Rebecca J. Bulotsky-Shearer

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

Research Interests

Early identification and classroom-based interventions to support early social-emotional development; 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 identify protective factors across home and school settings that promote school readiness.

Research Positons

We are currently recruiting for research assistants to work in our Pyramid Model social-emotional intervention, our Miami Lighthouse for the Blind Early Learning Center evaluation, and our Miami-Dade Quality Counts evaluation projects.


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 for culturally and linguistically diverse low-income preschool children

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.

Making Connections for Children, Teachers, Families: Preschool social-emotional intervention development

We have developed an intervention, Learning to Objectively Observe Kids (LOOK) in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Virginia, Center for Advanced Teaching and Learning (2012-2015). The goal of the project is to improves early childhood teachers’ observational skills, increases their understanding of the interdependence between children’s behavior and the resources/opportunities available to them within specific classroom contexts, and helps them to use this information to select evidence-based strategies to meet the needs of children who display challenging behaviors.

Through generous funding through The Children’s Trust Early Childhood Demonstration Program, we are collaborating with Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) Department of Early Childhood Programs and Miami Children’s Initiative (MCI) to develop and test the efficacy of the Teaching Pyramid Model. The Pyramid Model intervention is a tiered, data-driven system of supports developed by the Center for Social-Emotional Foundations of Early Learning (CSFEL) for use within early childhood programs, serving children birth to 5. Three components of the program are being implemented in 10 public schools in the Liberty City area of Miami-Dade County: (a) practice-based coaching support to teachers, (b) learning communities, and (c) family engagement and home-school connections activities. The overarching goal of the current of the project is to evaluate whether the program, as it is implemented by M-DCPS, makes a measurable, sustainable impact on teacher and parent practices that promote children’s positive social-emotional development as foundation for kindergarten readiness and early school success.

Miami Lighthouse for the Blind: Early Childhood Learning Center Evaluation

We are collaborating with the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind in evaluating their new Early Childhood Learning Center. This is an inclusive early childhood education model. Babies, toddlers, and preschool children with visual impairment learn together with typically developing children from the community. We are following the experiences of the children to examine the impacts on young children’s social-emotional and academic development, teachers’ instructional practices, and family’s sense of self-efficacy, knowledge and engagement with their children.

Miami-Dade County partnership for school readiness and early school success

My research team also is collaborating with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), The Children’s Trust (Trust), and the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe (ELC), and the Miami-Dade County Head Start/Early Head Start program. The partnership is examining patterns of prekindergarten participation across the county, patterns of school readiness, and develop a mechanism for long-term data sharing, integration, and use of data for research and policy purposes to address the school readiness needs of low-income children.

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. 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 early childhood

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).

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)

Peer-reviewed Publications

Brincks, A. M., Enders, C. K., Llabre, M.M., Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J., Prado, G., & Feaster, D. J. (2017). Centering predictor variables in three-level contextual models. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 52 (2), 149-163.

*Rainelli, S., Bulotsky-Shearer, R., Fernandez, V., Lopez, M., & Greenfield, D. (2017). Examining the validity of the PreLAS2000 subtests as a language routing procedure for low-income, bilingual Spanish-speaking preschool children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 38, 10-22.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R., & *Bouza, J., *Bichay, K., Fernandez, V., *Gaona, P. (2016). Validation of the short form of the Family Involvement Questionnaire for urban, low-income families. Psychology in the Schools, 53(9), 911-925.

*Carter, T.M., & Bulotsky-Shearer, R. (2016). Peer social competence and academic readiness: A multi-method, multi-source measurement approach. NHSA Dialog, 18(3), 1-25.

