Effects of Teacher Training on the Executive Skill Development of Pre-school Children

Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP

First Advisor

George McCloskey, PhD

Second Advisor

Kate Tresco, PhD

Third Advisor

Celeste Ward, JD


Executive functions (EFs) are higher-order human cognitive abilities that govern an individual’s ability control and direct his or her own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Research suggests that EFs are critical to numerous outcomes across the lifespan. Research indicates that executive capacities are not static; they develop from early life into middle adulthood, with the fastest period of growth occurring during the 0-5 age range. Early EF development typically predicts the EF outcomes observed later in life. Research suggests that EFs can be improved and strengthened, with the most opportune time being during the early years. Although some early education curricula have been designed with the purpose of strengthening EFs, little research has been done to determine the extent to which teacher knowledge and understanding of EFs helps to increase the EF capabilities of pre-school children. The current study examined the relationship between teacher knowledge of EFs and teacher ratings of the behavior of preschool children. The difference in pre- and post-program behavior ratings provided by teachers in the EF knowledge program group were compared with the pre- and post-ratings provided by teachers in the control group. The teachers of both groups utilized the HighScope curriculum; only the teachers in the EF knowledge program group participated in a professional learning community program that discussed the importance of executive function development for success in school. Analyses of the comparison of the differences in the pre- and post-program ratings provided by the teachers in the program group and the teachers in the control group indicated no significant differences. Limitations and future directions were discussed.

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