In high school, Amanda Moreno, PhD, read a book called “Dibs in Search of Self” that influenced her entire career path. The story of a gifted child who has trouble expressing himself and how his interactions with the book’s author, clinical psychologist Virginia M. Axline, brought about remarkable changes, resonated with the young Dr. Moreno.
“After reading the book, I kept thinking, ‘If only all children had greater opportunities and resources to help them realize their full potential,’ ” she says. “That’s what holds people back — not their level of intelligence.”
Throughout her career, which has included direct service, research, and instructional roles, her focus has been on understanding the connections between children’s social-emotional well-being and learning. Of particular interest is the role adults play in providing children with conditions that foster positive development and the factors that impact the ability of adults to fulfill that role.
Her current research includes a federally funded, four-year study on mindfulness practices in Chicago Public Schools classrooms, the first one of its kind looking at a large sample of kindergarten through second grade students in high-poverty schools. She also has studied preschools and child care centers to understand how best to work with adults and provide resources to enhance their sensitivity to the interactions they have with children.
Students in both on-campus and online versions of Dr. Moreno’s courses can expect rigorous and lively discussions in which bold ideas, creativity, and applied thinking are valued over “correct” answers and statistics. With rigor also comes support, and she notes that students will find a network of faculty, staff, and peers more than willing to offer encouragement and assistance. “Children are serious business, so we consider it our job to help you succeed.”
- BA in child development, Tufts University
- MA in child development, Tufts University
- PhD in developmental psychology, University of Denver
- Post-doctoral fellowship, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
Areas of Expertise
- Quality of teacher-child interactions
- Poverty, toxic stress, and trauma
- Teacher professional development, mitigating teacher stress
- Social-emotional learning, especially mindfulness and other replenishing practices
- Executive function and self-regulation
- Mindfulness in the early grades
- The effectiveness of coaching at improving the quality of teacher-child interactions
- Moreno, A.J., Nagasawa, M., & Schwartz, T. (under review). Early childhood education and social-emotional learning: Redundant terms? Submitted for publication.
- Moreno, A.J., Green, S., Koehn, J., & Sadd, S. (under review). Behind the curtain of early childhood coaching: A multi-method analysis of 5,000 feedback statements. Submitted for publication.
- Moreno, A.J. (2017). A theoretically and ethically grounded approach to mindfulness practices in the primary grades. Childhood Education, 93, 101-108.
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- Moreno, A.J. (2017). Does ECE really “need” SEL? Invited talk presented at the Alliance for Early Childhood Conference, Glencoe, IL.
- Moreno, A. J. (2017). School as stressor: Mindfulness and related practices for reducing stress and increasing compassion in the classroom. Keynote, National Alliance on Mental Illness – Midwest Division. Dominican University, River Forest, IL.
- Moreno, A.J. (2016). How trauma and toxic stress are etched in early childhood. Invited talk presented at the National Education Writers Association conference, Boston, MA.
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Related professional experience
- Associate Director, Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy, Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver.
- Senior Researcher, OMNI Institute, Denver, CO.
- Senior Instructor and Co-Director, Program for Early Developmental Studies, Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
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