*Bell, E. R., Greenfield, D. B., & Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J. (2016). Peer play as a context for identifying profiles of children and examining rates of growth in academic readiness for children enrolled in Head Start. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108(5), 740-759.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R., Lopez, L., & Mendez, J. (2016). The validity of interactive peer play competencies for Spanish speaking Latino preschool children from low-income households. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 34, 78–91.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J., *Bell, E., *Carter, T.M., & *Romero, S. (2014). Peer play interactions and learning for culturally and linguistically diverse low-income preschool children: The moderating role of classroom quality. Early Education and Development, 25, 815-840.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J., *Romero, S.,*Bell, E., *Carter, T. M. (2014). Identifying mechanisms through which problem behavior influences academic outcomes for Head Start children: What is the mediating role of negative peer play interactions? Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 22, 199-203. DOI: 10.1177/1063426613484806

Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J., *Fernandez, V., *Rainelli, S. (2013). The validity of the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment for culturally and linguistically diverse Head Start children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28, 794-807.

Zeng, G., Boe, E. E., Bulotsky-Shearer, R., Garrett, S., Slaughter-Defoe, D., Brown, E. D., & Lopez, B. (2013). Integrating U.S. federal efforts to address the multifaceted problems of children: A national policy perspective. School Mental Health: A Multidisciplinary Research and Practice Journal, 5, 119-131. DOI 10.1007/s12310-012-9096-7

McWayne, C. M., & Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J. (2013). Identifying family and classroom practices associated with stability and change of social-emotional readiness for a national sample of low-income children. Special issue, Research in Human Development, Ecological Sources of Health and Positive Development across the Life Span: The Role of Familial and Non-Familial Relationships, 10(2), 116–140.

Maier, M., Greenfield, D., & Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J. (2013). Development and initial validation of a preschool teacher attitudes and beliefs toward science questionnaire. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28, 366-378.

*Bell, E. R., Greenfield, D. B., & Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J. (2013). Classroom age composition and rates of change in school readiness from children enrolled in Head Start. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28, 1-10.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J., *Bell, E., & Dominguez, X. (2012). Latent profiles of problem behavior within learning, peer, and teacher contexts: Identifying subgroups of children at academic risk across the preschool year. Journal of School Psychology, 50, 775-789.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J., Wen, X., Faria, A., Hahs-Vaughn, D., & Korfmacher, J. (2012). National profiles of classroom quality and family involvement: A multilevel examination of proximal influences on Head Start children’s school readiness. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27, 617-639. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2012.02.001

Wen, X., Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J., Hahs-Vaughn, D., & Korfmacher, J. (2012). Examination of Head Start program quality: Combining classroom quality and parent involvement to understand children’s vocabulary, literacy, and mathematics achievement trajectories. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27, 640-653. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2012.01.004

Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J., Manz, P., Mendez, J., McWayne, C., Sekino, Y., & Fantuzzo, J. (2012). Peer play interactions and readiness to learn: A protective influence for African American preschool children from low-income households. Child Development Perspectives,3, 225-231. Special Issue on Positive Development among Minority Children. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-8606.2011.00221

Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J., *Dominguez, X., & *Bell, E.R. (2012). 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, 104 (2), 421-438. doi: 10.1037/a0026301

Bulotsky-Shearer, R.J., *Bell, E.R., *Romero, S., & *Carter, T. (2012). Preschool interactive peer play mediates problem behavior and learning for low income children. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 33, 53-65. doi: 10.1016/j.appdev.2011.09.003

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.

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 low-income children’s approaches to learning. Journal of School Psychology, 49 (2), 175-195. *Awarded 2011 Journal of School Psychology article of the year (received 8/2012)

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 emotional and behavioral adjustment low-income children: A child-centered 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.J., 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.

Book Chapters, Reviews, Commentaries

Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J., Bouza, J., & Bichay, C. (2016). Resilience in Adversity. Sage Encyclopedia of Contemporary Early Childhood Education. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J., McWayne, C., Mendez, J., & Manz, P. (2016). Preschool peer play interactions, a developmental context for learning for all children: Revisiting issues of equity and opportunity. In K. Sanders and A. Wishard Guerra (Eds.). Attachment peers & child care in the 21st century: Where we have been and where we are headed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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.


Sample Syllabi