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Martha Buell - University of Delaware. Newark, DE, US

Martha Buell

Professor, Human Development and Family Sciences | University of Delaware


Research focuses on policies related to early childhood care and education.





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Martha Buell's area of interest is early childhood care and education, especially in the areas of discipline policies, and language and literacy development. She teaches classes in early childhood curriculum, and her research focuses on program policies and factors that influence the program quality. In the past, she has worked on several projects examining how teacher education and professional development contributes to program quality.

Prof. Buell is particularly interested in state level child care licensing regulations and preK policies that address discipline. Exclusionary discipline, such as expulsion and suspension is an equity issue for boys, african american children and children with disabilities.

She is also interested in the factors that affect the quality of early care and education for infants and toddlers. Her focus on infants and toddlers and educational equity grew out of her work with the Early Head Start program operated by the University of Delaware serving both New Castle and Kent counties in Delaware.

Prof. Buell is particularly interested in factors that affect the quality of early care and education for infants and toddlers. Her concern in large part has developed out of my work with the Early Head Start program that is operated out of the University of Delaware that serves both New Castle and Kent counties in Delaware. This program is designed to enhance the development of infants and toddlers and help parents do the best job they can of raising their very young children.

Industry Expertise (2)



Areas of Expertise (5)

Teacher Education

Teacher Development

Literacy Development

Early Childhood Education


Media Appearances (5)

‘Cash or candy?’ How Halloween can help kids learn about money

Deseret News  online


For younger children, a tax lesson may not be suitable. Martha Buell, a professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Delaware, told WalletHub that “lessons on personal finance need to be age-appropriate.”

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New York Ranked Best City to Celebrate Halloween

NBC New York  online


Dr. Martha Buell, Professor and CEI Senior Faculty Fellow for Engaged Scholarship at the University of Delaware, said that with this increased spending can come a learning opportunity for young children. “In many places, pumpkins are sold based on price per pound. Pointing out how weight is connected to measurement is a learning opportunity. Involving children in purchasing decisions and making the decision-making process transparent is always a good idea,” said Dr. Buell.

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How The Stimulus' Child Tax Credit Will Help Families Affected by the Pandemic

VeryWell Family  online


“A perennial barrier to workforce participation is finding and paying for child care. Any help with child care costs will help families get back on their feet,” says Martha Buell, PhD, a professor specializing in human development and family sciences at the University of Delaware.

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Suspended justice | UDaily

University of Delaware  online


The preschool-to-prison pipeline starts with an overuse of exclusionary discipline practices on certain groups of toddlers — beginning with time-out and ending with suspension or expulsion. UD expert Martha Buell is spearheading a project to fix this problem. According to Buell, time-out can work well as a behavior modification technique for children … if implemented correctly. Unfortunately, it almost never is. To get it right? First, you have to ditch the chair.

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Early learning is vital to a student's future. Here are some tips for parents. (Opinion)

The News Journal  online


By the time a child from an affluent family is three years old, he will typically have heard around 25 million words. Contrast that with a child raised below the poverty level, who may only have been exposed to around 10 million words.

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Articles (5)

Can an intensive professional development on play change child care providers' perspectives and practice on play?

International Journal of Play

2023 Early childhood teachers need knowledge and skills to support play and learning. However, the child care workforce often has limited or no preservice training on play, relying instead on in-service training. With policy shifts towards a standards-driven curriculum in the U.S., there is limited in-service play training available, creating a need for high quality in-service training on play. This study introduces a model of intensive professional development (PD) on play-a group workshop coupled with a group coaching model-implemented in the Mid-Atlantic area in the U.S. The play training focused on three areas: self-active play experience, the knowledge and skills needed to support children's learning through play. The group coaching component included feedback on self-recorded video practice and an opportunity for participants to share reflections on supporting play with each other and the coaches.

