Welcome to our newest blog series dedicated to the research we're reading and thinking about.
Remember the old Lay's Potato Chip advertising campaign, "Bet you can't eat just one?" Whether we’re talking about potato chips, staying on task at work, or working towards a goal, self-regulation is essential—and challenging! But what about for kindergartners? What’s the value of self-regulation when it comes to the major transition into elementary school? That’s one of the questions that a group of researchers posed in a 2009 Developmental Psychology paper.
Using a group of 172 kindergarteners from rural, lower-income areas, researchers examined the extent to which baseline self-regulation skills related to students’ self-control, positive work habits, and engagement. They also looked at the relationship between classroom quality (in this case, CLASS scores) and these outcomes. In the fall, researchers gathered data on students’ incoming self-regulation skills. Then, over the school year, they conducted CLASS observations, rated engagement, and asked teachers to rate students’ adaptive classroom behaviors; things like staying on task during challenging activities, taking turns speaking, (not) getting into fights, and working toward goals.
If you’ve worked with young kids, you won’t be surprised to learn the first result. Children with greater self-regulation when they entered kindergarten were rated higher by their teachers on behavioral self-control and work habits at the end of the school year. Basically, incoming self-management leads to even more self-management, even in an unfamiliar situation. What’s more, children who had enrolled in preschool the previous year outscored their new-to-school peers in all five areas of adaptive classroom behaviors measured by researchers (behavioral self-control, cognitive self-control, positive work habits, time off task, and engagement in learning).
Classroom quality also predicted these outcomes. Better classroom management (i.e., Behavior Management, Productivity, and Instructional Learning Formats) was related to substantially more engagement in learning, less time off task, and higher behavioral self-control. For example, a one-point increase in classroom management linked to 21.76 fewer seconds off-task (in a 10-minute observation window). That’s like getting an additional 4% of your learning day! The benefits of a well-managed classroom were similar for all children in a classroom, regardless of their incoming self-regulation skills.
This study tells an important story. First, the self-regulation skills children bring with them to kindergarten are pretty important for their social-emotional adjustment into the elementary school setting—skills beget skills. Second, regardless of students’ incoming self-regulation ability, kindergarten teachers can make a difference in developing adaptive classroom behaviors by using varied learning strategies, increasing productivity, and being proactive with behavior management. So, it may pay off to help young children learn how to “have just one!”
Citation: Rimm-Kaufman, S.E., Curby, T. W., Grimm, K.J., Nathanson, L., & Brock, L.L. (2009). The contribution of children's self-regulation and classroom quality to children's adaptive behaviors in the kindergarten classroom. Developmental Psychology, 45 (4), 958-972.
We’ve been talking about the achievement gap for an awfully long time. We’re all familiar with the term; it’s the disparity in academic achievement between different groups of students. We tend to hear about in relation to white students and students of color, but it can also be used to describe the difference between low-income students and their more advantaged peers.
The statistics around exclusionary discipline practices, like suspension or expulsion, are grim. Kids who get kicked out, especially repeatedly, are often already behind academically, become less engaged in school, and are monumentally more likely to drop out of high school. And while exclusionary discipline affects all students, it’s essential to keep in mind that children of color are suspended and expelled at rates disproportionate to their white peers.
We’ve written before about the discipline disparities between children of color and their white peers. (Since that post was published last year, the Department of Education has released updated - but not improved - statistics on the topic.) But discipline is not the only school arena where children from different backgrounds have different experiences. There’s also evidence that racial bias affects teachers’ academic and behavioral expectations, even in early childhood.
One of my biggest takeaways from the childcare calculator we talked about recently was how much it would cost to increase early childhood educators’ wages. It wasn’t shocking—if you’re looking to get some laughs, ask any teacher you know if they’re in education to make big money—but it was a disappointing reminder of just how little we pay those who are shaping our future. The recently-released 2018 Early Childhood Workforce Index gives us some specifics around compensation in early childhood education and care.