Working on toddler's memory can help in high school
Preschoolers working memory can forecast teenage dropout risk. Individual differences in executive function, play an important role in predicting later drop out risk. Executive functions contribute to academic success, engagement and to achieving goals.
Preschoolers who score lower on a working memory task are likely to score higher on a dropout risk scale at the age of 13, researchers at Université Sainte-Anne and the University of Montreal revealed.
"Dropout risk is calculated from student engagement in school, their grade point average, and whether or not they previously repeated a year in school. Previous research has confirmed that this scale can successfully identify which 12 year olds will fail to complete high school by the age of 21," explained Caroline Fitzpatrick, who led the study as first author. "The findings underscore the importance of early intervention," added Linda Pagani, co-senior author. "Parents are able to help their children develop strong working memory skills in the home and this can have a positive impact."
The study was conducted with 1,824 children whose development has been followed over a number of years through the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. The work is published in the journal Intelligence.
Working memory was measured using an imitation sorting task. Students indicated their academic performance, prior grade retention, and school engagement - answered questions such as "do you like school?" and "how important is it for you to get good marks?" Children also completed tests of verbal and non-verbal intelligence. Families were interviewed to ascertain socioeconomic status, a factor taken into account as data was analyzed.
The present results suggest that early individual differences in working memory may contribute to developmental risk for high school dropout.
The early detection of working memory problems in children is made through patterns of dysfunction in the classroom and at home.
Fitzpatrick explained: "A child with inadequate working memory might experience difficulty completing tasks in the face of distractions, following sequential instructions, and keeping track of time in order to finish their work in a timely fashion. Poor self-control more generally results in disorganized living spaces, such as their room, desk, or locker. Providing parents, teachers, and support staff with basic training on cognitive control and working memory - may be advantageous for at-risk children."
Parents can help their children develop strong working memory skills in the home.
"Preschoolers can engage in pretend play with other children to help them practice their working memory. This activity involves remembering their own roles and the roles of others. Encouraging mindfulness in children by helping them focus on their moment-to-moment experiences also has a positive effect on cognitive control and working memory."
Linda S. Pagani PhD, École de Psychoéducation, Université de Montréal, Canada
Pagani also noted that breathing exercises and guided meditation can be practiced with preschool and elementary school children.
In older children, vigorous aerobic activity such as soccer, basketball, and jumping rope have all been shown to have beneficial effects on concentration and working memory.
"Traditional martial arts that place an important focus on respect, self-discipline, and humility have been shown to help children, especially boys build strong cognitive control and working memory skills.
"Another promising strategy for improving working memory in children is to limit screen time - video games, smartphones, tablets, and television - which can undermine cognitive control and take time away from more enriching pursuits."
Caroline Fitzpatrick PhD, Université Sainte-Anne, Département de sciences humaines, Pointe-de-l'Église, Canada; also with the PERFORM Center, Concordia University, Canada
The researchers note that more research will be required before their conclusions can be generalized to all school children.
• Youth who fail to finish high school are unlikely to achieve their full potential.
• Identifying students showing precursor signs of dropout risk may benefit prevention.
• We trace high school dropout risk at age 13 to preschool working memory.
• Poorer working memory predicted risk of dropout independent of IQ and SES.
Prevention efforts may benefit from increased attention to working memory.
Individual differences in cognitive control contribute to academic success, engagement, and persistence toward long-term goal achievement. In a prior study, we found that preschool working memory, a component of cognitive control, predicts kindergarten academic competence and classroom engagement. In the present study, we assess whether preschool working memory contributes to high school dropout risk at age 13. Participants are 1824 children from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development who were individually assessed at ages 2.5 and 3.5 on working memory using the Imitation Sorting Task. Dropout risk, representing an index, comprised of grade retention history and concurrent school performance and engagement, was measured in spring of grade 7. We used logistic regression to estimate dropout risk from early childhood working memory while controlling for verbal and non-verbal IQ, socioeconomic status, and sex. A one point increase in children's working memory skills predicted a 26% reduction in the odds of being in the high risk group for dropout. Higher socioeconomic status and intellectual skills also predicted lower high school dropout risk. Individual differences in preschool working memory may contribute to early detection of later high school dropout risk. These results suggest the importance of further developing early effective interventions aimed at strengthening cognitive control in children.
About this study: First author Caroline Fitzpatrick is a professor of psychology at Université Sainte-Anne and a researcher at Concordia University's PERFORM Centre. Co-senior author Linda Pagani is a professor at the University of Montreal's School of Psychoeducation and a researcher at the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre. This research was conducted and supported by the Groupe de Recherche sur les Environnements Scolaires.
Caroline Fitzpatrick, Isabelle Archambault, Michel Janosz, and Linda Pagani, L.S. published "Early childhood working memory forecasts high school dropout risk" in Intelligence on October 30, 2015. DOI: 10.1016/j.intell.2015.10.002
The University of Montreal is officially known as Université de Montréal.
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Nov 17, 2015 Fetal Timeline Maternal Timeline News News Archive
Parents can help their children develop strong working memory skills in the home
through normal play as well as some well known, organized physical activities.
Image Credit: Public Domain