We are currently conducting an exciting new research project that is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). In collaboration with local elementary schools, we are exploring the role of schooling on children’s ability to regulate their behavior, and how this relates to their academic success. In doing so, we are taking a three-pronged approach to gain a better understanding of these important skills by looking at: children’s behavior and academic achievement, brain-based games that examine these skills from a neurological level, and classroom-level analyses to determine what teachers are doing to foster these important skills.
The behavioral and academic portion of the project consists of fun games and child-friendly assessments that were created to give a detailed understanding of individual abilities as they relate to different areas of mathematics, reading, as well as controlling behavior when alone, and in a group setting. In addition to the other measures in the study, these assessments help us better understand the link between brain, behavior, and what teachers are doing to create successful students in the classroom and in life.
The brain-based component of the study is completely non-invasive and helps us understand what is going on “under the hood” when children are participating in games that are intended to measure their behavioral and academic skills. More specifically, we are interested in what is going on in the brain when children make errors, as one’s response to making an error is an important part of recovering from making that error and learning from the error, as well. There are two event-related potentials (or ERPs) that occur in the brain following an incorrect response that are have been previously linked to behavior and academic success: the Error Negativity (ERN) and Error Positivity (Pe). If you are interested in learning more about these specific kinds of brain signals, you can do so here.
The final component of the project takes place at the classroom level. By conducting observations of what is happening in the child’s classroom, we will develop a more nuanced perspective of what teachers are doing to foster skills that lead to successful behavior, and academic achievement. From transitions to math and literacy instruction, the classroom-level analyses are a fantastic way to tie the behavioral and brain-based measures to what teachers are doing, and can do to best facilitate regulation of behavior and academic success in young children. By looking at all of these domains together, we hope to paint a complete picture of what influences a student’s ability to succeed in school and in life.