Because Tools is a research-based program, we seek to partner with research institutions to continue building the academic knowledge base regarding the effects of self-regulation on student outcomes and how best to support its development in children.
Here are summaries of three published studies showing the effectiveness of Tools of the Mind in preschool and kindergarten settings:
Barnett, W. S., Jung, K., Yarosz, D. J., Thomas, J., Hornbeck, A., Stechuk, R., & Burns, S. (2008). Educational effects of the Tools of the Mind curriculum: A randomized trial. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23(3), 299-313. In a double-randomized design study of preschool (conducted by the NIEER, National Institute for Early Education Research), Tools was compared to a control group using a high-quality ECE program with no emphasis on self-regulation. Children in Tools were found to have higher rates of self-regulation. In addition to student gains, teachers trained in Tools scored higher in classroom management measures, used classroom time more productively, and had a higher rate of appropriate and cognitively challenging interactions, as measured by the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale and the CLASS.
Diamond, A., Barnett, W. S., Thomas, J., & Munro, S. (2007). Preschool program improves cognitive control. Science, 318, 1387-1388. A follow-up quasi-experimental study, using classrooms from the NIEER study, compared the self-regulation/executive levels of children in Tools preschool classrooms with a group of matched controls who did not attend Tools, and found higher levels of executive function/self-regulation, as measured on neurocognitive tests (University of British Columbia Medical School). Student levels of self-regulation were correlated with achievement levels on standardized tests (Woodcock Johnson, Peabody Picture Vocabulary test).
Bodrova, E., & Leong, D. J. (2001). Tools of the Mind: A case study of implementing the Vygotskian approach in American early childhood and primary classrooms. (UNESCO Innodata Monographs: Educational Innovations in Action No. 7) Geneva, Switzerland: International Bureau of Education, UNESCO. Two quasi-experimental studies of preschool and kindergarten children found that those in Tools classrooms outperformed those in non-Tools classrooms in literacy skills. Both preschool and kindergarten children in Tools classrooms had higher levels of sound-to-symbol correspondence and better letter recognition. In addition, kindergarten children had better voice-to-print match and were able to write more words outside of a controlled vocabulary taught in a textbook series, and had more accurate spelling and better phonemic encoding of words.
Another study that has been recently published describes a different facet of the Tools of the Mind program that will hopefully receive more attention in future research: the effects on teachers, their instructional beliefs and classroom pedagogy, as well as the implementation mechanisms that ensure the success of the program.
Imholz, S. & Petrosino, A. (2012). Teacher observations on the implementation of the Tools of the Mind curriculum in the classroom: Analysis of interviews conducted over a one-year period. Creative Education, 3,185-192. A series of structured interviews were conducted with the teachers participating in Tools of the Mind professional development. The analysis of these interviews identified common themes, including challenges teachers face while implementing the program and the effectiveness of the program in supporting children’s cognitive and social skills. Overall, teachers reported positive effects of Tools on their students’ self-regulation, verbalization skills, and communication, along with a decrease in the number of behavior incidents. At the same time, teachers indicated the need for some changes in administrative practices to support their own professional development and to further improve the impact of Tools.
Over past several years, Tools of the Mind has become involved in a number of studies in the U.S., Canada, and Chile, using different research designs and focusing on different outcomes. These studies are currently at different stages of the process of collecting and analyzing data; we will be posting results as they become available.
In addition to experimental and quasi-experimental studies conducted by our research partners, the Tools team collects its own data from various sources, including district-wide evaluations, schools’ and districts’ historical data analyses, teacher action research, and microgenetic studies of children’s learning of specific skills and concepts in a classroom context.