Dialog: A Research-To-Practice Journal for the Early Intervention Field, 12.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R., Fantuzzo, J. W., & McDermott, P. A. (2008). An investigation of classroom situational dimensions of emotional and behavioral adjustment and cognitive and social outcomes for Head Start children.Developmental Psychology, 44 (1), 139-154.

Fantuzzo, J. W., Bulotsky-Shearer, R., Frye, D. McDermott, P. A., McWayne, C., & Perlman, S. (2007). Investigation of Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Dimensions of School Readiness for Low-income, Urban Preschool Children. School Psychology Review, 36(1), 44-62.

Fantuzzo, J. W., Bulotsky-Shearer, R., Fusco, R. A., & McWayne, C. (2005). An investigation of preschool emotional and behavioral adjustment problems and social-emotional school readiness competencies. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 20 (3), 259-275.

Fantuzzo, J. W., Bulotsky-Shearer, R., & Sekino, Y. (2005). Head Start. In C. B. Fisher & R. M. Lerner (Eds.),Applied developmental science: An encyclopedia of research, policies, and programs (pp.531-536). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R., & Fantuzzo, J. (2004). Adjustment Scales for Preschool Intervention: Extending validity and relevance across multiple perspectives. Psychology in the Schools, 41 (7), 725-736.

Fantuzzo, J. W., Bulotsky-Shearer, R., McDermott, P., Mosca, S. & Lutz, M. (2003). A multivariate analysis of emotional and behavioral adjustment and preschool educational outcomes. School Psychology Review, 32 (2), 185-203.

Fantuzzo, J., McWayne, C., & Bulotsky, R. (2003). Forging strategic partnerships to advance mental health science and practice for vulnerable children. School Psychology Review 32, 17-37.

McWayne, C. & Bulotsky, R. (2002). Graduate Student Perspective: Commentary on the building community partnerships panel: Fostering relationships between academic institutions and community agencies, schools, and families. National Head Start Association Dialog: A Research-To-Practice Journal for the Early Intervention Field, 5 (2 & 3), 410-414.

Book Chapters, Reviews, Commentaries

Fantuzzo, J. W., Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J., & McWayne, C. M. (2006). The pursuit of wellness for victims of child maltreatment: A model for targeting relevant competencies, contexts, and contributors. In J. R. Lutzker (Ed.), Violence Prevention (pp. 69-96). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Fantuzzo, J. W., Bulotsky-Shearer, R. & Sekino, Y. (2005). Head Start. In C. B. Fisher & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Applied developmental science: An encyclopedia of research, policies, and programs (pp.531-536). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

McWayne, C. & Bulotsky, R. (2002). Graduate Student Perspective: Commentary on the building community partnerships panel: Fostering relationships between academic institutions and community agencies, schools, and families. National Head Start Association Dialog: A Research-To-Practice Journal for the Early Intervention Field, 5 (2 & 3), 410-414.

Teaching

Sample Syllabi
PSY 203 Child and Adolescent Development
PSY 636 Developmental Methodology
University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology