Measuring Executive Function Skills in Young Children in Kenya

Interest inmeasuring executive function skills in young children in lowand middle-income country contexts has been stymied by the lack of assessments that are both easy to deploy and scalable. This study reports on an initial effort to develop a tablet-based battery of executive function tasks, which were designed and extensively studied in the United States, for use in Kenya. Participants were 193 children, aged 3–6 years old, who attended early childhood development and education centers. The rates of individual task completion were high (65–100%), and 85% of children completed three or more tasks. Assessors indicated that 90% of all task administrations were of acceptable quality. An executive function composite score was approximately normally distributed, despite higher-than-expected floor and ceiling effects on inhibitory control tasks. Children’s simple reaction time (β = –0.20, p = .004), attention-related behaviors during testing (β = 0.24, p = .0005), and age (β = –0.24, p = .0009) were all uniquely related to performance on the executive function composite. Results are discussed as they inform efforts to develop valid and reliable measures of executive function skills among young children in developing country contexts.

Introducing EF Touch (Presentation)

Executive Function (EF) refers to a range of cognitive skills that are key to problem solving and a child's ability to “learn how to learn.” These skills experience an important growth period during early childhood; thus, between 2005 and 2010, researches at the University of North Carolina designed a battery of tools to measure these skills in pre-school aged children known as EF Touch. In 2016, RTI International – a research institute dedicated to evidence-based approaches to education policy and practice - identified EF Touch as a unique opportunity to integrate early childhood EF measurement in its battery of existing international education assessment tools. EF Touch was originally developed by UNC in note card format; then adapted to a paper and pencil format; and later transitioned to laptop and touch-screen monitor “station” requiring two assessors and an expensive third party scoring software. Although the laptop mediated approach was an improvement on paper-based administration, it was still clear that this model was not sustainable, portable, or cost effective for large deployment in the low and middle income (LMIC) contexts where RTI most often works – and where very little research on EFs in young children has been thus far conducted). Therefore, RTI sought to adapt Tangerine® - an open source software designed by RTI for low cost, large-scale, offline assessment – for use in the administration of EF Touch. More than 60 organizations worldwide have used Tangerine on tablets to conduct 1,500,000+ surveys in 70 countries and 100 languages. To accommodate the specific requirements of EF Touch, the Tangerine platform needed extensive modification to accommodate the specific needs of EF touch, including new A/V capabilities, unique millisecond time-stamps indicating reaction time, plus the development of complex skip logic commands tailored to individual performance. The resulting Tangerine-mediated battery of EF Touch tasks were designed to remain scientifically rigorous while significantly reducing costs (one assessor, one tablet); increasing scalability in developing country contexts (offline assessment); and reducing the burden of complicated data entry (data uploaded directly to the server). This presentation provides an overview of EF touch, including the adaptation process to Tangerine and recent results from two field deployments in Kenya. The attached presentation does not contain video files to due the attachment size. The full presentation with videos of task demonstrations can be found via the included google drive link.