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Faculty & Research

Stephanie M. Jones

Gerald S. Lesser Professor in Early Childhood Development

(On Leave 2022-2023)

Stephanie M. Jones

Degree:  Ph.D., Yale University, (2002)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Vitae/CV:   Stephanie M. Jones.pdf
Office Hours Contact:  Email the Faculty Member and cc the Faculty Assistant
Faculty Assistant:  Kristin Crocker


Stephanie Jones' research, anchored in prevention science, focuses on the effects of poverty and exposure to violence on children and youth's social, emotional, and behavioral development. Over the last ten years her work has focused on both evaluation research addressing the impact of preschool and elementary focused social-emotional learning interventions on behavioral and academic outcomes and classroom practices; as well as new curriculum development, implementation, and testing. Jones is a recipient of the Grawemeyer Award in Education for her work with Zigler and Walter Gilliam on A Vision for Universal Preschool Education (Cambridge University Press, 2006) and a recipient of the Joseph E. Zins Early-Career Distinguished Contribution Award for Action Research in Social and Emotional Learning. Jones' research portfolio emphasizes the importance of conducting rigorous scientific research, including program evaluation, that also results in accessible content for early and middle childhood practitioners and policymakers. Her developmental and experimental research investigates the causes and consequences of social-emotional problems and competencies; strategies for altering the pathways that shape children's social-emotional development; and programs, interventions, and pedagogy that foster social-emotional competencies among children, adults, and environments. Her policy-driven research with colleague Nonie Lesaux focuses on the challenge of simultaneously expanding and improving the quality of early childhood education, at scale (The Leading Edge of Early Childhood Education, Harvard Education Press, 2016). Jones serves on numerous national advisory boards and expert consultant groups related to social-emotional development and child and family anti-poverty policies, including the National Boards of Parents as Teachers and Engaging Schools. She consults to program developers, including Sesame Street, and has conducted numerous evaluations of programs and early education efforts, including Reading, Writing, Respect and Resolution, Resolving Conflict Creatively, SECURe, and the Head Start CARES initiative. Across projects and initiatives, Jones maintains a commitment to supporting the alignment of preK-3 curricula and instructional practices.

Areas of Expertise
Sponsored Projects


A conceptual model and research agenda for inclusive mindsets (2021-2022)
Special Olympics Inc.

The project is expected to unfold in three phases over the course of 14 months, beginning in June 2021 and ending in August 2022. The initial phase will focus on conducting formative research that will serve as the foundation for the development of a conceptual model that defines and operationalizes a theory of inclusion, inclusive mindsets, and inclusive behaviors, as well as a theory of change for the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools (UCS) Model. Key activities and deliverables for Phase 1 include the following:• Literature Review (addressing inclusion, inclusive mindsets, related topics)• Content Analysis of Unified Champion Schools (UCS) Model • Build Conceptual Framework and Aligned Theory of Change for UCS• Piloting and Localizing Research in 4-6 Supported Programs • Design Aligned Measurement ToolPhase 2 will focus on the development of a research agenda for testing the theory of change in the six supported settings using the UCS Model and ultimately, for developing and scaling a model for the development of inclusive mindsets and behaviors. Ultimately, the research agenda will serve as a foundation and a starting ground for building a global practice and policy agenda for inclusion. In this phase, we will also work closely with the Special Olympics team to develop a broad publication strategy for writing and disseminating a set of key publications for researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers that will ultimately serve to advance the goals of the Center for Inclusion in Education. Key activities and deliverables for Phase 2 include the following:• Research Agenda• Publications and Dissemination Strategy (Short- and Long-Term)Phase 3 will focus on dissemination, drawing from the work completed in Phases 1 & 2. We expect this initial set of publications to provide important and foundational knowledge that will advance the research and policy agenda of the Centre for Inclusion in Education. Key activities and deliverables for Phase 3 include the following:• Three Briefs to share:o Conceptual Framework and Aligned Theory of Changeo Summary of Findings from Piloting and Localizing Research o Translational Implications for Research, Practice, Policy• 4-6 Mini Case Studies highlighting process and findings from piloting and localizing research (1 per program)


