TMW Center Newsletter July 2019
TMW-Home Visiting: A Sneak Peek at New Findings
We’ve reached another milestone in data collection for our TMW-Home Visiting longitudinal study. The analysis of this new timepoint provides an exciting first snapshot of child language development at 2.5 to 3 years of age.
Results continue to show that TMW parents provided more enriched home language environments for their toddlers after the intervention than the Control parents. Taken a step further, by observing parent-child interactions at home during free play and book sharing, we were able to demonstrate an increase in back and forth conversational interactions.
This finding is meaningful because it mirrors a growing body of research that points to the importance of conversational turn-taking in building children’s language and cognitive skills.
In the News
TMW Center co-directors, Dr. Dana Suskind and Professor John List, have been in the news talking about the need for more evidence-based policy in large scale intervention implementations.
In a recent conversation with Forbes, Suskind and List talked about the TMW Center’s public health approach to early learning. The duo shared insights on the obstacles facing effective scaling, and how the TMW Center’s first community-wide demonstration project aims to overcome such challenges of scale.
In The Atlantic, List and fellow University of Chicago economist, Eszther Czibor discussed how policy makers and researchers can work together to deliver better population-level outcomes. The economists argued that many policies draw from underdeveloped research due, in part, to the quick turnaround nature of political cycles. Their antidote to this? Fostering a political environment that encourages evaluation and continuous learning, in which rigorous experiments can focus on scalability and generalizability.
Through these conversations, as well as others with leaders in this field, it is clear that continuous feedback loops are essential for researchers to better understand what aspects of interventions work and which ones do not. We hope to keep the conversation going and to do our part to support evidence-based policy.
Translating Research into Real-World Practice in Early Childhood
The TMW Center is honored to be organizing and hosting the inaugural year of the Kenneth C. Griffin Applied Economics Incubator, during the 2019-2020 academic year. In partnership with UChicago’s Department of Economics, year one of the Incubator will focus on early childhood research and the science of scaling evidence-based interventions within the field. TMW Center co-director John List shares some early details in the following Q&A:
What was the genesis of the Incubator and what will it entail?
The idea behind the Applied Economics Incubator is to elevate the status of the University of Chicago as a hub for generating key initiatives that drive broad-based thought and policy changes.
What do you hope to accomplish with this project?
During year one, if we can link research from different disciplines and connect thought leaders from economics, psychology, sociology, medicine and public policy to stimulate new ideas that develop innovative approaches in early childhood and the science of scaling, then we will have met our goal.
Why make the focus of the inaugural Incubator early childhood?
Much of the research being done in economics right now centers on these early inputs and how they affect a child’s outcomes later in life. I have several colleagues here in the Department of Economics, and departments throughout UChicago who have been focusing their research agenda on how to improve educational outcomes for children, particularly from low socio-economic situations. I was confident that by choosing early childhood, I would have their support and willingness to collaborate during this first year.
What fields can we expect to see represented in the Incubator and how did you arrive at the decision to nominate the TMW Center to spearhead its debut?
The TMW Center was a natural choice because of the overlap it has to evidence-based economics. The TMW Center is impressive because we use evidence-based interventions and tools to collect data in order to continuously improve interventions. We are committed to bringing these interventions to larger communities and have worked hard on researching the science of scaling—a very interesting and confounding issue in the world of economics right now.
What does the Incubator mean for the TMW Center?
The aim is to make the University of Chicago a hub for early childhood learning, with the TMW Center at the core. The hope is that the TMW Center becomes synonymous with early childhood research and development.
Can you share a tease about who or what we can look forward to seeing as a part of this?
We are working on a large publication that will target academics as well as those in the world of public policy. This book will look at the science of scaling, as seen through the lens of early childhood. There will be conferences, visitors, and a special issue of the Journal of Political Economy that will focus on the economics of early childhood. We plan to have academic visitors from across the U.S., as well as a few from Europe, who will immerse themselves for a short period of time here on campus, in order allow for the sharing of ideas through research collaborations, lectures, and mentorship.
Community-Wide Demonstration Project Now Underway
Our community-wide demonstration project, in partnership with Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County (CSC), is moving forward. Since announcing the project back in October 2018, we’ve been working alongside CSC to develop relationships across the community at birthing centers, pediatric clinics, and other local organizations. Later this month, we’ll launch our first intervention, TMW-Newborn, with English- and Spanish-speaking families at St. Mary’s Hospital in Palm Beach.
One of the primary goals of this project is to understand what it takes to scale interventions and we recognize that technology will be at the core of this work. To this end, we have been investing in the development of a tech platform that will support the delivery and data collection of not only the community-wide demonstration project, but future TMW Center work. We are collaborating with Daylight, a human-centered design firm, and Blackbird, a digital product studio, both based on the west coast, to guide these efforts.
With an eye on 2020, we’ve already begun early preparation for TMW-Well Baby implementation in Palm Beach County, followed by TMW-Let’s Talk. As always, we’ll continue to update with our progress.