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Donna Koller

Donna Koller

OfficeKHS 363-I, Kerr Hall South
Phone416-979-5000, ext. 552513
Areas of ExpertiseChildren’s health and well-being; Children’s rights in health care; Pediatric psychosocial care and the role of the child life specialist; Research methods with young children.

Donna Koller is a professor within the School of Early Childhood Studies at Toronto Metropolitan University. She completed graduate studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a doctorate degree in child development and applied psychology from the University of Toronto. Clinical positions in three children’s hospitals (Canada and US) contributed to an expertise in pediatric psychosocial care and children’s rights in health care. Her program of research consistently examines children’s own experiences and perceptions. As an adjunct scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), she has addressed children’s rights and perspectives on decision-making, social inclusion for children with disabilities and chronic medical conditions, the disclosure of medical errors, and children’s rights in a pandemic. As a member of the International Society for Social Pediatrics and Child Health (ISSOP), her work is guided by contemporary views of childhood and the ethical and moral imperatives set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (1989). Internationally, she has consulted on pediatric psychosocial care and research methods with children.

  • CLD 205: Social and Emotional Well-being
  • CLD 446: Children and Chronic Illness
  • CS 8942: Children’s Health
  • CS 8930: Social Research with Children

Research interests:

  • Children’s participation rights in pediatrics
  • Children's perspectives on health care experiences
  • Social inclusion for children with disabilities and chronic medical conditions
  • Research methods with young children

Current research projects:

Project: Children's Rights in the Pediatric Operating Room: Implications for Teamwork

  • Funded by: SSHRC Insight Development Grant
    (Co-PI with Dr. Sherry Espin, Nursing)

Project: Dancing-bodies-moving-spaces: A radical approach to fostering movement in children with diverse physical abilities

  • Funded by: SSHRC Insight Development Grant
    (Co-investigator with PI Dr. Coralee McLaren, Nursing)

Project: Reconciling the social model of childhood disability with pedagogy: The effects of teacher training to facilitate friendship-building.

  • Funded by: SSHRC, Insight grant.

Project: Mobilizing knowledge: Partners for social inclusion for children with disabilities.

  • Funded by: SSHRC, Partnership Development grant.

Project: Words matter: Discussing childhood disability and special health care needs with parents

  • Funded by: Faculty of Community Services, SEED.

Selected papers from refereed journals:

  • Koller, D., & Murphy, E. (2022, in press). Dolls as a Rights-Affirming Early Childhood Research Method: A Scoping Review. International Journal of Children’s Rights
  • Koller, D., Grossi, M., van den Heuvel, M., & Wong, P. (2022). Hiding and seeking: Children's lived experiences during COVID-19. Children and Society, 00, 1– 18., external link
  • Jörgensen, E., Koller, D., Raman, S., Olatunya, O., Asemota, O., Ekpenyong, BN., Gunnlaugsson, G., Okolo, A. (2022). The voices of children and young people during COVID-19: A critical review of methods. Acta Paediatr. 2022 May 24. doi: 10.1111/apa.16422
  • Schoeppich, A., Koller, D., McLaren, C. (2021). Children’s Right to Participate in Playground Development: A Critical Review. Children, Youth and EnvironmentsVol. 31 (3).
  • Koller, D. (2021). Right of children to be heard. BMJ Paediatrics Open, 5(1), external link
  • Koller, D., & Stoddart, K. (2021). Approaches that address social inclusion for children with disabilities: A critical review. Child & Youth Care Forum. 1-12. 
  • Koller, D., & Wheelwright, D. (2020). Disrupting the status quo: A new theoretical vision for the child life profession. Journal of Child Life: Psychosocial Theory and Practice, 1(2), 27-32., external link, opens in new window
  • Koller, D., Binder, M. J., Alexander, S., & Darch, J. (2019). “Everybody makes mistakes”: Children's views on medical errors and disclosure. Journal of Pediatric Nursing49, 1-9. 
  • Cagulada, E., & Koller, D. (2019). “It’s a hearing world”: Parents’ perspectives of the well-being of children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Deafness & Education International22(2), 139-155. 
  • Koller, D., & Farley, M. (2019). Examining elements of children's place attachment. Children's Geographies17(4), 491-500. 
  • Koller, D., & Espin, S. (2018). Views of children, parents, and health-care providers on pediatric disclosure of medical errors. Journal of Child Health Care22(4), 577-590. 
  • Koller, D., McPherson, A. C., Lockwood, I., Blain-Moraes, S., & Nolan, J. (2018). The impact of Snoezelen in pediatric complex continuing care: A pilot study. Journal of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine11(1), 31-41., external link, opens in new window
  • Koller, D., Pouesard, M. L., & Rummens, J. A. (2017). Defining social inclusion for children with disabilities: A critical literature review. Children & Society32(1), 1-13. 
  • Koller, D. (2017). ‘Kids need to talk too’: inclusive practices for children's healthcare education and participation. Journal of Clinical Nursing26(17-18), 2657-2668. 
  • Koller, D., Rummens, A., Le Pouesard, M., Espin, S., Friedman, J., Coffey, M., & Kenneally, N. (2016). Patient disclosure of medical errors in paediatrics: A systematic literature review. Paediatrics & Child Health21(4), 32-38. 
  • Underwood, K., Chan, C., Koller, D., & Valeo, A. (2015). Understanding young children’s capabilities: Approaches to interviews with young children experiencing disability. Child Care in Practice21(3), 220-237. 
  • Koller, D., & San Juan, V. (2014). Play-based interview methods for exploring young children’s perspectives on inclusion. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education28(5), 610-631. 
  • Koller, D., Khan, N., & Barrett, S. (2014). Pediatric perspectives on diabetes self-care: A process of achieving acceptance. Qualitative Health Research25(2), 264-275. 
  • Koller, D., & McLaren, C. (2012). Children's emotional responses to a paediatric hospital atrium. Children & Society28(6), 451-464. 
  • Koller, D., & Goldman, R. D. (2012). Distraction techniques for children undergoing procedures: A critical review of pediatric research. Journal of Pediatric Nursing27(6), 652-681. *Awarded most cited and downloaded paper in 2014 and 2016.
  • Koller, D., Nicholas, D., Gearing, R., & Kalfa, O. (2010). Paediatric pandemic planning: Children’s perspectives and recommendations. Health & Social Care in the Community, 18(4), 369-377., external link, opens in new window

Chapters in books:

  • Koller, D. (2018). Anxiety and the hospitalized child: Best practices for guiding therapeutic play. In C. Schaefer & A. Drewes (Eds.), Play-based interventions for childhood anxieties, fears, and phobias (pp. 15-26). Guilford Press. 
  • Underwood, K., Chan, C., Koller, D., & Valeo, A. (2017). Understanding young children’s capabilities: Approaches to interviews with young children experiencing disability. In B. Kelly & B. Byrne (Eds.), Valuing disabled children and young people: Research, policy, and practice (pp. 220-237). Routledge.
  • Koller, D. (2014). Hospital play dolls. In V. Johnson, J. Colwell, & R. Hart (Eds.), Steps to engaging young children in research: The research toolkit (pp. 138-140). Education Research Centre, University of Brighton.

Major invited contributions or reports:

  • Blumenthal Fellowship, University of Missouri
  • Superior Graduate Student Award, University of Missouri
  • International Society for Social Pediatrics and Child Health (ISSOP)
  • Canadian Coalition on the Rights of Children (CCRC)
  • Child Rights Academic Network (CRAN)
  • Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP)