Research Projects

The PELE Center is committed to conducting rigorous research on the replication of evidence-based practices that promote the development of young children with and without disabilities in inclusive settings. Our research focuses on a number of topics that include:

  • Inclusion
  • Autism
  • Challenging Behavior
  • Social-Emotional Competence
  • Scale Up and Sustainability of Evidence-Based Practices
  • Families

The PELE Center conducts applied research that aligns with our center values. All of our research has occurred and continues to occur in the actual settings where young children, their families, and early childhood professionals live and work (e.g., homes, public preschools, inclusive child care centers, Head Start classrooms). More information on our current research projects and on a selection of recently completed projects can be found below.

Current Projects

  • Scaling Up Pyramid Model Implementation in Preschool and Kindergarten Classrooms

    Funded By: Office of Innovation and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education

    Award Number: 12387648

    Purpose: This project expands the use of the Pyramid Model, a rigorously evaluated framework for promoting social, emotional, and behavioral competence in infants and young children. The goals of the project are to scale up the PM to two districts and expand implementation to both Pre-K and K classrooms serving high needs students. We will develop and refine materials and support strategies to build the capacity of district personnel to support teachers to implement the PM with fidelity, modify PM products and practices for use in Kindergarten, and replicate the intervention in rural school districts. The evaluation employs a Randomized Controlled Trial.


  • ECHO in Education Pilot Study

    Funded By: Constellation Philanthropy

    Purpose: The Morgridge College of Education is partnering with Project ECHO to adapt this proven model in medicine to address complex issues in education in Colorado. MCE will pilot the ECHO model to address a key finding of the Colorado Early Workforce Survey 2017 by helping teachers build the skills to meet the care and learning needs of children with special needs and challenging behaviors in order to increase the opportunities for inclusion for all children across the state.


Select Completed Projects

  • Pyramid Equity Project

    Funded By: Departments of Education and Health and Human Services

    Purpose: The Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports was funded to implement the Pyramid Equity Project in collaboration with the University of South Florida and the University of Colorado Denver (now the University of Denver) with Preschool Development Grant national activity funds. The Pyramid Equity Project developed and disseminated an effective approach for the prevention of suspension, expulsion, and discipline disparities in early learning programs. Specifically, the Pyramid Equity Project developed tools, materials, and procedures to explicitly address implicit bias, implement culturally responsive practices, and use data systems to understand potential discipline equity issues. These practices were implemented within the Pyramid Model for Promoting the Social Emotional Competence of Infants and Young Children—a framework of evidence-based early childhood teaching practices that are organized in tiers to include the promotion of social and emotional skills of all children, the prevention of challenging. The project partnered with Preschool Development Grantees, Clifton Early Learner Academy in Clifton, NJ, and Cambridge Early Learning Center in Antioch, TN, to establish demonstration sites that implement the enhanced Pyramid Model and serve as national models for addressing disproportionate discipline practices in early learning programs, and eliminating exclusionary discipline practices.



  • A Randomized Controlled Trial of Prevent Teach Reinforce for Young Children (PTR-YC)

    Funded By: Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education

    Award Number: R324A120097

    Purpose: Prevent-Teach-Reinforce for Young Children (PTR-YC) is a standardized model of positive behavior support designed to deliver individualized interventions for preschool-aged children with severe and persistent challenging behaviors. A randomized controlled trial was conducted to compare effects of PTR-YC with those of a “business as usual” (BAU) comparison condition implemented over the course of one school semester (approximately 3–4 months). Participants were 169 children in pre-K and Head Start classrooms in two states in the western United States. Mixed ANOVAs revealed statistically significant differences in pre–post scores on the problem behavior and social skills subscales of the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS) as well as direct observation from video samples of the children’s appropriate engagement and challenging behavior, with all comparisons favoring the PTR-YC intervention. Results are discussed in terms of the need for effective strategies for enabling early childhood professionals to implement behavioral interventions with fidelity and effectiveness.

    Publication: Dunlap, G., Strain, P. S., Lee, J. K., Joseph, J. D., & Leech, N. (2018). A randomized controlled evaluation of Prevent-Teach-Reinforce for Young Children. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 37, 195-205. doi: 10.1177/0271121417724874