Elizabeth Willis

Degree: Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction

College/School: College of Arts, Sciences & Education; School of Education

Elizabeth Willis, 38, was always interested in finding out why some children were successful in school and why others seemed to need more help.

According to research Elizabeth conducted while earning her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction, the key to helping children succeed lies in helping them develop their ability to ward off distractions and to control their emotions and impulses.

The biggest challenge, she found, was that while teachers spent a significant amount of classroom time coaching their students on how to behave, they didn’t use every tool in the arsenal.

One of the ways that teachers can help children to “self-regulate” is by taking a step back and letting students take the lead on learning positive behaviors. Dedicating 10 minutes or less a day to meditation or mindfulness techniques that help children focus on simple tasks while helping them to ignore their impulses could make a significant impact, according to Elizabeth’s research.

In addition, she found that collegiate teacher preparation programs might consider updating their curriculum to include dedicated courses on classroom management techniques.

The journals “Early Childhood Development and Care” and “Early Childhood Teacher Education” have published Elizabeth’s research.

After commencement, Elizabeth plans to continue her work in the field of early childhood education in Miami-Dade County.