Course Syllabus

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DRIVING SCIENCE-BASED INNOVATION IN

EARLY CHILDHOOD PRACTICE AND POLICY

 FALL 2016

 

Harvard Graduate School of Education (AH 125) / Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (SBS 299)

 

This course is co-listed in the Graduate School of Education and Chan School of Public Health. It is designed for masters and doctoral level students from across the University who are interested in the design and implementation of innovative, science-based strategies to promote the healthy development of young children. 

 

INSTRUCTOR

Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D.

Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Graduate School of Education

Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital

Director, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

 

E-Mail: jack_shonkoff@harvard.edu (*Please copy Yaimani Rivera on your messages)

Phone: 617-496-1224

Office Address: Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

50 Church Street, 4th Floor Cambridge, MA 02138

Website: www.developingchild.harvard.edu

 

EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT                                          FACULTY ASSISTANT

Yaimani Rivera                                                           Kidus Mezgebu

E-Mail: yaimani_rivera@harvard.edu                         E-mail: kidus_mezgebu@gse.harvard.edu 

Phone: 617-496-2070                                               

 

TEACHING FELLOWS

 

OFFICE HOURS

See course website for sign-up information

 

CLASS TIME & LOCATION

Wednesdays, 9:10 am -12:00 noon

Larsen Hall 106 (Appian Way on HGSE campus)

 

SPECIAL ACCOMODATIONS

Students needing special accommodations in instruction or evaluation are encouraged to notify us early in the semester.  All inquiries and discussions will remain confidential. 

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION

The primary aim of this course is to leverage advances in the biological, behavioral, and social sciences to catalyze more effective strategies to strengthen the foundations of healthy development in the early years of life. Drawing on a diversity of disciplinary perspectives, students will learn how interactions among early life experiences and genetic predispositions shape brain architecture and influence the maturation of biological systems that affect learning, behavior, and health well into the adult years. Particular attention will be focused on developing a greater understanding of how stress related to poverty, maltreatment, and discrimination "gets under the skin" and leads to significant disparities in educational achievement and both physical and mental well-being. Students will explore how the elucidation of causal mechanisms that explain these disparities can be used to formulate new theories of change and catalyze the development of innovative policies and practices in the pursuit of greater impacts on the life prospects of young children who experience significant adversity.

 

COURSE OBJECTIVES

At the completion of the course, students will:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the basic concepts of early childhood development, including its underlying neurobiology;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of causal mechanisms that help explain how adversity early in life leads to significant disparities in learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health in later childhood and into the adult years; and
  • View current best practices as a starting point, not a solution, for reducing these disparities, and be able to drive science-based innovation that achieves breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity.

 

READING SOURCES

All readings can be found in one of four places, as indicated in the syllabus.

 

[R] – Required books [All God’s Children (Butterfield, 1995) and Between the World and Me (Coates, 2015)]

[Online] – Available online at the website indicated

[Hollis] – Available through Harvard’s on-line electronic resources system http://hollis.harvard.edu

[Handout/iPac] – Available on the course website in the iPac tab.  Additional materials may also be distributed in class at least one week before being discussed.

 

Wherever possible, the syllabus contains links to the readings. In order to access these links you must be logged into the Harvard library system using your HUID and password. Please note that link locations may change. If the link in the syllabus does not work, please search for the document using a Harvard library search engine such as Citation Linker, Google Scholar or Academic Search Premier. Any difficulties accessing readings should be communicated to a Teaching Fellow as soon as possible and assistance will be provided.

 

REQUIRED WORK AND GRADING CRITERIA 

  • Class Participation (assumed but not calculated for grading purposes). Active engagement and reflection are absolutely essential requirements for this course. Students are expected to read all assigned material and contribute substantively to class discussions.
  • Bi-weekly Reflection Papers (40% of course grade - Please see "Assignment" tab for specific due dates). Each student will be required to submit 6 brief (1-2 page, single-spaced) memos that reflect her or his evolving thinking about the course material over the semester. These reflections should be submitted by 9:00 AM on alternating class sessions, starting on September 14. The primary purpose of these papers is to sharpen your thinking and provide an ongoing, personal chronicle of cumulative learning over the course of the semester. To optimize their value, it is recommended that reflections be written every other week. Each entry will provide an opportunity to share thoughts, pose questions, and/or address issues or concerns. Substantive comments and feedback from Teaching Fellows will be returned by the following week to encourage students to push their own thinking throughout the semester. Students are required to submit their first reflection prior to the second class session. This paper should provide a brief overview of: (1) career focus; (2) reasons for enrolling in the course; and (3) baseline thoughts about innovation in the context of early childhood policy and practice. The last reflection, which must be submitted prior to the final class, should present a constructive reflection on the first paper and discuss how the student’s ideas about innovation and the need for breakthrough impacts have changed over the semester. Reflections will be assessed on the basis of students’ ability to demonstrate engagement with the course content (including readings and lecture materials) and analytic thinking.
  • Final Project (30% of course grade for group paper and 30% for individual reflections on the group learning process). Working in self-selected teams of three, students will participate in a semester-long project on a topic of their choice to develop an innovative program, policy, or research proposal designed to reduce disparities in learning, behavior, and/or health outcomes. Each project team is required to produce a jointly-authored, 10-12 page document (not including references) describing their project in APA format, 12-point font, double-spaced. Each final paper should also include a one-page addendum that summarizes the process by which the group developed its project. Each student also must submit a brief statement (maximum 2-pages) that describes her or his own individual reflections on the group’s innovation process, focusing on lessons learned about how fresh thinking and new ideas are catalyzed and refined. Together, these two components—the group paper and individually-authored reflection—will count towards 60% of the final course grade.

