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A&M prof to lead workshop

Published: Sunday, January 12, 2014

Updated: Sunday, January 12, 2014 22:01

Improving educational outcomes may indeed be as easy as child’s play.

Jan Hughes, professor of educational psychology, will share insight on the role of parents and teachers in maximizing the value of children’s play to improve children’s language and early literacy skills at a workshop Monday at St. Thomas Learning Center in College Station.

Hughes’s presentation on academics and playtime is influenced by her research on the influence of social interaction on a child’s development. She has found a relationship between a child’s early social and emotional skills and academic achievement. Hughes said teachers and parents play a large role in helping children develop these social relationships.

“A more complete understanding of those adult-child interactions that promote children’s positive development has implications for assisting parents and teachers in their efforts to facilitate children’s emotional intelligence, character and academic success,” Hughes said.

In her research, Hughes said one unexpected result was the magnitude of the effect that teacher-student relationships have on the quality of the student’s academics in the future, even after controlling for the effect of other possible predictive factors.

“I have been able to document a very large cumulative effect of teacher-student relationship quality in the elementary grades on children’s long-term growth in reading and math,” Hughes said.

Beth Lawrence, head of school at St. Thomas, said the school is excited to be hosting a presentation by Hughes.

“The parent-teacher workshop is designed to help better serve the needs of the students,” Lawrence said. “Dr. Hughes has spent a career studying the effects for academic success in children. It’s an honor to hear her speak.”

Rather than focusing on how teachers may help students with test taking or homework assignments, Hughes said she is going to focus on the importance of playtime throughout the day, both at home and school.

Lawrence said Hughes presentation will benefit both St. Thomas and the attending parents.

“At St. Thomas, we value the importance of play and social interaction in learning environments,” Lawrence said. “We see the positive effects of it in our students, but to have the research the supports is validating and empowering to us in the school to continue to do what we do.”

The event is free and open to the public. Lawrence said the presentation will be beneficial for both students and adults alike.

“Dr. Hughes’s presentation style is academic but also very interactive,” Lawrence said. “It’s a user friendly presentation, not dry and not boring.”

Lawrence said she is excited for the event because of the knowledge Hughes will be sharing with the audience.

“I could stand on a street corner and say ‘If you have children, this is something you need to know,’” Lawrence said. “Take time in the day for play and social interaction. People can know that they are not just playing but providing the building blocks for social interaction for years to come.”


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