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IES Grant

Title: Tools of the Mind: Promoting Self-Regulation and Academic Ability in Kindergarten
Center: NCER Year: 2010
Principal Investigator: Blair, Clancy Awardee: New York University
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $3,521,227
Goal: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A100058
Description:

Co-Principal Investigators: Cybele Raver, New York University; Jennifer Hill, New York University; Carolyn Layzer, Abt Associates; Elena Bodrova, Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL); Deborah Leong, Metropolitan State College of Denver (MSCD)

Purpose: Appreciable numbers of children are entering school without the necessary self-regulation needed to support learning and academic achievement in the early grades of schooling. The purpose of this project is to experimentally evaluate the efficacy of an early childhood curriculum, Tools of the Mind, in improving the self-regulation abilities, academic achievement, and social-emotional development of young children. The goal is to determine if the Tools of Mind curriculum leads to improved academic achievement relative to current practices and, moreover, to determine if this improvement can be accounted for (or mediated by) changes in students' executive functions, self-regulation, and social-emotional development. Unlike other self-regulation development programs, Tools of the Mind integrates activities intended to promote self-regulation with instructional activities intended to develop skills in literacy, mathematics, and social competence.

Project Activities: The project team will conduct a multisite, cluster randomized controlled trial involving three school districts and two cohorts of kindergarteners in each district. Twenty schools will be randomly assigned to either the treatment (Tools of the Mind) or the control (business-as-usual), and students who take part in the study in their kindergarten year will be followed through first grade. Within each school, two teachers and their classrooms will be randomly selected, and within each classroom, six students will be randomly selected and administered an array of tests during the course of the study. In the following year, using the same set of treatment and control schools and the same teachers selected for the study, a new cohort of kindergarteners will be studied. An array of self-regulation, social-emotional, and academic skills measures will be obtained in the fall and spring of kindergarten and in the spring of Grade 1. Measures of emotional and instructional support in treatment and control classrooms will be obtained, as well as extensive information on implementation and on various student background characteristics and class compositional characteristics. Hierarchical linear modeling will be used to address key study questions. Analyses will focus on differences between treatment and control group students at the end of kindergarten and at the end of Grade 1 on the various measures. In addition, the mediating role of self-regulation measures will be investigated.

Products: The products of this project will be evidence of the efficacy of the Tools of the Mind intervention for children enrolled in kindergarten and first grade classrooms, and published reports.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will be conducted in kindergarten and first grade classrooms in three geographically distinct school districts of the northeast.

Population: The population from which participants will be sampled is children enrolled in classrooms in the school districts in which the participating schools are located. The schools in these districts vary widely in socio-economic status (6%–75% free or reduced lunch) and ethnicity (17%–95% White, 5%–53% Hispanic, 0%–14% African American).

Intervention: The intervention, an innovative curriculum known as Tools of the Mind, is grounded in the Vygotskian theory of development in which teachers scaffold children's learning with the aim of improving self-regulation abilities, particularly executive functions, as a means to increase academic learning and achievement. Self-regulation building activities are embedded in literacy and math instruction and in language and social-emotional competence building exercises.

Research Method: The team will carry out a multisite, cluster randomized controlled trial involving three school districts and two cohorts of kindergarteners in each district. Twenty schools will be randomly assigned at the school level in kindergarten to either the treatment (Tools of the Mind) or the control (business-as-usual) using a stratified assignment, and students who take part in these groups will be followed through first grade. Within each school, two teachers and their classrooms will be randomly selected, and within each classroom, six students will be randomly selected and an array of self-regulation, social-emotional, and academic skills measures will be obtained from the students in the fall and spring of kindergarten. In the following year, using the same set of treatment and control schools and the same teachers selected for the study, a new cohort of kindergarteners will be studied, while the students from the first cohort will be tested in the spring of Grade 1.

Control Condition: The efficacy of the Tools of the Mind curriculum in increasing self-regulation, academic achievement, and social-emotional competence will be examined in relation to standard curricula and practice in classrooms assigned to the control condition of the experiment.

Key Measures: Primary outcome measures include direct child assessments of executive function, effortful control, and self-efficacy attributions, as well as standardized assessments of language, literacy, and mathematics. Children's teachers will report on child emotion regulation, effortful control, and social competence. Classroom observations will be conducted to assess teacher-child and child-child interactions and to document the quality of teaching strategies. Assessments of fidelity of curriculum implementation and documentation of activities in control classrooms will be conducted. Teacher, classroom, and family demographic information will be obtained.

Data Analysis: Data analysis will be conducted using hierarchical linear modeling to account for the nesting of students within classrooms and classrooms within schools. The analysis will generate unbiased standard errors of the estimates of the impact of the Tools of the Mind curriculum on child outcomes. In addition, the mediating role of self-regulation measures will be investigated.

Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Blair, C. (2016). Executive Function and Early Childhood Education. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 10, 102-107.

Blair, C. (2016). Developmental Science and Executive Function. Current directions in psychological science, 25 (1), 3-7.

Blair, C., and Raver, C.C. (2012). Child Development in the Context of Adversity: Experiential Canalization of Brain and Behavior. American Psychologist, 67 (4): 309318.

Blair, C., and Raver, C.C. (2014). Closing the Achievement Gap Through Modification of Neurocognitive and Neuroendocrine Function: Results From a Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial of an Innovative Approach to the Education of Children in Kindergarten. PLoS ONE, 9 (11): 112393.

Blankson, A.N., and Blair, C. (2016). Cognition and Classroom Quality as Predictors of Math Achievement in the Kindergarten Year. Learning and Instruction, 41, 32-40.

Neuenschwander, R., Friedman-Krauss, A., Raver, C., and Blair, C. (2017). Teacher Stress Predicts Child Executive Function: Moderation by School Poverty. Early Education and Development, 28 (7), 880-900.

Ribner, A., Fitzpatrick, C., and Blair, C. (2017). Family Socioeconomic Status Moderates Associations Between Television Viewing and School Readiness Skills. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 38 (3), 233-239.


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