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Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler - Elon University. Elon, NC, US

Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler

Interim Associate Provost, Academic Excellence and Director, Center for Research on Global Engagement, and Professor of Psychology | Elon University


Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler is an expert in children's learning and the sociocultural and global contexts of learning.


Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler is a Professor of Psychology who came to Elon University in 1995. Her scholarly interests include children's learning in collaborative, authentic experiences; adult guidance of children's inquiry and discovery; sociocultural and global contexts of learning; and undergraduate research mentoring. She directed the Honors Program at Elon University from 2008 to 2013, and has led study abroad/away programs in the United Kingdom, Italy, Turkey, and Hawaii. She was a co-leader in a research seminar on Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research with the Center for Engaged Learning from 2014-16. Maureen is now serving as the Director of Elon's new Center for Research on Global Engagement, and in this role she fosters the scholarship of global engagement on campus and with national and international collaborators.

Current scholarly interests focus on ways that adults support young children’s learning through joint participation in authentic experiences, or culturally relevant, meaningful and developmentally appropriate activities; the development of inquiry processs; undergraduate students' participation in high-impact practices such as undergraduate research and study abroad; and faculty mentoring of high-impact experiences.

Current research projects investigate ways that inquiry is fostered in early childhood contexts (e.g., home and preschools), with a particular focus on emergent numeracy and science. Children's outdoor and risky play, and parent beliefs about children's development in outdoor contexts, are also topics of current studies. Additionally I have projects related to mentoring undergraduate research and the scholarship of global engagement in progress.

Areas of Expertise (6)

High-Impact Practices

Global Engagement

Early Childhood Development

Developmental Psychology

Early Childhood Education






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Distinguished Scholar Lecture: Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler - Clip 2


Education (2)

North Carolina State University: Ph.D., Developmental Psychology 1990

Wake Forest University: B.A., Psychology and French 1985

Media Appearances (4)

7 Key Ways to Make Student Mentoring Matter

Inside Higher Ed  online


In this piece co-authored by Vandermaas-Peeler, the writers focus on what institutions can do and should not do to enhance the well-mentored undergraduate experience.

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Elon psychology students present at the Society for Research in Child Development

E-Net News  


Lauren Westerberg '18, now a graduate student at Purdue University, presented her undergraduate research entitled, "The 100 languages of children: Inquiry in a Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool."

Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler, professor of psychology, was the mentor for both projects...

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Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler offers insight into how children learn in Distinguished Scholar Lecture

E-Net News  online


The video was just one piece of data from the extensive research history of Professor of Psychology Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler, who had watched and rewatched the video to see how children confront challenges and learn from them with the guidance of parents and teachers. Vandermaas-Peeler shared it with the audience in the LaRose Digital Theatre on Tuesday, Feb. 12, as she delivered the 2019 Distinguished Scholar Lecture highlighting the work she's accomplished in better understanding how children learn.

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Vandermaas-Peeler presents with colleagues at two international conferences

E-Net News  online


Finally, in a panel entitled "Cultivating a culture of learning: Mentoring undergraduate research in global contexts," Amy Allocco, associate professor of religious studies and director of the Multifaith Scholars Program and Brian Pennington, professor of religious studies and director of the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society, joined Eric Hall and Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler to highlight high-quality undergraduate research mentoring practices and describe program initiatives from diverse perspectives and disciplinary lenses that support student and faculty development to create a "culture of learning" that transcends courses, programs, departments and institutions...

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Event Appearances (4)

Influences of inquiry-based guidance training on parental support of children’s mathematical and scientific reasoning at home

Society for Research on Child Development  Austin, Texas

Parental beliefs about young children’s outdoor and nature play experiences in Danish and U.S. contexts

Austin, Texas  Society for Research on Child Development

Mathematical learning in early childhood: Parental guidance during virtual and physical games

Society for Research on Child Development  Austin, Texas

Children’s learning through outdoor experiences in a Reggio-inspired preschool

Society for Research in Child Development  Philadelphia, PA

Articles (7)

What do you notice? Parent guidance of preschoolers’ inquiry in activities at home. Early Child Development


The present study examined parental guidance of young children’s inquiry during joint interactions in the home environment. Half of the parents received inquiry-based guidance instructions, encouraging their children to observe, question, predict, and evaluate; the control group received no information about guidance. Thirty-two families were observed in their homes, conducting an initial paw print matching activity and a seed sorting activity one month later. The results indicated that although all parents provided significant support for science and mathematics, parents who received inquiry guidance instructions facilitated children’s complex reasoning through support of advanced inquiry processes such as comparing, predicting, and evaluating. The findings provide evidence that parents can be encouraged to support young children’s inquiry learning through simple methods of instruction and highlight the need for coordination between early childhood educational and home contexts to support preschoolers’ learning.

