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2006Research Conference | June 15–16

This conference highlighted the work of invited speakers, independent researchers who have received grant funds from the Institute of Education Sciences, and trainees supported through predoctoral training grants and postdoctoral fellowships. The presentations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Education or the Institute of Education Sciences.
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
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Profiles of Approaches to Learning in Head Start Preschoolers

Virginia E. Vitiello, University of Miami
Daryl B. Greenfield, University of Miami

Abstract: Current preschool intervention programs take a one-size-fits-all approach to improving school readiness. Research indicates, however, that preschool children differ individually along multiple dimensions. A potentially useful means of grouping children is based on their approaches to learning, or ATL. The ATL construct incorporates teachable cognitive and behavioral skills that facilitate learning.

The current study uses cluster analysis to identify profiles of approaches to learning among Head Start preschoolers. 196 preschool children were assessed on ATL using a battery of structured tasks. Cognitive ability was directly assessed using the Bracken Basic Concepts Scale-Revised (Bracken, 1998). School readiness (language and literacy and early math) was assessed by teachers using a skills checklist (Bergan et al., 2003).

Data were analyzed using McDermott's (1999) megacluster analytic strategy. The cluster analysis revealed five stable profiles. Preliminary analysis indicated that, when age was controlled, a profile characterized by low cognitive inhibition and high problem solving flexibility had better language and literacy outcomes than a profile with very low curiosity, high cognitive inhibition, and low problem solving flexibility. Further analyses will be conducted to explore differences between the clusters.

The preliminary findings showed that children with low cognitive inhibition and high flexibility have more positive school readiness outcomes than other profiles. It may be possible to design classroom activities that encourage the development of ATL, which could result in better school readiness and improved school outcomes. It is clear that ATL plays an important role in preschool, and may be an important factor in later school performance.