Scott Gest focuses on the developmental processes linking children’s school-based peer experiences with their academic competence and problem behaviors. He is especially interested in how teaching practices and intervention efforts may promote positive peer experiences and better school adjustment. This work is centered on children in the elementary grades, but is involved in research that extends from preK through high school. Gest draws upon theories from developmental, educational and social psychology and methods from social network analysis to explore these issues in both non-intervention and intervention studies.
Gest's Classroom Peer Ecologies Project studies teaching practices, peer social networks and student adjustment in a sample of 3,500 youth attending 207 1st, 3rd, and 5th-grade classrooms. One goal of this project is to identify features of classroom peer networks (e.g., status hierarchies, behavioral norms) that are related to academic and behavioral adjustment (e.g., achievement-related beliefs, perceptions of school, peer victimization). Another goal is to identify ways in which teachers may influence peer network processes through generally supportive interactions with students and through specific practices such as seating arrangements and direct attempts to manage students’ peer relationships.
Gest is a collaborating investigator on the Head Start REDI project. The first phase of this project implemented a randomized control trial examining the impact of a pre-kindergarten classroom intervention designed to enhance children's school readiness by promoting both language literacy and social-emotional competence.
Gest also has been a collaborating investigator on the PROSPER Peers project, which examines the role of friendship networks in the emergence of substance use and problem behavior across grades 6-9, and the impact of school-based intervention programs on those processes.