Training Executive Functions to Improve Academic Achievement: Tackling Avenues to Far Transfer.

Published on May 24, 2021in Frontiers in Psychology
· DOI :10.3389/FPSYG.2021.624008
Catherine Gunzenhauser10
Estimated H-index: 10
(University of Freiburg),
Matthias Nückles22
Estimated H-index: 22
(University of Freiburg)
Sources
Abstract
The aim of training executive functioning (EF) is usually to improve the ability to attain real-life goals such as academic achievement, that is, far transfer. Although many EF trainings are successful in improving EF, far transfer is more difficult to achieve (cf. Diamond & Lee, 2011; Sala & Gobet, 2020). In this perspective article, we focus on the transfer of EF training to academic performance. First, we disentangle possible sources of transfer problems. We argue that EF can facilitate academic performance via two specific pathways, namely learning-related behavior and learning-related cognition, and we discuss how domain-specific factors (e.g., task-specific demands and prior knowledge) may influence the successful application of EF to learning in this domain. Second, we discuss how the school setting can be used to enhance EF training with approaches to facilitating far transfer to academic achievement. Specifically, we suggest that training EF as a means to improve academic performance is most promising in young students, for whom both behavioral and domain-specific cognitive demands of formal schooling are quite novel challenges. Furthermore, we outline that students could be supported in far transfer of trained EF by being informed of the specific relevance of these skills for learning-related behaviors and by having them practice EF under such authentic conditions. Moreover, we suggest that in order to promote ongoing effects of EF training beyond short-term interventions, teachers should be enabled to consider the specific EF components that might facilitate and support students’ acquisition of a particular subject matter.
References60
Newest
#1Kimberly Turner Nesbitt (UNH: University of New Hampshire)H-Index: 10
#2Dale C. Farran (Vandy: Vanderbilt University)H-Index: 26
Research demonstrates that children's participation in quality early childhood care and education often has immediate positive effects on their social-emotional, self-regulation, and achievement outcomes. Most of the research on the impacts of early child care and education has focused narrowly on the United States, but advocacy for economic and social investment in early childhood care and education to support future children's growth and well-being now exists on an international scale. The lon...
3 CitationsSource
#1Claire R. SmidH-Index: 1
#2Julia Karbach (University of Koblenz and Landau)H-Index: 24
Last. Nikolaus Steinbeis (UCL: University College London)H-Index: 3
view all 3 authors...
A long-standing question in the behavioral sciences is whether cognitive functions can be improved through dedicated training. It is uncontested that training programs can lead to near transfer, me...
10 CitationsSource
#1Verena E. Johann (University of Koblenz and Landau)H-Index: 4
#2Julia Karbach (University of Koblenz and Landau)H-Index: 24
: Several studies indicate that executive functions (EF), such as working memory (WM), inhibition or flexibility can be improved by training and that these training-related benefits in WM capacity generalize to reading and mathematical abilities. However, the results of these studies are inconsistent and most of them focused on WM training in children with learning difficulties. Evidence for typically developing children is rare and no study has investigated inhibition training or flexibility tr...
13 CitationsSource
#1Giovanni Sala (Fujita Health University)H-Index: 15
#2Fernand Gobet (LSE: London School of Economics and Political Science)H-Index: 58
Working memory (WM) training in typically developing (TD) children aims to enhance not only performance in memory tasks but also other domain-general cognitive skills, such as fluid intelligence. These benefits are then believed to positively affect academic achievement. Despite the numerous studies carried out, researchers still disagree over the real benefits of WM training. With this meta-analysis (m = 41, k = 393, N = 2,375), we intended to resolve the discrepancies by focusing on the potent...
13 CitationsSource
#1Nancy ScammaccaH-Index: 12
#2Anna-Mária FallH-Index: 16
Last. Elizabeth SwansonH-Index: 23
view all 5 authors...
Despite focused efforts, achievement gaps remain a problem in America’s education system, especially those between students from higher and lower income families. Continued work on reducing these gaps benefits from an understanding of students’ reading and math growth from typical school instruction and how growth differs based on initial proficiency, grade, and demographic characteristics. Data from 5,900 students in Grades 1–5 tested in math and reading at 6 points across 2 years were analyzed...
6 CitationsSource
#1Douglas H. Clements (DU: University of Denver)H-Index: 72
#2Julie Sarama (DU: University of Denver)H-Index: 38
Last. Lily Fesler (Stanford University)H-Index: 3
view all 5 authors...
8 CitationsSource
#1Peng Peng (University of Texas at Austin)H-Index: 14
#2Rogier A. Kievit (Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit)H-Index: 32
33 CitationsSource
#1Adele DiamondH-Index: 63
#2Daphne S. LingH-Index: 6
20 CitationsSource
#1Adele Diamond (UBC: University of British Columbia)H-Index: 63
#2Christopher M. Lee (UBC: University of British Columbia)H-Index: 23
Last. David Abbott (UBC: University of British Columbia)H-Index: 6
view all 5 authors...
The kindergarten program, Tools of the Mind (Tools), has been shown to improve executive functions (as assessed by laboratory measures) and academic performance. The objective here was to see if Tools can improve executive functions in the real world (in the classroom), academic outcomes not previously investigated, reduce bullying and peer ostracism, and increase teachers’ and students’ joy in being in the classroom. This first randomized controlled trial of Tools in Canada included 351 kinderg...
25 CitationsSource
#1Paul T. Cirino (UH: University of Houston)H-Index: 10
#2Jeremy Miciak (UH: University of Houston)H-Index: 15
Last. Elyssa H. Gerst (UH: University of Houston)H-Index: 5
view all 6 authors...
Executive function (EF) is related to reading. However, there is a lack of clarity around (a) the relative contribution of different components of EF to different reading components (word reading, fluency, comprehension), and (b) how EF operates in the context of known strong language predictors (e.g., components of the simple view of reading or SVR), and other skills theoretically related to reading (e.g., vocabulary, processing speed) and/or to EF (e.g., short-term memory, motor function). In ...
23 CitationsSource
Cited By0
Newest