Guidance will be provided by the teaching staff throughout the semester, as needed, to help with both the selection of topics and the formulation of project plans. The following check-in dates have been designated to facilitate the design and completion of a maximally creative product:

      • October 5th – One person from each group will submit a paragraph in the DropBox on the course website that indicates the names of all group members, a brief statement of the selected topic/outcome you plan to address, and any preliminary thoughts about the development of the project.
      • October 26th  – One person from each group will submit a more detailed, 1-page overview of the semester project.
      • November 9th – By this date, each group will have attended at least one face-to-face meeting with a teaching fellow to discuss the progress of its project. Additional meetings are encouraged as needed.
      • November 30th – Each group will submit its final paper no later than 4:00 PM.

 

SESSION TOPICS

September 7               Session (1) - Setting the context for science-based innovation and finding your place on the map                         

September 14             Session (2) - The role of conceptual models and theories of change in the development, evaluation, and scaling of strategies to improve life outcomes for children facing adversity

September 21             Session (3) - The biology of adversity and the roots of disparities in learning, behavior, and health

September 28             Session (4) - Understanding the science of neuroplasticity, critical periods, and developmental variation to inform the timing and targeting of early childhood investments  

October 5                    Session (5) - Translating science for decision makers: Dominant frames, simplifying models, and the power of a core story

October 12                    Session (6) - A critical look at early childhood intervention programs and evaluation research: The need for a new narrative

October 19                  Session (7) - Analyzing our failure to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable children

October 26                  Session (8) - Creating an R&D platform for the early childhood field: The evolving story of the Frontiers of Innovation

November 2                  Session (9) - Rethinking community-based approaches to promoting the healthy development of young children and families facing significant adversity

November 9                 Session (10) - Expanding the R&D platform beyond North America: Lessons learned from low-income countries

November 16               Session (11) - Leveraging science to design new, inter-generational strategies for reducing the transmission of poverty from parents to children

November 23              THANKSGIVING RECESS

November 30              Session (12) - Mobilizing science, experience, creativity, and constructive dissatisfaction to drive 21st century policy and practice

 

 

Due Dates

 

Assignment

Due Date

Reflection 1

Wednesday, September 14 at 9 AM

Reflection 2

Wednesday, September 28 at 9 AM

Group Project Topic

Wednesday, October 5 at 9 AM

Reflection 3

Wednesday, October 12 at 9 AM

Reflection 4

Wednesday, October 26 at 9 AM

Group Project Description

Wednesday, October 26 at 9 AM

Reflection 5

Wednesday, November 9 at 9 AM

Reflection 6 *

Wednesday, November 23 at 9 AM

Final Project

Wednesday, November 30 at 4 PM

 

* Please Note: Although there is no class the week of Thanksgiving, there is a reflection due by our usual class time, Wednesday the 23rd.


                                                              

READINGS

Session (1) - Setting the context for science-based innovation and finding your place on the map

  •  Johnson, S. (2010) Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. New York: Riverhead Books. Introduction and Chapter 1 (pages 1-42). [iPac]
  • Shonkoff, J.P. (2000). Science, policy, and practice: Three cultures in search of a shared mission. Child Development, 71, 181-187 [Hollis]

 

Session (2) -The role of conceptual models and theories of change in the development, evaluation, and scaling of strategies to improve life outcomes for children facing adversity

  • Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American Psychologist, 32, 513-531. [Hollis]
  • Garcia Coll, C., Lamberty, G., Jenkins, R., McAdoo, H., Crnic, K., Wasik, B., Garcia, H.  (1996). An integrative model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children. Child Development, 67, 1891-1914. [Hollis

