As director of Erikson Institute’s International Initiative Yinna Zhang, PhD, has been applying her understanding of child development and teaching effectiveness in training programs for early childhood professionals since 2015.
Dr. Zhang was born in Yunnan Province, China, and is a proud member of the Chinese minority ethnic group Naxi. Fascinated more with how human beings acquire knowledge than the knowledge itself, Dr. Zhang switched her area of focus from biological sciences to child development after college. Together, the knowledge she gained from her scientific training and her experiences working on a renowned 12-year, longitudinal, cross-cultural study and an applied research and professional development project for early mathematics education greatly expanded her understanding of the complex intersections of teaching and learning during the process of socialization for young children.
Dr. Zhang studied teacher competence in early mathematics while pursuing her doctoral degree at Erikson and Loyola University Chicago. She worked as a research fellow with Erikson’s Early Math Collaborative and served as a consultant for a project designed to measure content knowledge for teaching mathematics in middle school at the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in New Jersey. In addition, she worked as a volunteer and a summer school teacher at the Lab Schools of the University of Chicago, consulted for an early intervention project, and served as co-chair of the Doctoral Student Association at Erikson.
In her dissertation study, Pedagogical Content Knowledge in Early Mathematics: What Teachers Know and How It is Associated with Teaching and Learning, Dr. Zhang examined a critical issue for effective teaching in early mathematics: pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) that teachers possess. Her study highlights the critical importance of and need for helping early childhood professionals to improve their understanding of how to teach math in order to advance students’ learning. Dr. Zhang received a Vote of Distinction Award for her dissertation.