Research Agenda

At South Side Early Learning, we are committed to leading partnerships, best practices, and performance that maximize a child’s first 2,000 days. We believe that engaging in meaningful research that pulls forward the fields of early education and child development are critical to fulfilling that vision.

We look to engage in research that explores four domains of practice: data utilization, professional development, classroom environment and teaching practices, and family engagement. Learn more about ongoing research at SSEL below.

If you are a researcher looking to work with SSEL, please contact us using the form below.


PLAYSPACE by South side Early Learning

Researcher: Colin McGinnis, MA and the SSEL Program Team

At South Side Early Learning, we revolutionize early learning by leading partnerships, best practices, and performance that maximize a child’s first 2,000 days. Playspace allows our educators and community members to develop ways we can improve how children live, learn, and grow. 

Teachers at SSEL may submit ideas to our Program Committee on innovating curriculum, classroom practice, workforce and professional development, and family engagement. We then work with partners, thought leaders, and researchers to bring these ideas to life—right here at our school by piloting the project with our teachers. 

For more information on this program, please contact Colin McGinnis, MA, CEO of South Side Early Learning.

Consider supporting the Playspace Fund at SSEL.

ABC Study: Best Practices in Alphabet Instruction

Researcher: Dr. Shayne B. Piasta, Ph.D.

Alphabet knowledge is the basic building block for early reading. Children who learn forms, names, and sounds of letters during early childhood are less likely to experience reading difficulties later in school. 

Surprisingly, we know very little about how to best support young children’s alphabet learning. Should we teach uppercase letters first or teach both uppercase and lowercase letters? Should we teach letter names before teaching sounds? Should we start with easier or more difficult letters? Does multi-sensory teaching result in better learning? How can we teach letters in fun, engaging ways? 

Researchers at The Ohio State University’s Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy work to put all children on the path to reading success. Dr. Piasta’s team is conducting research to identify evidence-based practices for providing alphabet instruction. They have developed a series of alphabet lessons and accompanying activities. Now, the team is conducting a pilot study at SSEL and other early childhood education providers with children who could benefit from supplemental alphabet instruction. 

For more information on this study, please contact Shayne B. Piasta, Ph.D., Associate Professor - Department of Teaching & Learning at The Ohio State University.



Impact of Teacher-support systems on professional identity

Researcher: Dr. Rachel E. Schachter, Ph.D

Through semi-structured interviews, this project explores practices and structures that support high-quality instruction, including understanding teacher-support systems that incentivize teachers to stay and grow. Additionally, this project leverages and continually develops data collection systems.

Sample research questions:

  1. Why do teachers choose to stay with SSEL?

  2. How do teachers utilize their planning time?

  3. How does the program support teachers’ professional development?

  4. Does having input in the hiring process of new team members in the classroom build stronger classrooms?

  5. Do current compensation / benefits match expectation of role?

For more information on this study, please contact Rachel E. Schachter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor - Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies at the University of Nebraska.


Interested in conducting research At SSEL?

Name *

SSEL collaborates with researchers, faculty, and policymakers on research relevant to our mission. By conducting research with us, you have access to a high-quality, research-based early childhood education setting that serves approximately 100 infants, toddlers and preschoolers in Columbus’ inner city South Side. Thanks to our location within the Reeb Avenue Center, our school is a network of community partners providing health, nutrition, family support, and various community training programs. Together we are making Columbus the best place for a child to live, learn and grow.

If you are interested in collaborating with SSEL on your research project, please complete the inquiry form. Questions? email: