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Alison Wishard Guerra

Associate Professor

Alison graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a BA in Psychology and Latin American and Latino Studies, and received an M.A. and Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis in Applied Developmental Psychology from UCLA School of Education and Information Sciences. Dr. Wishard Guerra’s research focuses on culture and development in early childhood, with particular focus on social and language development among Latino children from low-income families. Her research looks specifically at how social relationships and interactions may serve as protective factors for later cognitive development among at-risk children. She studies within group variations related to immigration and acculturation experiences and their associations to children's developmental outcomes. Dr. Wishard Guerra is a member of the National Early Head Start Research Consortium where she continues an active line of research investigating longitudinal social and cognitive developmental outcomes. Dr. Wishard Guerra was a member of the expanded research consortia that developed the California Preschool Learning Foundations on English-Language Development, and has served as an expert reviewer of English Language Development and Cultural Diversity in the development of Volumes 2 (Physical Development, Health, and Visual and Performing Arts) and 3 (Science, and History/Social Sciences) of the California Preschool Learning Foundations and the California Preschool Curriculum Framework, published by the California Department of Education. Her current research at UCSD investigates the role of social pretend play in the development of oral language and school readiness among Mexican heritage children. In the Education Studies department she teaches courses on early childhood education, cognitive development, culture and developmental theory, quantitative research methodology, dissertation writing seminar, and research on curriculum design. Dr. Wishard Guerra is a 2009-2010 Hellman Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a 2009-2011 and 2011-2013 UC Links grants.


Ph. D. in Education with an emphasis in Applied Developmental Psychology
University of California, Los Angeles, 2005
M.A. in Education with an emphasis in Applied Developmental Psychology
University of California, Los Angeles, 2003
B.A. Double major in Psychology and Latin American and Latino Studies
University of California, Santa Cruz, 1997
Education Abroad
Universidad de Chile, Santiago Chile, 1996
Universidad del Cuyo, Mendoza Argentina, 1996
Escuela del Ciclo Básico Común, Bahía Blanca Argentina, 1992


  • Society for Research in Child Development
  • American Educational Research Association

The Mi Clase Mágica Preschool study operates two oral language and literacy intervention programs at the Solana Beach Head Start and the San Pasqual Indian Reservation Children’s Center in Valley Center. In MCM we work to create an informal learning environment with engaging oral language and literacy activities constructed to support and promote home language and culture. Undergraduate students serve as research assistants and “amigos” to the children as they develop curriculum, work with the children, write field notes, collect data, and work on collaborative research projects as part of the research team. Undergraduate or graduate students interested in joining our research team are encouraged to contact Alison. For more information:

Wishard, A. G., Shivers, E. M., Howes, C., & Ritchie, S. “Child care programs and teacher practices: Associations with quality and children’s experiences.”Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 18. 2003. (pp. 65 – 103).

Howes, C. & Wishard, A. G. “Revisiting sharing meaning: Looking through the lens of culture and linking shared pretend play through proto-narrative development to emergent literacy.” In E. Zigler, D. G. Singer, & S. J. Bishop-Josef (Eds.)Children’s Play: The Roots of Reading, Washington, DC: Zero to Three Press. 2004. *Chapter excerpted in Zero to Three Journal, 25. 2004. (pp. 10-16).

Wishard, A. G., Sidle, A. S., & Howes, C. “Finding a “Literacy-rich curriculum” in children’s everyday experiences.” National Head Start Association Dialog Briefs, 7. 2004. (pp. 3-4).

Lopez, E., Wishard, A., Gallimore, R., & Rivera, W. “Latino high school students’ perceptions of gangs and crews: Gender and achievement factors.” Journal of Adolescent Research, 21. 2006. (pp. 299-318).

Howes, C., & Wishard Guerra, A. “Networks of attachment relationships in low-income children of Mexican heritage: Infancy through preschool.” Social development 18(4). 2009. (pp. 896 – 914).

Howes, C., & Wishard Guerra, A. G., & Zucker, E. “Migrating from Mexico and sharing pretend with peers in the United States.” Merrill Palmer Quarterly, 54(2). 2008. (pp. 256-288).

Wishard Guerra, A. “The intersection of Language and culture among Mexican-heritage children three to seven years old.” In A. McCabe, A. Bailey, & G. Melzi (Eds.)Research on the development of Spanish-language narratives. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2008.

Howes, C., Wishard Guerra, A. G., & Zucker, E. “Cultural communities and parenting in Mexican-heritage families.” Parenting: Science and Practice, 7. 2007. (pp.1-36).

Daly, A. J., Der-Martirosian, C., Ong-Dean, C., Park, V., Wishard-Guerra, A. Leading Under Sanction: Principals’ Perceptions of Threat-Rigidity, Efficacy, and Leadership in Underperforming Schools. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 10(2). 2010. (pp. 171-206.)

Howes, C., Wishard Guerra, A., Fuligni, A., Zucker, E., Lee, L., Obregon, M., & Spivak, A. “Classroom dimensions predict early peer interaction when children are diverse in ethnicity, race, and home language.” Early Childhood Education Research Quarterly, 26. 2011. (pp. 399-408).

Park, V., Daly, A., & Wishard Guerra, A. “Strategic framing: How leaders craft the meaning of data use for equity and learning.” Educational Policy: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Policy and Practice. First published online May 7. 2012. (pp.1-31).

Wishard Guerra, A. & Garrity, S. “A cultural communities and cultural practices approach to understanding infant and toddler care.” In Mangione, P.L. (Ed.).Infant/toddler Caregiving: A Guide to Culturally Sensitive Care. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education. 2012.

Jia, G. & Wishard Guerra, A. (in press). “Creating Collaborative Relationships with Culturally Diverse Families." In Mangione, P.L. (Ed.). Infant/toddler Caregiving: A Guide to Culturally Sensitive Care. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education.