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Jelena is an associate professor at Stanford University in the Developmental and Psychological Sciences program at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. She completed a Ph.D. in developmental psychology at the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, and postdoctoral training in psychophysiology at the University of British Columbia. She is the recipient of a Jacobs Foundation Advanced Research Fellowship, a William T. Grant Foundation Scholar Award, and Early Career Research Contribution Award from the Society for Research in Child Development. Jelena’s research examines how the interplay of children’s physiological stress arousal, self-regulatory skills, and quality of caregiving environments contributes to their health, learning, and well-being over time. She also studies how caregivers’ executive functions and emotion regulation skills contribute to teaching and parenting practices that promote or undermine child development. Her current work involves the development of novel, pragmatic, scalable assessments of executive functions, emotion regulation, and motivation.
Our lab has created an iPad app — the Assessment of Motivation, Effort, and Self-regulation (AMES) — which uses five brief games to measure intrapersonal SEL skills, including persistence, challenge preference, delay of gratification, and executive functions (EFs). We are using AMES to study how these skills change over time and how they support learning in diverse groups of children. This work is funded by Technology for Equity in Learning Opportunities at Stanford (TELOS), the Spencer Foundation, and an SRCD-Jacobs Foundation initiative, Development in the Digital Age.
In partnership with the SFUSD Early Education Department, we are examining how different aspects of the Pre-K classroom experience uniquely relate to the growth of children’s academic, social, and emotional learning skills, and whether these associations vary by children’s ethnic background, language proficiency, or initial skill levels. Further, we are evaluating the effects of a new social and emotional curriculum in 25 transitional kindergarten (T-K) classrooms. This research is supported by an SFUSD-Stanford Partnership grant.
San Francisco, CA
We are studying how the dynamic interplay between children’s physiological arousal, self-regulatory skills, and the quality of caregiving environments relates to children’s health, learning, and well-being over time. This work points toward the possibility of harnessing stress physiology to promote resilience in at-risk children (Obradović, 2016). Thus, we are testing whether brief interventions can change young children’s physiological responses to emotional and cognitive challenges. This work was supported by a grant from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and it is currently funded by the Jacobs Foundation.
With Dr. Aisha Yousafzai and a research team at Aga Khan University, in Karachi, Pakistan, we are studying how an early parenting intervention, family processes, and antecedent development relate to emergent executive functions (EFs) and related school readiness skills in disadvantaged preschoolers. Our goal is to further the understand of early childhood development in low-and middle-income countries (LMIC) where children face high levels of adversity, including infections, malnutrition, and inadequate stimulation. This work was funded by the Grand Challenges Canada, Saving Brains Program.
We studied executive functions (EFs) in upper elementary school grades, an age when students are expected to manage their own classroom behaviors with less direct input from teachers and when peer influences become more salient. We showed that EF skills are uniquely related to both adaptive classroom behaviors and academic achievement, over and above related, but conceptually distinct skills. We identifed how specific aspects of the classroom context relate to changes in EF skills across an academic school year. This work was funded by a grant from the William T. Grant Foundation.
The Stanford Project on Adaptation and Resilience in Kids — the SPARK Lab — seeks to understand how adversity influences children's adaptation across various domains of functioning, ranging from school engagement and academic competence to positive peer relationships and prosocial behaviors. We strive to identify the biological, behavioral, and environmental processes that enable some disadvantaged children to demonstrate remarkable resilience, while placing others at risk for maladaptive outcomes, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression or disruptive behaviors.<br/><br/>We study how the interplay between children's biological sensitivity and the quality of the environments in which they grow and learn shapes children's health and well-being. In addition, we study how self-regulatory skills help children cope with daily challenges by enabling them to control their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Our work aims to identify how families and teachers can help children with differing biological reactivity profiles and self-regulatory capacities succeed over time.<br/><br/>Our research has important implications for children who come from diverse family, socio-economic, and ethnic backgrounds. We hope to apply our research findings to the design and implementation of prevention and intervention programs aimed at improving children's lives.