CIES 2019 Presentation: An examination of executive function skills in primary 1 students from Liberia

Executive functions are a cognitive skill set that underlie our goal-directed, planning, and problem solving behavior, and include the components of working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility. EF skills undergo the majority of development during the pre-primary years of a child’s life and have been shown to contribute to academic success. However, most of our knowledge about children’s EF skills have been based on research with children living in high-income countries. This presentation reports on findings from the administration of an EF assessment with children from a West African country. Students entering Primary 1 grade for the first time from Kindergarten class were sampled. All students were administered four pre-literacy tasks and a set of questions measuring socio-economic status. Half of the sample also received EF touch games, including two training modules, two tasks measuring inhibitory control and 1 task measuring working memory. The presentation will focus on the findings of the use of EF Touch with this sample of children from a West African country. First, a brief description of the process of adapting and revising the tools for use in Liberia is reported. Second, a descriptive analysis is presented in order to describe the feasibility of using EF Touch with young children in this context. Third, children’s performance on the three tasks is summarized and correlations among the scores on the three tasks is reported and discussed. Fourth, a model exploring the unique contributions of simple reaction time and demographic characteristics is presented. Finally, the overall contribution to the field of early childhood assessment and executive function measurement in LMICs is discussed.