 

Session (3) - The biology of adversity and the roots of disparities in learning, behavior, and health

  • Lupien, S.J., McEwen, B.S., Gunnar, M.R., & Heim, C. (2009). Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behavior, and cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(6), 1-12. [Hollis]
  • Hackman, D.A., Farah, M.J., & Meaney, M.J. (2010). Socioeconomic status and the brain: Mechanistic insights from human and animal research. Nature Reviews Neuroscience,11, 651-659. [Hollis]
  • Brody, G.., Yu, T., Chen, E., Miller, G., Kogan, S., & Beach, S. (2013) Is resilience only skin deep? Rural African Americans’ socioeconomic status–related risk and competence in preadolescence and psychological adjustment and allostatic load at age 19. Psychological Science 24(7) 1285–1293. [Hollis]
  • Boyce, W.T. (2015). Differential susceptibility of the developing brain to contextual adversity and stress, Neuropsychopharmacology Reviews, 1–21 [Hollis]
  • Puterman, E., Gemmill, A., Karasek, D., Weir, D., Adler, N., Prather, A., & Epel, E. (2016). Lifespan adversity and later adulthood telomere length in the nationally representative U.S. Health and Retirement Study. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [iPac]

 

Recommended Readings:

  • Romens, S.E., McDonald, J., Svaren, J., & Pollak, S.D. (2014). Associations between early life stress and gene methylation in children. Child Development, 00, 1-7. [Hollis]
  • Miller, G., Chen, E., Parker, K. (2011). Psychological stress in childhood and susceptibility to the chronic diseases of aging: Moving toward a model of behavioral and biological mechanisms. Psychological Bulletin, 137: 959-997. [Hollis]
  • Szyf, M. & Bick, J. (2013). DNA methylation: A mechanism for embedding early life experiences in the genome. Child Development, 84, 49-57. [Hollis]
  • Shonkoff JP, Garner AS, Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care, Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. (2012). The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress. Pediatrics,129 (1): e232-246. [Hollis]

Center Working Papers (Optional)

  • National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2005/2014). Excessive stress disrupts the architecture of the developing brain. Working Paper No. 3. Updated. [Online]
  • National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2010)Persistent fear and anxiety can affect young children’s learning and development. Working Paper No. 9. [Online]
  • National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2012). The science of neglect: The persistent absence of responsive care disrupts the developing brain. Working Paper No. 12. [Online]

 

Session (4) - Understanding the science of neuroplasticity, critical periods, and developmental variation to inform the timing and targeting of early childhood investments  

  • Fox, S.E., Levitt, P., Nelson, C.A. (2010). How the timing and quality of early experiences influence the development of brain architecture. Child Development, 81, 28-40. [Hollis]
  • Hensch, T.K. (2016). The power of the infant brain. Scientific American, 314(2), 64-69.
  • Takesian AE, Hensch TK. (2013). Balancing plasticity/stability across brain development. Progress in Brain Research, 207, 3–34. [Hollis]
  • Werker, J. & Hensch, T. (2015) Critical periods in speech perception: New directions. Annual Review of Psychology, 66, 173-196. [Hollis]

 Center Working Paper (Optional)

  • National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2007). The timing and quality of early experiences combine to shape brain architecture. Working Paper No.5. [Online]

  

Session (5) - Translating science for decision makers: Dominant frames, simplifying models, and the power of a core story

  • Shonkoff, J.P. & Bales, S. (2011). Science does not speak for itself: Translating child development research for the public and its policymakers. Child Development, 82, 17-32. [Hollis]
  • Coates, T. (2015). Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel & Grau [R]
  • Cohn, J. (2011). The two year window. The New Republic, November 9. [Online]
  • Cohn, J. (2011). Day care quality, the great unknown. The New Republic Blog, November 17. [Online]

 Additional Readings (Optional)

  • FrameWorks Institute. (2005). Talking Early Child Development and Exploring the Consequences of Frame Choices: A Frameworks Message Memo. Author. [Online]
  • FrameWorks Institute. (2009/updated 2013). Framing a Communication Strategically – A Skeleton Outline. Author. [iPac]

 

Session (6) - A critical look at early childhood intervention programs and evaluation research: The need for a new narrative

