Thursday, October 07, 2010

Research bytes 10-7-10: Preschool executive functions, general knowledge, attention & visual motor important for later school success

More research on possible early predictors of subsequent school success

Clark, C. A. C., Pritchard, V. E., & Woodward, L. J. (2010). Preschool Executive Functioning Abilities Predict
Early Mathematics Achievement. Developmental Psychology, 46(5), 1176-1191.
Impairments in executive function have been documented in school-age children with mathematical learning difficulties. However, the utility and specificity of preschool executive function abilities in predicting later mathematical achievement are poorly understood. This study examined linkages between children's developing executive function abilities at age 4 and children's subsequent achievement in mathematics at age 6, 1 year after school entry. The study sample consisted of a regionally representative cohort of 104 children followed prospectively from ages 2 to 6 years. At age 4, children completed a battery of executive function tasks that assessed planning, set shifting, and inhibitory control. Teachers completed the preschool version of the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function. Clinical and classroom measures of children's mathematical achievement were collected at age 6. Results showed that children's performance on set shifting, inhibitory control, and general executive behavior measures during the preschool period accounted for substantial variability in children's early mathematical achievement at school. These associations persisted even after individual differences in general cognitive ability and reading achievement were taken into account. Findings suggest that early measures of executive function may be useful in identifying children who may experience difficulties learning mathematical skills and concepts. They also suggest that the scaffolding of these executive skills could potentially be a useful additional component in early mathematics education.

Grissmer, D., Grimm, K. J., Aiyer, S. M., Murrah, W. M., & Steele, J. S. (2010). Fine Motor Skills and Early
Comprehension of the World: Two New School Readiness Indicators. Developmental Psychology, 46(5),
Duncan et al. (2007) presented a new methodology for identifying kindergarten readiness factors and quantifying their importance by determining which of children's developing skills measured around kindergarten entrance would predict later reading and math achievement. This article extends Duncan et al.'s work to identify kindergarten readiness factors with 6 longitudinal data sets. Their results identified kindergarten math and reading readiness and attention as the primary long-term predictors but found no effects from social skills or internalizing and externalizing behavior. We incorporated motor skills measures from 3 of the data sets and found that fine motor skills are an additional strong predictor of later achievement. Using one of the data sets, we also predicted later science scores and incorporated an additional early test of general knowledge of the social and physical world as a predictor. We found that the test of general knowledge was by far the strongest predictor of science and reading and also contributed significantly to predicting later math, making the content of this test another important kindergarten readiness indicator. Together, attention, fine motor skills, and general knowledge are much stronger overall predictors of later math, reading, and science scores than early math and reading scores alone.

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