Child psychology grad program rated tops in the country

The institution is expanding its research areas to stay ahead of the field.

U.S. News and World Reports rated the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Institute of Child Development the No. 1 educational developmental psychology program in the country last week. The ranking helps attract better students and enhances the programâÄôs reputation in the field, institute director Nicki Crick said. The instituteâÄôs reputation is based on its research, she added. When it became clear that neuroscience was an important emerging area of research, for example, the institute quickly hired new people in that area, Crick said. Lindsey Higgins, a child psychology senior, said the ranking is important for undergraduates as well, because they have the opportunity to work on cutting-edge research with renowned faculty. âÄúIt just takes a little more initiative, I think, to go and maybe develop a relationship or maybe propose doing your own research project,âÄù she said. The Shirley G. Moore Laboratory School is part of the institute where teaching and research overlap. In the last three years, the University has conducted over 30 research projects in the laboratory school said Barbara Murphy, the laboratory schoolâÄôs director. Murphy said a lot of the pilot work for Dr. CrickâÄôs own research in relational aggression was done at the laboratory school. Relational aggression, also known as âÄúgirl aggression,âÄù involves behaviors like rumor spreading or social exclusion. This kind of aggression and its future implications are less studied than direct physical aggression, which is more commonly found in boys, Crick said. Also, undergraduates who are interested in receiving teaching certification can do their student-teaching at the laboratory school, Murphy said. Students learn how children think at different ages and, through that understanding, how to better teach them as they grow. For example, children under the age of 7 are much more engaged by experience-based learning than group instruction, Murphy said. âÄúWhat neurological studies are showing is that when they hook the kids up to the MRIs and the PET scans is that the machines light up when the kids are motivated,âÄù Murphy said. When less personal teaching methods are used, she said, the machine lights go out because the children are using less of their brains. Because setting up experiments that isolate education methods from outside influences is difficult, long-term studies on the effectiveness of experienced-based learning havenâÄôt yet been done, Murphy said. Currently, a hot topic for many faculty members is studying how the various aspects of child development work together, Crick said.