  • Olds, D. (2002). Prenatal and infancy home visiting by nurses: From randomized trials to community replication. Prevention Science, 3(3), 153-172. [Hollis]
  • Olds, D., Donelan-McCall, N., O'Brien, R., MacMillan, H., Jack, S., Jenkins, T., Dunlap, W., O'Fallon, M., Yost, E., Thorland, B., Pinto, F., Gasbarro, M., Baca, P., Melnick, A. & Beeber, L. (2013). Improving the Nurse-Family Partnership in community practice. Pediatrics, 132 (suppl), s110-117. [Hollis]
  • Duncan, G., & Magnuson, K. (2013). Investing in preschool programs. Journal of Economic Perspectives. 27(2), 109-132. [Hollis]
  • Love, J., Chazan-Cohen, R., Raikes, H., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2013). What makes a difference: Early Head Start evaluation findings in a developmental context. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development. 78 (1), 1-173. [Hollis

 

Session (7) - Analyzing our failure to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable children

  • Butterfield, F. (1995). All God's Children. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. [R]

 

Session (8) - Creating an R&D platform for the early childhood field: The evolving story of the Frontiers of Innovation

  • Shonkoff, J.P. & Phillips, D.A. (Eds.) (2000). From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Chapter 14: Conclusions and recommendations (pp. 383-415). [iPac]
  • Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2016). From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts. A Science-Based Approach to Building a More Promising Future for Young Children and Families Facing Adversity. http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu

Session (9) - Rethinking community-based approaches to promoting the healthy development of young children and families facing significant adversity 

  • von Hoffman, A. (2012). The past, present, and future of community development in the United States. In Andrews, N., Erickson, D. (eds.): Investing in What Works for America’s Communities. San Francisco, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Low Income Investment Fund, pp. 10-54.  [Online]
  • Radner, J. & Shonkoff, J. (2012). Mobilizing science to reduce intergenerational poverty. In Andrews, N., Erickson, D. (eds.): Investing in What Works for America’s Communities. San Francisco, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Low Income Investment Fund, pp. 338-350.  [Online]
  • Jones, L. & Wells, K. (2007). Strategies for academic and clinician engagement in community-participatory partnered research. Journal of the American Medical Association, 297(4), 407-410. [Hollis]

 

 Session (10) - Expanding the R&D platform beyond North America: Lessons learned from low-income countries

  •  Betancourt, T, et al. (2014). Family-based prevention of mental health problems in children affected by HIV and AIDS: An open trial. AIDS, 28 (Suppl 3), S359-S368. [Hollis]

  • Mikton, C., MacMillan, H., Dua, T., & Betancourt, T. S. (2014). Integration of prevention of violence against children and early child development. The Lancet Global Health, 2(8), e442-e443. [Hollis]

  • Betancourt, T. (2015). The intergenerational effect of war. JAMA Psychiatry, 72 (3), 199-200. [Hollis]

  • Shonkoff, J., Radner, J., Foote, N. Expanding the evidence base to drive more productive early childhood investment. The Lancet. Published online October 4, 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/50140-6736(16)31702-0 [Hollis]

Additional Readings (Optional)

  •  Black MM, Walker SP, Fernald LCH, et al, for the Lancet Early Childhood Development Series Steering Committee. Early childhood development coming of age: science through the life course. Lancet 2016; published online Oct 4. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31389-7. [Hollis]
  • Britto PR, Lye SJ, Proulx K, et al, and the Early Childhood Development Interventions Review Group, for the Lancet Early Childhood DevelopmentSeries Steering Committee. Nurturing care: promoting early childhood development. Lancet 2016; published online Oct 4. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31390-3. [Hollis]
  • Richter LM, Daelmans B, Lombardi J, et al, with the Paper 3 Working Group and the Lancet Early Childhood Development Series Steering Committee. Investing in the foundation of sustainable development: pathways to scale up for early childhood development. Lancet 2016; published online Oct 4. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31698-1. [Hollis]

Session (11) - Leveraging science to design new, inter-generational strategies for reducing the transmission of poverty from parents to children

  • Shonkoff J.P. & Fisher, P. (2013). Rethinking evidence-based practice and two-generation programs to create the future of early childhood policy. Development and Psychopathology, 25, 1635–1653. [Hollis]

  • Babcock, E.D. (2014). Using Brain Science to Design New Pathways Out of Poverty. Boston: Crittenton Women’s Union. [Online]

  • Babcock, E.D., Ruiz De Luzuriaga, N. (2016). Families Disrupting the Cycle of Poverty: Coaching with an Intergenerational Lens. Boston: Economic Mobility Pathways. [Online]

Center Working Paper (Optional)

  • Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2016). Building Core Capabilities for Life: The Science Behind the Skills Adults Need to Succeed in Parenting and in the Workplace. http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu

  • National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2015). Supportive relationships and active skill-building strengthen the foundations of resilience: Working Paper No. 13. [Online]

Session (12) - Mobilizing science, experience, and creativity to drive 21st century policy and practice

  •  No readings

 

Course Summary:

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