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Alison Wishard Guerra - UC San Diego. San Diego, CA, US

Alison Wishard Guerra Alison Wishard Guerra

Associate Professor | UC San Diego


Wishard Guerra’s research focuses on culture and development in early childhood.






People of PAL




Wishard Guerra graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Psychology and Latin American and Latino Studies, and received an M.A. and Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis in Applied Developmental Psychology from the UCLA School of Education and Information Sciences. Wishard Guerra’s research focuses on culture and development in early childhood, with particular focus on social and language development among Latino children from low-income families. Her research looks specifically at how social relationships and interactions may serve as protective factors for later cognitive development among at-risk children. She studies within group variations related to immigration and acculturation experiences and their associations to children's developmental outcomes. Wishard Guerra is a member of the National Early Head Start Research Consortium where she continues an active line of research investigating longitudinal social and cognitive developmental outcomes. Wishard Guerra was a member of the expanded research consortia that developed the California Preschool Learning Foundations on English-Language Development, and has served as an expert reviewer of English Language Development and Cultural Diversity in the development of Volumes 2 (Physical Development, Health, and Visual and Performing Arts) and 3 (Science, and History/Social Sciences) of the California Preschool Learning Foundations and the California Preschool Curriculum Framework, published by the California Department of Education. Her current research at UC San Diego investigates the role of social pretend play in the development of oral language and school readiness among Mexican heritage children. In the Education Studies department she teaches courses on early childhood education, cognitive development, culture and developmental theory, quantitative research methodology, dissertation writing seminar, and research on curriculum design. Wishard Guerra is a 2009-2010 Hellman Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a 2009-2011 and 2011-2013 UC Links grants.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Early Childhood Education

K-12 Education During Pandemics



Applied Developmental Psychology

Education (2)

UCLA: Ph.D., Education 2005

University of California, Santa Cruz: B.A., Psychology, Latin American Studies 1997

Affiliations (2)

  • Member: Society for Research in Child Development
  • Member: American Educational Research Association

Media Appearances (2)

What's at the end of the coronavirus tunnel?

The San Diego Union-Tribune  online


Alison Wishard Guerra, an associate professor at UC San Diego’s Department of Education Studies, has been “thinking about silver linings” in the coronavirus clouds. One is the opportunity this shared trauma offers for a re-focusing on what makes children feel safe and secure enough to learn in the classroom, she said. The emphasis in recent years on standardized testing has “degraded the social and emotional quality of classrooms,” she said, and now is a good time for all the stakeholders to “step back and question their own deeply held assumptions” about how schools work.

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San Diego experts share how to keep kids healthy, learning during coronavirus school closures

PB Monthly  online


Alison Wishard Guerra is education studies associate professor at UC San Diego. Joelle Donofrio-Odmann is emergency medical services director at Rady Children’s Hospital. And Gedeon Deak is director of the Cognitive Development Lab at UC San Diego. In addition to losing several weeks of academic learning, children will likely bear an emotional toll from the school closures and social distancing, Guerra said.

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Research Focus (1)

The Mi Clase Mágica Preschool study

The Mi Clase Mágica Preschool study operates two oral language and literacy intervention programs at the Solana Beach Head Start and the San Pasqual Indian Reservation Children’s Center in Valley Center. In MCM we work to create an informal learning environment with engaging oral language and literacy activities constructed to support and promote home language and culture. Undergraduate students serve as research assistants and “amigos” to the children as they develop curriculum, work with the children, write field notes, collect data, and work on collaborative research projects as part of the research team. Undergraduate or graduate students interested in joining our research team are encouraged to contact Alison.