WA SEL Framework to EASEL Lab's Explore SEL Database (2020-2022)
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

his project would fund analysis to include the OSPI SEL framework in Explore SEL (, an SEL framework comparison tool managed by the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Ecological Approaches to Social Emotional Learning (EASEL) Laboratory (, led by Dr. Stephanie Jones. EASEL Lab's inclusion of the OSPI framework in Explore SEL could help support districts in implementing the framework by allowing comparisons to other frameworks that might have complementary constructs and perhaps more implementation guidance than OSPI has been able to offer. This would be of direct benefit to Road Map region school districts, including those hosting Local Improvement Networks, which require implementation of a whole school SEL framework. Having the OSPI framework in the Explore SEL database will support our LIN districts in selecting and implementing a whole school SEL framework that best fits each LIN's context.The inclusion of the OSPI SEL framework in the Explore SEL tool will benefit schools throughout Washington - as well as schools and other education institutions across the U.S. Washington's education sector would also benefit from the inclusion in Explore SEL of all other state level SEL frameworks that have been developed to date. The additional cost to include all state frameworks - and not just OSPI's - is marginal and would add significantly to the value of the Explore SEL tool to our partner schools and districts. As none of these frameworks is a static document, the ability to compare across state frameworks and learn from other states will be a valuable data asset for the field.


A novel approach to professional development for early childhood educators and caregivers (2019-2022)
Administration for Children and Families

Early education and care systems invest heavily in professional development (PD) programs aimed at improving quality. Although research suggests that some PD programs can shape early educator and caregiver practices, such programs are often complex and resource intensive. These factors make understanding PD’s mechanisms challenging and also limit the widespread expansion of PD to the often fragmented early education and care landscape. To speak to these issues related to the development and expansion of PD programs for early educators and caregivers, in the proposed project I will test the efficacy of a novel, scalable, and cost-effective researcher-developed professional development (PD)intervention – so-called Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) Bits – aimed at improving the practices of early educators and caregivers working with four-year-old children across the state of Massachusetts. The ELS@H Bits intervention leverages insights from behavioral science and involves sending educators and caregivers text messages containing actionable information on two high impact practices: (1) using transitions as meaningful learning opportunities, and (2) encouraging children’s language through open-ended questions. The ELS@H Bits intervention is currently being randomly assigned to a diverse sample of educators and caregivers to examine whether the provision of information about practices is sufficient to affect early educators and caregivers’ related practices, as well as their knowledge of and beliefs about those practices. The efficacy of ELS@H Bits will then be assessed using data from detailed observations conducted in early education and care settings. A follow-up survey will also be deployed to collect information on educator and caregiver knowledge and beliefs related to the targeted practices. The study sample currently comprises over 100 early educators and caregivers working in community-based centers,Head Starts, public school prekindergartens, and licensed family childcare centers across the state. It includes educators and caregivers from a diverse array of sociodemographic backgrounds and those working in both urban and rural communities. Funds from for the proposed project will principally support analyses and dissemination of thefindings from the ELS@H Bits evaluation. Analyses of these data will provide insight into whether this elemental component of PD, the ongoing provision of bite-sized information, is an effective and scalable method for improving educator and caregiver knowledge, beliefs, and practices, as well as indicate whether the intervention is more or less impactful for particular educators and caregivers. Findings will not only be prepared for presentation at academic conferences and for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, but will also be disseminated to practitioners and policymakers in the early education and care field.


Innovations in SEL Research and Practice (2019-2022)
International Rescue Committee

Under this USAID-funded SEL Kernels in Nigeria project, the Ecological Approaches to Social and Emotional Learning (EASEL) Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education will be the sub-awardee to the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The project will take place over 1.5 years in the phases outlined below, which describe the primary scope of work and responsibilities of the EASEL Lab.Phase 1 – Local Input and Co-Design of Kernels (9 months)Phase 2 – Implementation Study: Usage and User Demand (6 months)Phase 3 – Analysis and Dissemination (6 months)


Navigating SEL (2019-2022)
The Wallace Foundation

The purpose of the Grant is to update and expand the elementary Social and Emotional Leaming guide and create a new middle and high school Navigating SEL Program Guide.


