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Study of Executive Functions in Senior Preschool Age - Aleksander Veraksa

This study examines executive functions in senior preschoolers, including working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibition, and their impact on academic success, social interactions, and future achievements. The study also explores the connection between executive functions, math skills, and theory of mind in preschoolers.

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Study of Executive Functions in Senior Preschool Age - Aleksander Veraksa

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  1. The study of executive functions at senior preschool age Aleksander Veraksa Doctor of Psychology, Professor Head, Chair of Psychology of Education and Pedagogy Faculty of Psychology,Lomonosov Moscow State University, Corresponding Member, Russian Academy of Education

  2. Cultural-Historical Theory Mental functions higher (cultural) lower (natural) system voluntary involuntary conscious Lev Vygotsky (1896 – 1934) unconscious mediated

  3. Executive Functions Development: Educational Programs

  4. Executive functions: • 3 main components: • Working memory (visual and auditory) – the ability to hold the information and use it. • Cognitive flexibility or switchingis connected to the ability to transfer from one rule (or task) to another. • Inhibition – the ability to suppress the distracting or unimportant information or reaction.

  5. EF as the predictor of child’s further successes (Moffit et al., 2002): • Successful adaptation to schooling; • Academic success: mathematics, verbal development, reading; • Social success: peer and teacher-student interactions; • Absence of various addictions; • Further career, SES;

  6. EF diagnostics methods

  7. NEPSY-IIdiagnostic complex (Korkman, Kirk, Kemp, 2007) NEuroPSYchological(based on cultural-historical theory)

  8. Cognitive flexibility diagnostics: • «Dimensional Change Card Sort» method (DCCS), (Zelazo, Frye, Palfai, 1995): • Age: 3-9 yrs.; • The method is aimed at measuring child’s capability of regulating its behavior according to complex rules. This allows to evaluate the level of cognitive flexibility development in senior preschoolers’ thinking processes. • 3 - 4 yrs. – switching between tasks 1 and 2 (sorting by shape and color); • 5 - 7 yrs. – children do well at tasks 1 and 2. Level of succeeding in task 3 is evaluated (pass is 9 points and more).

  9. DCCS method • Sorting by color (6cards) • Sorting by shape (6cards) • Sorting with borders (12cards): “If you see a card with black borders, you will have to play the color game. If you see a card with no black border, then you will have to play the shape game”.

  10. The study of connection between EF and Math skills among preschoolers

  11. Math skills diagnostics: • The study of understanding number’s symbolic structure: • Writing double-digits (and three-digits); • Naming double-digits (and three-digits); • Numbers identification (choosing 1 out of 2); • Oral counting (to 100, counting backwards) • The study of understanding amount (number pairs comparison) • The study of understanding number’s consistency (block toys).

  12. The studying of understanding number’s symbolic structure: Writing the Numbers down task. Materials: child’s booklet, a pencil, the protocol. Instructions: “Now we’ll play a game where I will name numbers and you will write them down in this little book”. At each test adult said: “Please, write down a number here” (pointing at the booklet page).

  13. The studying of understanding number’s symbolic structure: Naming (reading) the numbers task: Materials: booklet with numbers, the protocol. Instructions: “Now we’ll play a different game. I will ask you to read the numbers I’ve written in this small book”. At each test adult said “What number is this?” (pointing at booklet’s page). Number identification (choice) task: Materials: booklet with number pairs on each page, the protocol. Instructions: “Now I’ll ask you to find some numbers”. At each test the experimenter said “Show me this number” (ex., 54).

  14. Numbers comparison: Task example: Point at numbers 1 and 7. Say “Look an these numbers (circle the appropriate border with finger). We see numbers 1 and 7. Which one is bigger?” After the child says “7”, say “You need to cross out the bigger number, so let’s do it (draw a line across number 7). Repeat the procedure (the child names the bigger number, experimenter crosses it out) with two other tasks for example.

  15. The study of number’s consistency:Children were asked to make these numbers out of blocks: 28,16, 51, 34,110, 325, 132, 216

  16. Subjects: • 173 children from senior kindergarten groups (Moscow) • 87 girlsand 86 boys, 5-6 years old

  17. Selected groups:

  18. Success of learning the symbolic constituent:

  19. Counting (to 100):

  20. Understanding number’s consistency:

  21. The study of the connection between EF and Theory of Mind among preschoolers

  22. Sample: • 267 5-6-year-old children from senior Moscow kindergarten (М=5,6 yrs.). • 143 (53%) boysand 124 (47%) girls.

