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K-State Today

February 7, 2020

ADVANCE Distinguished Lecture Series presents Stephanie Carlson

Submitted by Amber Bebout

Stephanie Carlson

The ADVANCE Distinguished Lecture Series and Jennifer Francois, assistant professor of family studies and human services, will host Stephanie Carlson, distinguished McKnight University professor in the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, at 1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10, in 227 K-State Student Union. Carlson will present, "Play and Learning: The Role of Executive Function." 

Before her current position, Carlson was associate professor of psychology at the University of Washington. Her research and community outreach centers on executive function, the neurocognitive skills needed to pay attention, control impulses and emotions, and think flexibly. Carlson has developed widely-used measurement tools for executive function starting at age 2. She and her students are studying ways to foster the development of executive function skills through parenting, play, mindfulness and early childhood education.

During this lecture, Carlson will discuss how interest in play as an important aspect of early childhood development is enjoying a resurrection, especially as a reaction against the encroachment of academic standards on preschool and kindergarten curricula. But play is not the opposite of learning — they share many connections theoretically and a growing body of research supports this link. Carlson's research focuses on why and how they are connected. She will share recent findings from their lab experiments and school-based intervention studies suggesting that play might lead to improved learning through its role in developing executive function skills — the neuro-cognitive skills needed for self-control — which, in turn, are vitally important for school readiness and beyond.