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If I’m in the water and these boots overflow, I could water the grass: Exploring the natural world as service learning with young children. Service Learning as Pedagogy in Early Childhood Education


Service learning is a valuable learning tool when properly integrated into educational settings, yet relatively little research explores this form of experiential education with preschool-aged children. A particular challenge is identifying developmentally-appropriate methods of reflection, a key component of service learning. The chapter will explore environmental stewardship in a Reggio-inspired preschool as a form of service learning in young children. We will demonstrate, through our own research as well as extant developmental theoretical frameworks, that affording young children positive relationships with nature cultivates the next generation of environmental stewards. Fostering environmental stewardship through developmentally-appropriate, engaging experiences is a unique form of service learning in that it connects with community values and needs on a local and global scale. Furthermore, it integrates with the Reggio Emilia early childhood pedagogical approach in which the environment is considered a “third educator.” Finally, this form of service learning provides opportunities for children to reflect through interactions with peers, intentional teacher guidance, regular interviews at school, photo-documentation of children’s ongoing experiences, and activities that demonstrate respect and valuing of the natural world including growing and eating their own food, recycling, picking up trash, and mindful meditation in natural outdoor environments.

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Optimizing the home numeracy environments of three- to six-year old children in the United States and Canada Early Childhood Mathematics Skill Development in the Home Environment


This volume presents current research on the connections between the home and family environment on children's mathematics development. Focusing on infancy through first grade, it details the role of parents and other caregivers in promoting numeracy and the ways their active participation can prepare young children for learning about formal mathematics. Research data answer key questions regarding the development of numeracy alongside cognitive and linguistic skills, early acquisition of specific math skills, and numeracy of children with atypical language skills. The book also provides practical recommendations for parents and other caregivers as well as implications for future research studies and curriculum design. Included in the coverage: * Ways to optimize home numeracy environments.* Individual differences in numerical abilities.* Cross-cultural comparisons and ways to scaffold young children's mathematical skills.* Mathematics and language in the home environment.* Center-based and family-based child care.* Games and home numeracy practice. Early Childhood Mathematics Skill Development in the Home Environment is an essential resource for researchers, graduate students, and professionals in infancy and early childhood development, child and school psychology, early childhood education, social work, mathematics education, and educational psychology.

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Outdoor explorations with preschoolers: An observational study of young children’s developing relationship with the natural world. The International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education


In a longitudinal investigation of young children’s developing relationship with and understanding of the natural world, eleven preschoolers and their teacher were filmed for 50 hours during weekly explorations at a local state park. Findings indicated that while outdoors children showed self-awareness with regard to environmental features, generated complex scientific theories around discoveries, and engaged in environmental stewardship. The teacher provided sensitive guidance for children’s individual and collaborative explorations and for their appreciation of nature. The findings provide support for the premise that children’s understanding of the natural world develops through direct, engaging experiences, supported by adult guidance and encouragement

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Mentoring undergraduate research: Student and faculty participation in communities of practice. Transformative Dialogues: Teaching & Learning Journal


Working closely with a faculty mentor is a defining characteristic of a high-quality undergraduate research (UR) experience, and mentoring UR has become a desirable pedagogical practice across undergraduate disciplines. By participating in mentored UR, students are gradually introduced to research practices through the guidance and expertise of their mentors and progress from being newcomers in the community to developing professional identities and gaining confidence in their membership within a larger community of practice (CoP). Faculty mentors also derive benefits from engaging in mentoring as a pedagogical practice, though most empirical research has focused on student gains. In this literature review, the potential benefits and challenges to participation in a CoP are explored from student and faculty perspectives, as well as the broader institutional context.

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‘Almost everything we do includes inquiry’: fostering inquiry-based teaching and learning with preschool teachers Early Childhood Development and Care


Given the increased emphasis on science in early learning standards, two studies were conducted to investigate preschool teachers’ efficacy for teaching science and their inquiry-based teaching practices. Fifty-one teachers completed a survey of their efficacy for teaching science and understanding of inquiry methods. Teachers reported moderate confidence in their abilities, but only 25% of respondents indicated knowledge of most steps of the inquiry process. In a follow-up study, a small group of teachers participated in training sessions followed by in-depth interviews. Most teachers reported implementing the beginning steps of inquiry, such as observing and questioning, within an activity, but rarely reported next steps, such as making predictions and evaluating evidence. Participants identified lack of materials, scheduling, and time constraints as challenges to inquiry-based teaching. Findings highlight the need for professional development, emphasising the integrated, sequential, cyclic nature of the inquiry process to support preschoolers’ complex thinking and reasoning.

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Parent Guidance of Young Children’s Scientific and Mathematical Reasoning in a Science Museum Early Childhood Education Journal


Despite increased attention to math and science education in the United States, relatively few studies have explored parent guidance of young children’s mathematical and scientific reasoning in everyday activities. The present study was designed to investigate the effects of providing explicit guidance instructions on parent guidance and young children’s reasoning during joint exploration in a science museum exhibit. Participating families were randomly assigned to an instruction group provided with specific guidance suggestions related to conservation of volume, or a control group who received no additional information but were reminded to read posted instructional signs. Findings indicated that all parents incorporated math talk into their conversations and fostered scientific reasoning by encouraging children to predict and evaluate, though the nature of their explanations and the amount of guidance provided differed widely. Parents in the instruction group provided more total guidance, asked significantly more why and how questions, and discussed the complexity of the size of the containers more frequently than parents in the control group. Children in the instruction group had a greater percentage of correct responses to explaining and reasoning prompts as compared with control group children. The findings of this study contribute to our understanding of the ways that parent–child conversations in informal settings support children’s developing mathematical and scientific reasoning. Implications for museums are considered.

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