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  Maureen Callanan

Maureen Callanan

Distinguished Professor



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Social Sciences Division

Psychology Department

Distinguished Professor


Education Department

Regular Faculty

Social Sciences 2
Room 371

(Spring 2024) Fridays, 11am -12pm on zoom - contact via email for link

Psychology Faculty Services

Ph.D., Stanford University
A.B., Mount Holyoke College

Cognitive and language development in the social context of families, development of word meanings and causal explanations in parent-child conversations, diversity in families' conversations about science and nature.

Maureen Callanan's research focuses on cognitive and language development in preschool children, exploring how children come to understand the world through everyday conversations with parents. Taking a sociocultural approach, the research considers diversity in family conversations about topics in science and nature. One focus is on how children learn word meanings in conversation. Another focus is on how children's theories develop within parent-child conversations at home and in children's museums. 

Ciencia en Relatos -- Collaborative NSF grant with PIs Gigliana Melzi and Catherine Haden

Ciencia en Relatos aims to investigate the ways in which Spanish and Spanish-English speaking Latine heritage families with preschool children engage and support their children’s STEM learning when sharing book-based and oral stories about science. In particular, the study investigates how and if sharing science-related expository and narrative texts (both oral and written) foster science practices. Funded by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) EHR Core Research (ECR) program, this project aims to build on research with culturally and linguistically diverse families and to understand the culturally-embedded ways in which Latine children learn in their homes. More details on this project can be found in the NSF award site.

  • Haden, C. A., Melzi, G., & Callanan, M. (2023). Science in stories: Implications for Latine children's science learning through home-based language practices. Frontiers in Psychology, 14.

  • Castañeda, C.L., Callanan, M.A., Shirefley, T.A., & Jipson, J.L. (2022). Early strengths in science: Young children’s conversations about nature in Latine families. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 83, 101453.

  • McHugh, S., Takayama, L., Weatherwax, K., Jipson, J., & Callanan, M. (2021). Unusual artifacts: Linking parents’ STEM background and children’s animacy judgments to parent-child play with robots. Special issue on Children’s Understanding of Emerging Technologies, Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, 3, 525-539.

  • Callanan, M., Castañeda, C., Solis, G., Luce, M., Diep, M., McHugh, S., Martin, J., Scotchmoor, J., & DeAngelis, S. (2021). “He fell in and that’s how he became a fossil!”: Engagement with storytelling exhibit predicts families’ explanatory science talk during a museum visit. Special issue on Cognitive Development in Informal Learning Institutions: Collaborations Advancing Research and Practice, Frontiers in Psychology.

  • Solis, G., & Callanan, M. (2021). Collaborative inquiry or teacher talk? Parent guidance during a science-related activity in Mexican-heritage families from two schooling groups. Journal of Cognition and Development, 22, 448-466. doi: 10.1080/15248372.2021.191710

  •  Wang, S., Lang, N., Bunch, G. C., Basch, S., McHugh, S., Huitzilopochtli, S., & Callanan, M. (2021). Dismantling persistent deficit narratives about the language and literacy of culturally and linguistically minoritized children and youth. Frontiers in Education.

  •  Huitzilopochtli, S., Foxworthy-Gonzalez, J., Moschkovich, J.N., McHugh, S.R., & Callanan, M.A. (2021).  Noticing multilingual and non-dominant students’ strengths for learning mathematics and science.  In A. Essien & A. Msimanga (Eds.) Multilingual education yearbook 2021: Policy and practice in STEM multilingual contexts (pp. 155-174)Springer.

  • Shirefley, T., Castañeda, C., Rodriguez-Gutierrez, J., Callanan, M., & Jipson, J. (2020). Science conversations during family book reading with girls and boys in two cultural communities. Journal of Cognition and Development21, 551-572.

  • Luce, M., & Callanan, M. (2020). Family conversations about heat and temperature: Implications for children’s learning.  Frontiers in Psychology, Special research topic: The Emergence and Development of Scientific Thinking during the Early Years: Basic Processes and Supportive Contexts.

  • Rigney, J., & Callanan, M. (2020). Who decides? Mothers’ and children’s beliefs about food disagreements.  Cognitive Development, 56, Special issue on Children’s Food Cognition, in press

  • Callanan, M., Legare, C., Sobel, D., Jaeger, G., Letourneau, S., McHugh, S., Willard, A., et al. (2020). Exploration, explanation, and parent-child interaction in museums. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development85, 1. DOI: 10.1111/mono.12412

  • Callanan, M., Solis, G., Castañeda, C., & Jipson, J. (2020).  Children’s question-asking across cultural communities.  To appear in L. P. Butler, S. Ronfard, & K. Corriveau (Eds.), The Questioning Child: Insights from Psychology and Education (pp. 73-88). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

  •  Callanan, M., Shirefley, T., Castañeda, C., & Jipson, J. (2019). Young children’s ideas about astronomy. Journal of Astronomy and Earth Sciences Education6, 45-58.

  •  DeJesus, J., Callanan, M., Solis, G., & Gelman, S. (2019). Generic language in scientific communication.  PNAS Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences116, 18370-18377.

  • Willard, A., Busch, J., Cullum, K., Letourneau, S., Sobel, D., Callanan, M., & Legare, C. (2019). Explain this, explore that: A study of parent-child interaction in a children’s museum.  Child Development90, 5, 596-617.

  • Rogoff, B., Dahl, A., & Callanan, M. (2018).  The importance of understanding children’s lived experience.  Developmental Science, Special issue, Towards a Cultural Developmental Science50, 5-15.

  • Callanan, M., Castañeda, C., Luce, M., & Martin, J. (2017).  Family science talk in museums: Predicting children’s engagement from variations in talk and activity.  Child Development, Special section: Bringing Developmental Science into the World, 88, 1492-1504.

Psych 119H: Developmental Psych Research/Real World Problems
Psych 105: Children's Thinking
Psych 244A: Proseminar I: Cognitive and Language Development
Psych 119P: Children and Technology

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