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Sharon Wolf

University of Pennsylvania

Early Career Research Fellow
Assistant Professor
Human Development & Quantitative Methods Division
Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
United States of America

PhD, Applied Psychology, New York University, 2014
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Research focus
Sharon Wolf is an applied developmental psychologist interested in how young children’s social environments—specifically their families and schools—shape their development, and the role interventions play in promoting child development and reducing inequalities. Her research informs interventions and tests the effectiveness of theoretically informed policy solutions designed to promote early childhood development and learning through randomized field experiments.

My plans for the fellowship period
I am interested in developing, evaluating, and scaling up early childhood development policies in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. I will build on recent work in Ghana where I have led an initiative to develop and evaluate approaches to improve pre-primary school quality through a teacher training and coaching program and a parental awareness training program. The teacher training component has proven highly effective in improving classroom quality and children’s academic and social-emotional outcomes; the parental-awareness training, however, was not effective, and even counteracted some effects of the teacher training. I will use the fellowship to: adapt and expand the teacher training to underserved rural areas in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, and use it as a basis to work with the foundation’s TRECC initiative; and pilot test approaches to successfully engage parents in their children’s early education in rural Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
The two contexts—Ghana, with universal pre-primary education and the second highest enrollment rates on the continent, and Cote d’Ivoire, where children are much less likely to have access to formal early childhood education and teachers are less likely to have formal training—provide unique but complementary contexts to consider these issues.

How will my work change children’s and youth’s lives?
Children around the world face adversities that threaten their developmental potential. Yet in the presence of well-timed, quality support, children can demonstrate tremendous resilience and even thrive. In recent years, governments and organizations have increased their support for early childhood development through early childhood education, but the quality of these supports, and their effectiveness when implemented at scale, still remain unclear.
My work will incorporate rigorous and cutting-edge methodologies (including Randomized Control Trials and advanced statistical techniques such as multilevel moderation and mediation) to advance scientific knowledge and form new insights about early childhood development, early childhood education, and family well-being. By contributing to the growing body of evidence from which governments and other institutions can effectively intervene to support children to be resilient despite the many challenges they face, I hope to uniquely advance research and practice in early childhood development and education, as well as in applied developmental science.

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