WWC review of this study

Mindfulness plus reflection training: Effects on executive function in early childhood [Mindfulness and reflection training vs. business as usual (regular classroom activities or Second Step: Social-Emotional Skills for Early Learning)]

Zelazo, P. D., Forston, J. L., Masten, A. S., & Carlson, S. M. (2018). Frontiers in Psychology.

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    142
     Students
    , grade
    PK

Reviewed: February 2022

No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Reading & Literacy Related outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJ-III) Letter-Word Identification Subtest

Mindfulness and reflection training vs. Business as usual

2 Weeks

Postintervention: Mindfulness + Reflection Training vs BAU;
119 students

13.32

13.32

No

--
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJ-III) Letter-Word Identification Subtest

Mindfulness and reflection training vs. Business as usual

6 Weeks

Follow-up: Mindfulness + Reflection Training vs BAU;
130 students

16.23

15.94

No

--
Self-regulation outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Peg Tapping

Mindfulness and reflection training vs. Business as usual

2 Weeks

Postintervention: Mindfulness + Reflection Training vs BAU;
125 students

13.52

12.31

No

--
More Outcomes

Child Behavior Rating Scale

Mindfulness and reflection training vs. Business as usual

2 Weeks

Postintervention: Mindfulness + Reflection Training vs BAU;
100 students

36.72

36.76

No

--

Minnesota executive function scale (MEFS)

Mindfulness and reflection training vs. Business as usual

2 Weeks

Postintervention: Mindfulness + Reflection Training vs BAU;
121 students

45.20

45.52

No

--
Show Supplemental Findings

Peg Tapping

Mindfulness and reflection training vs. Business as usual

6 Weeks

Follow-up: Mindfulness + Reflection Training vs BAU;
134 students

14.32

13.67

No

--

Minnesota executive function scale (MEFS)

Mindfulness and reflection training vs. Business as usual

6 Weeks

Follow-up: Mindfulness + Reflection Training vs BAU;
133 students

49.46

46.91

No

--

Children’s Behavior Questionnaire Very Short Form Effortful Control sub scale

Mindfulness and reflection training vs. Business as usual

6 Weeks

follow-up: Mindfulness + Reflection Training vs BAU;
98 students

5.03

4.98

No

--

Child Behavior Rating Scale

Mindfulness and reflection training vs. Business as usual

6 Weeks

Follow-up: Mindfulness + Reflection Training vs BAU;
99 students

36.82

36.73

No

--
Social-Emotional Learning outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Theory of mind scale

Mindfulness and reflection training vs. Business as usual

2 Weeks

Postintervention: Mindfulness + Reflection Training vs BAU;
126 students

2.89

3.18

No

--
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Children’s Behavior Questionnaire Very Short Form Negative Affect sub scale

Mindfulness and reflection training vs. Business as usual

6 Weeks

follow-up: Mindfulness + Reflection Training vs BAU;
98 students

3.64

3.53

No

--

Theory of mind scale

Mindfulness and reflection training vs. Business as usual

6 Weeks

Follow-up: Mindfulness + Reflection Training vs BAU;
132 students

3.06

3.20

No

--

Children’s Behavior Questionnaire Very Short Form Surgency sub scale

Mindfulness and reflection training vs. Business as usual

6 Weeks

Follow-up: Mindfulness + Reflection Training vs BAU;
98 students

4.36

4.71

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 54%
    Male: 46%

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    District of Columbia, Texas

Setting

The study took place in 2 preschools—1 each in the cities of Houston, Texas and Washington, DC—over a 6-week period. Intervention conditions were administered in small groups.

Study sample

The 218 children who were randomly assigned ranged in age from 47-63 months with a mean age of 57 months (between the ages of 3 and 5 years old) and were 54 percent female. The authors do not provide any other demographic information for the randomized or analytic samples. Houston served children who were primarily Hispanic White, 55 percent White, 9 percent African American, 32 percent more than one race, 3 percent Native American, 97.4 percent Hispanic, and 68 percent Primary language English. Schools in Washington, DC served children who were 100 percent African American.

Intervention Group

The Mindfulness + Reflection intervention was provided to children during 30 small-group (8-12 children) sessions. The sessions were 24 minutes daily for 6 weeks. Children participated in a variety of brief mindfulness and relaxation practices adapted for children. Children also played three games designed to challenge executive functioning: head/toes/knees/shoulders, Bear/Dragon/Simon Says, and Mother May I? The mindfulness exercises, typically involving small props, were repeated across sessions. The games each had different amounts of executive function challenge, which allowed instructors to moderately challenge children’s skills. Instructors were also given other teaching techniques for adjusting the challenge level. During the games, instructors encouraged children to notice and discuss their thoughts, emotions, and behavioral tendencies.

Comparison Group

Children in the comparison condition received the usual instruction in their regular classrooms. In Houston, this involved regular classroom activities at the Houston school; in Washington, this involved the Second Step social-emotional learning intervention.

Support for implementation

The teachers recruited to deliver the 2 study interventions received a full day of training at the University of Minnesota. Two teachers were trained to administer activities in the 14-lesson mindfulness curriculum and three executive function (EF) - challenging games presented with reflection protocols.

 

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