SEL in schools across the nation: What's really happening (2019-2021)
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

In districts and schools across the nation, there is a great deal of interest in social and emotional learning (SEL), and in particular, programs and approaches that target this broad body of skills, competencies, attitudes, and beliefs. Indeed, a recent national, representativesurvey of school principals (Ready to Lead; DePaoli, Atwell, & Bridgeland, 2017) revealed that the vast majority of school leaders consider SEL very important and believe that it is teachable and relevant to all students. Moreover, approximately 73% of those surveyed indicated theyhad “a plan for teaching SEL and were currently implementing it school-wide,” or had “a plan for SEL that has been partially implemented” (p. 4). These data suggest not only that there is a great deal of interest in SEL, and even some knowledge of what it is, but also that SEL is already being implemented to a substantial degree in schools around the country. Importantly, many of the deeper learning competencies outlined by the Education Program (e.g., critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, effective communication, self-direction, and academicmindsets) closely align with or fall under the broad umbrella of SEL.However – beyond broad surveys like that described in Ready to Lead, high-level implementation data from a handful of program evaluations, and a select number of case examples – there is currently little research that describes with any depth what is actually happening in schools when SEL is being implemented. To deepen our understanding of SEL on the ground and grow our knowledge of the degree to which, and how, SEL is tied to and embedded in the instructional and culture/climate work of schools, we need a closer look at the perceptions and experiences of those engaged in and exposed to it. While some surveys have looked at traditional indicators of quantity (i.e., frequency, dosage, duration) and fidelity (i.e.,degree of adherence to a program model), there has not yet been a large-scale survey of schools using a representative sample that explores and describes the landscape of SEL work across the country, nor has there yet been a systematic effort to observe and describe the “lookand feel” of SEL as it happens on the ground and is experienced by those exposed to it. To that end, in the proposed work, we ask the following questions:1. What is the landscape of SEL work across elementary schools in the US? What do principals, teachers, and school staff say about (a) what they are doing and why, (b) their beliefs about its impact on and role in student learning, and (c) the specific programs and approaches they’ve adopted?2. What is the nature of the SEL work actually happening in a subsample of schools, based on school visits and observations? What are the experiences and perceptions of those enacting and exposed to SEL in schools? What are the key artifacts that adults and students would identify and share to represent their engagement in SEL?


Acceleration Grant II “Mindfulness and Mastery” (2018-2022)
University of Nebraska Medical Center

The central goal of this project is to provide the materials and training to implement Brain Games across 13 Educare sites, a collaboration between the EASEL Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Department of Education and Child Development at the University of NE Medical Center. Brain Games, developed by the EASEL Lab, are a set of fun, interactive games designed to build children’s executive function and self-regulation. The implementation of Brain Games is in alignment with UNH’s current funding and goals to build social emotional learning and executive function skills across early childhood.


SEL Kernels: A Personalized Approach to Social and Emotional Learning in Schools, Phase 1 (2017-2021)
Silicon Valley Community Foundation

The central goal of this project is to develop and test a set of evidence-based kernels of practice that represent a smaller-scale, personalized approach to SEL, thereby increasing feasibility, sustainability, and impact across settings.Ultimately, our goal is to draw upon the pilots we have completed to date to further develop, refine, and test a set of kernels that can be deployed andeffectively integrated into the structures and daily practices of schools and schooling.


Alignment, Codification, and Performance Management (2014-2022)
Tauck Family Foundation

Stephanie Jones and the SECURe Team at the Harvard Graduate School of Education propose to collaborate with Achievement First Bridgeport Academy (AFBA) and the Tauck Family Foundation (TFF) to support the clarifying, codifying, and strengthening of its ongoing student-focused character development/social-emotional learning work

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