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Expulsion: A National Review of States’ Center-Based Child Care Licensing Exclusionary Discipline Regulations

Children and Youth Services Review

2022 State-level child care licensing regulations dictate required policy elements and allowable disciplinary options available to programs, with permitted exclusionary discipline strategies ranging from a brief time-out to expulsion. This national review presents a qualitative content analysis of exclusionary discipline regulations within state-level, center-based child care licensing policies. As exclusionary discipline is disproportionally applied to boys, children of color, and children with disabilities, examining what is and is not allowed in terms of exclusionary discipline is important to ensure equity and access. The findings include an overview of the allowed versus prohibited exclusion practices, and within-program versus out-of-program exclusions, including expulsions, as well as details regarding specificity in required policy and practice at the program level. The findings are discussed in terms of implications for policymakers, researchers, and practitioners.

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Play Training and Coaching for Child Care Providers on How to Support Children's Play and Learning

Teacher Education and Play Pedagogy: International Perspectives

2022 This chapter addresses the importance of intensive Professional Development (PD) on play in order to bring play back to the early childhood classroom and introduces a PD model implemented in one state in the Mid-Atlantic area of the USA. The current PD model consists of two modules of play workshop coupled with a group coaching called Group Reflective Practice (GRP). The GRP was to support participants to share their practice using video and give feedback to each other. We report the participants’ experience and feedback on the PD model. Participants who received the current PD model expressed that their perspectives on play have changed after the training and they implemented strategies from the training and supported more play in practice. We provide suggestions and implications for teacher education.

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An intensive professional development in family child care: a promising approach

International Journal of Early Years Education

2021 The quality of early care and education affects a wide range of children's experiences and developmental outcomes. Family Child Care (FCC) is no exception, and attention to increasing the quality of Family Child Care is needed. The purpose of the current study was to examine an experimental case of intensive Professional Development (PD) in FCC programmes focusing on domain-specific quality (language and literacy) and global quality. Forty-nine FCC providers in two states participated in the study. Thirty-eight FCC providers received intensive PD support, including five three-hour training workshops on early language and literacy, weekly onsite technical assistance, and monthly Community of Practice meetings. Eleven FCC providers served as a comparison group. The Child/Home Environmental Language and Literacy Observation (CHELLO) and Family Child Care Environmental Rating Scale (FCCERS-R) were used to measure the quality of FCC.

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Cultivating self-awareness in our work with infants, toddlers, and their families: Caring for ourselves as we care for others.

Young Children

2021 As teachers of infants and toddlers, we face many cognitive, physical, and emotional demands as we educate and care for our youngest learners and as we work in conditions of inequity. Educators do not receive the support, benefits, and compensation needed to do our essential work. This can lead to experiencing substantial stressors both inside and outside the workplace (Nicholson et al. 2020). An unhealthy cycle can arise: external pressures often lead to neglecting our self-care, which negatively impacts our personal and professional lives.

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Accomplishments (2)

Presidential Fellowship, Salzburg Global Seminar (professional)


Outstanding Graduate Faculty Member, Department of Human Development and Family Studies (professional)


Education (3)

University of North Carolina at Greensboro: PhD, Human Development and Family Studies 1996

Tulane University: MA, Education 1992

Vanderbilt University: BA, Anthropology 1985

Affiliations (2)

  • National Infant and Toddler Research Network (NITR)
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children

Languages (1)

  • English

Event Appearances (5)

The impact of intensive professional development on the quality of family child care

(2019) Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development  Baltimore, MD

Boosting family child care success in quality rating and improvement systems

(2019) Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association  Toronto, Canada

Engaging licensed family child care providers in QRIS: What works?

(2019) Meeting of the American Educational Research Association  Toronto, Canada

Inclusive early childhood QRIS policy evaluation framework

(2018) Conference on Research Innovation in Early Intervention  San Diego, CA

Gender stereotypes in children’s picture books: A contemporary content analysis

(2017) Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development  Austin. TX