Meet the Team

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Angela Pyle

Lab Director
angela.pyle@utoronto.ca

Dr. Pyle is interested in child development and early primary education. Her research primarily explores the negotiated balance between academic learning and developmentally appropriate practices in classrooms. Within this area, Dr. Pyle focuses on the role of teacher curricular stance in pedagogical decision-making, how children develop critical literacy skills through play-based learning, and how teachers’ assessment practices support and extend children’s learning in play-based contexts. As part of this research stream, Dr. Pyle is interested in methods for including young children’s voices in research about their learning and explores methods that are developmentally appropriate for researching with kindergarten-aged children.

Current Members

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Betül Alaca

PhD Candidate in School and Clinical Child Psychology
betul.alaca@mail.utoronto.ca

Betül Alaca is a PhD Candidate in School and Clinical Child Psychology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Her research and professional interests focus on the use of culturally responsive teaching and therapy practices with children, and the inclusion of children's perspectives in research. Betül's doctoral research is funded by a Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
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Emily Cowan

MA Student in School and Clinical Child Psychology
e.cowan@mail.utoronto.ca

Emily Cowan is a MA student in School and Clinical Child Psychology at OISE. Her research explores the relationship between play-based learning and the quality of educator-student interactions. She is also interested in teacher expectations and the role of educators using supportive language to foster development in children. Emily’s master’s research is funded by a Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
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Erica Danniels

PhD Candidate in Developmental Psychology and Education
erica.danniels@mail.utoronto.ca
Erica Danniels is a PhD candidate in Developmental Psychology and Education at OISE. She previously completed her Master of Education at OISE and an Honours Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto with a specialization in Psychology. Erica has previously worked supporting children with developmental disabilities and other exceptionalities in a variety of roles, including as an Instructor Therapist, Child and Youth Worker, and Educational Assistant. Her primary research interests address the inclusion of children with disabilities in kindergarten classrooms, the role of play, and the use of play-based learning strategies with this population. Erica's doctoral research is funded by a Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
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Ellen Fesseha

PhD Candidate in Developmental Psychology and Education
ellen.fesseha@mail.utoronto.ca
Ellen is a PhD candidate in Developmental Psychology and Education at OISE. She previously completed her Master of Arts in Child Study and Education also at OISE, where she earned her elementary teaching certification. She has been working as an occasional teacher with the Toronto District School Board since 2015. Influenced by her experiences teaching and mentoring underprivileged students of colour, her primary research interests are in how cultural perspectives of play-based learning impact play-behaviours in kindergarten. She is also interested in educators' conceptualizations of play-based learning, and how that translates into instruction. 
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Ruxandra Filip

MA Student in School and Clinical Child Psychology
ruxandra.filip@mail.utoronto.ca

Ruxandra Filip is an MA student in School and Clinical Child Psychology at OISE. She previously completed the Concurrent Education program at Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Psychology and a Bachelor of Education in the Primary-Junior divisions. She has just returned to Toronto after teaching first grade for the past five years at the International School of Brussels. She is interested in combining her practical experience in the classroom with further research experience in order to explore the development and assessment of early literacy skills in the context of play-based learning. Ruxandra’s master’s research is funded by a Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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Samara Gottesman

MA Student in Child Study and Education
samara.gottesman@mail.utoronto.ca 

Samara is a Master of Arts student in Child Study and Education at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, OISE. She previously completed an Honours Bachelor of Science in Psychology, English and Education and Society at the University of Toronto. Samara is interested in the development of mathematics in the early years and specifically the incorporation of spatial thinking skills in play-based learning in kindergarten. 

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Ellen Kraszewski

EdD Student in Child Study and Education
ellen.kraszewski@mail.utoronto.ca
Ellen is an EdD student in Child Study and Education at OISE. She previously completed her MA in Child Study and Education at OISE and an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Studies and Sociology at the University of Guelph. Ellen has been working as a certified occasional teacher and long-term occasional teacher with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board since 2016. Ellen is primarily interested in kindergarten students' academic readiness for grade one and navigating Ontario's kindergarten curriculum through a play-based approach. Ellen is also interested in inquiry and the arts as tools for early learning in kindergarten, early literacy, and equitable access to appropriate resources and technology for students with special needs in the kindergarten classroom. 
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Lisa Lalonde

PhD Student in Developmental Psychology and Education
lml.lalonde@mail.utoronto.ca
Lisa is a PhD student in the School of Developmental Psychology and Education at the University of Toronto, OISE. Her research and professional interests focus on pedagogical approaches to practice in the early learning sector. Lisa is a Registered Early Childhood Educator and is both the Coordinator and a professor in the Bachelor of Early Learning and Community Development degree at Algonquin College.
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Allison McCann

EdD Student in Child Study and Education
allison.mccann@mail.utoronto.ca

Allison McCann is a Doctorate of Education Student in Child Study and Education at the University of Toronto, where she also completed a Master of Arts in Child Study and Education. Allison worked to design, and currently leads, a play-based kindergarten program in Vancouver, BC. Her work to design the program has inspired her research interests in assessment of play-based learning and the impacts of play on children’s learning and development.
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Christine Tewfik

PhD Student in Curriculum and Pedagogy
c.tewfik@mail.utoronto.ca

Christine is a PhD student in Curriculum and Pedagogy at OISE. She previously completed her MEd in Curriculum and Pedagogy at OISE and MA in International and Comparative Education. Her career in Early Childhood and Kindergarten Education started more than 10 years ago. She studied an Early Literacy diploma program and worked as a Kindergarten teacher. Having the professional as well as the academic background of that field, she started teaching in the Early Literacy Education program. Later, she became the content expert and curriculum designer for an online version of this Early Literacy Education program. This role had helped Christine to delve into a new passion: Curriculum and Pedagogy with an emphasis on Digital Technologies in Education. Christine is interested in teachers' education and perceptions and culturally responsive learning environments. 

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Hanna Wickstrom

PhD Candidate in Developmental Psychology and Education
hanna.wickstrom@mail.utoronto.ca
Hanna is a PhD Candidate in Developmental Psychology and Education at the University of Toronto, OISE, where she also completed a Master of Arts in Child Study and Education. Hanna's research explores kindergarten educators' integration of mathematics and play-based learning, with a particular focus on educators' enactment of guided play to support academic learning. Hanna is also a former permanent elementary teacher and currently works as an occasional teacher for the Simcoe County District School Board. Hanna's research is funded by a Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
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Yue Yu

MEd Student in Developmental Psychology and Education
yuyue.yu@mail.utoronto.ca

Yue is a MEd student in Developmental Psychology and Education at the University of Toronto, OISE. She previously completed her Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in Psychology and Economics at the University of Western Ontario. Yue is interested in child development, and her research explores teachers’ perceptions of play-based learning and their responsiveness to students in play learning classrooms. 

Past Members

Farah Ardekanian

Ashley Bigelow

Sarah Cheng

Alex Clark

Olivia Gross

Fabienne Hargreaves

Alison Ho

Ulrica Jobe

Katie Kovacs

Marsha Marzouca

Alex Osborne

Katrina Palad

Daniel Poliszczuk

Jessica Prioletta

Renee Robertson

Lauren Rzepecki

Janani Selvachandran

Carly Silberberg

Theodora Tang

Nikki Vanhaarlem

Bonnie Yuen