Shannon Wanless believes self-regulation skills in young children forecast their future success in school. And the data she is gathering in Taiwan bears that out. A Fulbright fellowship in 2007 launched her research in Taiwan where she, her husband, Berry, and newborn daughter, Maryella, lived for nine months while Shannon gathered data from preschoolers, their teachers, and their parents. “Sharing parenting experiences with the Taiwanese definitely enriched my experience,” she says. “When we went to the local dumpling store, the workers would yell ‘Guang Lin (Welcome) Mary’ to our daughter. They made us feel like part of the community.” Shannon also taught classes at Fu Jen University about child development and research methods.
A PhD student in human development and family sciences, Shannon is conducting research using the Head-to-Toes Task, a measure developed in part by OSU associate professor Megan McClelland, that employs a version of the old head-shoulders-knees-and-toes game. Shannon returned to Taiwan a year later to collect additional data to determine what influences child development over time in Taiwan. “We’re finding that the Head-to-Toes Task is reliable in Taiwan and that the self-regulation skills of Taiwanese 3- and 4-year-olds are significantly related to their math and vocabulary skills.” These results point to the importance of developing self-regulation to enhance children’s academic success. Results from her research are being combined with data from China, South Korea, and the U.S. for a more complete understanding of early self-regulation and academic success in different cultures.
Shannon has received generous support from a variety of funders who believe in her work and the potential impact for children. OSU and national grants have supported Shannon’s continued research, the writing of her dissertation, an internship in Finland to explore the feasibility of using the Head-to-Toes Task there, and a trip to Germany to present her findings at the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development conference. She is currently writing five manuscripts on the results of her research.