  23. Methodology and methods • Theory of mind diagnostics methods: • «Theory of Mind»(NEPSY-II)is aimed at diagnostics of such components as: the ability to understand speech patterns, intentions, thoughts and feelings, the ability to distinguish real and imaginary reality plans and understanding false beliefs. • Test of Emotional Comprehension (TEC) (Pons, Harris) is aimed at the study of children’s abilities to understand other people’s emotions in various situations.

  24. Conclusion: Analysis showed significant connections between results for executive function and theory of mind. “Theory of mind” is related to DCCS results. Those children, who succeeded at TEC more, made less mistakes at inhibition tests, which means there is a link between understanding other people’s feelings and EF in preschool.

  25. The connection between EF and play in preschool

  26. Research aims, subjects: • Subjects:56 5-6-year-old kids from three Moscow kindergartens (senior group). 29 boys (51,8%) and 27 girls (48,2%). • Subject matter was formed in the playroom and then free play in this room was suggested. • The aim was to reveal children’s ability of playing independently, being free from adults’ suggestions or images represented in toys. Another aim was to reveal the connection between this ability and executive functions development.

  27. The procedure of play study: • Children were given “open” materials, such as: cloths of different patterns, cloth cushions, pins, ropes, ribbons, rubbers, little logs, wooden rings cones, cardboards etc. • 2-4 children were invited into the room where an adult invited them to play while the adult will be preoccupied with their business. The adult was to help, if needed. After this the experimenter demonstrated preoccupation (writing). • Monitoring duration: 40 min average.

  28. Play evaluation criterion: Play substitutions: • 1) Object substitution — usage of some objects instead of others. Usage of imaginary objects. • 2) Positionalsubstitution is replacing Me with another position. Positional setting in the game (real, role-play, directory). • 3) Space substitutionis creation and sense differentiation of game space. • In-game interaction: • 1) Game organization interaction — suggestions and responses, discussions, cooperative game planning. • 2) In-game interaction – a role-play dialog, cooperative actions and interaction specified by plot or role.

  29. Play evaluation criterion: • Play idea: • 1) Idea level is what a child articulates as play content (separate object substitution, partner interaction, story); • 2) Details of idea that represent how fully a child is presenting the story. • 3) Idea embodiment is how precisely the idea is embodied. The ratio of said (verbal summary) and done in reality. • 4) Play idea stabilityis the indicator of emotional significance.

  30. Research results: • Object substitution level(subtest «Sentence Repetition»: r=0,350, р=0,009) is connected to verbal memory. • Link between cognitive flexibility indicator (“Inhibition” method) and idea detailing was revealed. In other words, the ability to detail a game idea is connected to high levels of cognitive self-regulation and cognitive flexibility. • The results of the implementation of «Test of Emotional Comprehension» are associated with: • level of child interaction inside the game (r=0,377, p=0,005), which is based on the assessment of contact between children • The evaluation of the idea level has a negative correlation with the level of anxiety (r= -0.334, p=0.013). This result shows that high anxiety reduces creative activity in the game and slows the process of generating the game plan.

  31. Conclusion: • The ability to compose a story correlates to many play indicators connected to internal action plan development and creative thinking when it comes to overcoming situational influence and handling and developing ideas. • It is interesting that the most important story factor, which is role acceptance (positional substitution), turned out to be connected to none of the development indicators. • Unlike that, play idea indicators (idea level, details and stability) do relate to EF results.

  32. Quality of Environment andExecutive Functions

  33. Assessment of the quality of the educational environment: The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scales (ECERS-R) (Harms, Clifford, Cryer, 1998): One of the most reliable and valid tools for assessing the quality of preschool education in the world is widely used in cross-cultural research; The most widely circulated in Russia and tested in Moscow (Remorenko et al, 2017) and evaluation of the quality of education in 73 subjects of the Russian Federation; Evaluates the structural and process quality;

  34. Sample: 259 pupils from 15 senior groups of kindergartens of Moscow and Kazan. Of these, 54% (140) are boys and 46% (119) are girls.

  35. Cluster analysis results:

  36. Differences in the development of the EF Children in groups with high quality environment Children in groups with low quality environment Have a more developedinhibition (they spend less time in Naming: 42,8 and 49,9 sec; and Inhibition tasks:58,3 and 65,3 sec); Have a better cognitive flexibility (DCCS task); Have a more developed visual working memory: better remember the details of the image (content score: 38,5 and 26,3) and gain more bonus scores (19,3 and 12,9);

  37. Significant correlations: • Scale «Language and Reasoning»: • + visual working memory • + self-control (number of mistakes in the Inhibitiontest) • Scale «Interaction»: • + self-regulation (number of mistakes and time in Naming task) • + verbal working memory

  38. Thank you! E-mail: veraksa@yandex.ru

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