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Executive functions and approaches to learning: Relationships to school readiness in Head Start preschoolers

The purpose of this study was to determine whether the effects of executive functions on school readiness outcomes were mediated by approaches to learning in Head Start preschoolers. Executive functions are cognitive skills, including inhibition, cognitive flexibility, and working memory, that are involved in learning as well as regulating behavior (Blair, Granger, & Razza, 2005; Espy, McDiarmid, Cwik, Stalets, Hamby, & Senn, 2004). Approaches to learning include important learning-to-learn skills such as persistence, initiative, and motivation (Fantuzzo, Perry, & McDermott, 2004). Based on previous literature, it was hypothesized that strong executive functions would support the development of positive approaches to learning, which in turn would lead to increased school readiness. To test this, data were collected on 179 four-year-old Head Start preschoolers. Children were assessed on executive functions (cognitive inhibition, cognitive flexibility, and working memory), approaches to learning (using both a teacher rating scale and a direct observation), school readiness, and verbal ability. Results indicated that approaches to learning partially mediated the relationship between executive functions and school readiness, providing support for the study's main hypothesis. Results are discussed in the context of preparing at-risk preschool children for success in school. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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