Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Developing a Measure of Self-Regulation for Children at Risk for School Difficulty
Center: NCER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: McClelland, Megan Awardee: Oregon State University
Program: Early Learning Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2015-6/30/2019) Award Amount: $1,600,000
Type: Measurement Award Number: R305A150192

Co-Principal Investigator: Bowles, Ryan P.; Cameron, Claire; Geldhof, John

Purpose: This study will revise an existing measure of self-regulation and executive function skills for use as a school readiness screening tool for children from at-risk backgrounds. The existing Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders (HTKS) measure is a predictor of school achievement for diverse groups of children. However, English language learners (ELLs) and children from low-income backgrounds have not performed well on this measure. The research team will develop and validate a revised version of the measure, HTKS-R, to assess the emerging executive function skills of preschoolers who are at risk for lower school achievement due to their language background or family income status. Researchers will develop new sections of the measure, a training procedure, an administration protocol, and a mobile app for ease of use and automatic scoring. The researchers will also evaluate the revised measure as a predictor of kindergarten readiness and achievement. The assessment tool will help teachers identify children who need support to develop self-regulation and executive function skills that are associated with learning and school achievement.

Project Activities: Researchers will develop and refine a new set of items that target children's emerging executive function skills, conduct studies to examine the validity and reliability of the measure, and evaluate the HTKS-R as a predictor of children's school readiness in prekindergarten and kindergarten. The team will conduct analyses to examine the psychometric properties of the measure.

Products: Researchers will produce a fully developed and validated direct assessment of executive function skills that are predictive of school readiness. Researchers will also design a mobile app and produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in Head Start centers and elementary schools in Oregon.

Sample: Study participants will include 270 teachers and 850 low-income 3–5 year old children and parents. Approximately 35 percent of the sample will be Spanish-speaking children.

Assessment: The existing Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders (HTKS) measure is a direct assessment of children's executive function skills. Children are asked to complete a series of tasks/physical actions that require them to integrate multiple cognitive skills: (1) paying attention to the instructions; (2) using working memory to remember and execute new rules while processing the commands; (3) using inhibitory control to inhibit their natural response to the test command while initiating the correct, unnatural response; and (4) using attentional or cognitive flexibility when rules change in the assessment protocol. The revised version of the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders (HTKS-R) will include two new sections with test items that are designed to lessen the cognitive flexibility and motor skills demands for younger children and children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Research Design and Methods: In Years 1–3 of the study, the researchers will include teachers in the iterative development and refinement process. Teachers will pilot test the administration protocol and test items and provide feedback about the usability and feasibility of the assessment tool. In Year 1, the research team will develop and refine new test items and conduct an initial field test with 300 children (Cohort 1). Researchers will refine the tasks and the mobile app based on analyses of year 1 data and teacher feedback. In Year 2, the research team will refine and validate the revised measure with a new sample of 200 children (Cohort 2). In Year 3, the research team will follow the Cohort 2 sample of children into kindergarten and recruit another sample of 200 children (Cohort 3). In Year 4, researchers will follow the Cohort 3 into kindergarten. Children in cohorts 2 and 3 will be assessed in prekindergarten and kindergarten. Researchers will use data from Cohorts 2 and 3 to examine the validity and reliability of the revised measure. In Year 4, the team will examine the predictive validity of the measure and finalize scoring procedures, continuation rules, administration instructions, and the mobile app.

Control Condition: There is no control condition in this study.

Key Measures: Measures include direct assessments of children's executive function skills, the HTKS-R, the Executive Function scale (cognitive flexibility), the Working Memory subtests from the Executive Function Battery, the Day-Night Stroop test (inhibitory control), and the Letter-Word Identification, Picture Vocabulary and Applied Problems subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson II. The research team will ask teachers and assessors to rate children's self-regulation skills.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will conduct item and scale level analyses to examine the psychometric properties of the revised measure. The research team will also examine the feasibility of adding two new sections to the task, assess the ordering of sections, examine scoring practice items in the new measure, and establish cut points to determine when a child should move to a different section. In addition, the research team will conduct analyses to evaluate the concurrent and predictive validity of the measure.

Related IES Projects: Touch Your Toes! Developing a New Measure of Behavioral Regulation (R305A100566)


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

McClelland, M.M., Tominey, S.L., Schmitt, S.A., and Duncan, R. (2017). SEL Interventions in Early Childhood. The Future of Children, 33–47.