Is self-regulation like a riding a bike?

A study finds that "unconstrained" skills like self-regulation, that develop over time, really last. The boost children get from preschool learning benefits them for years to come.

The challenge


What we heard from teachers and administration at after implementing Tools at

Is self-regulation like a riding a bike?


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The process

Committee search to choose the right curriculum

Selection of Tools of the Mind curriculum & professional development

Tools training and implementation for all relevant staff

Teaching and learning review and outcomes

Putting the spotlight on “unconstrained” skills

Although Tools has made it no secret how much we value self-regulation development, it isn’t the sort of thing research has traditionally paid much attention to when evaluating the benefits of early childhood education. Until now. A 2022 working paper by the Child Development & Social Policy Lab at Georgetown University found that the positive impacts of attending preschool can last into the elementary years, well beyond just kindergarten and first grade. And researchers found these lasting benefits hold particularly true for groups of skills they describe as "unconstrained." Unlike “finite” skills, like learning the alphabet (once you know it, the learning is done), unconstrained skills can continue to grow and develop over time. Study authors explain that these skills build an "increasingly strong foundation for more advanced learning."

A lasting boost

Researchers studied 3rd graders going to school in Tulsa. They looked at students who had attended preschool and compared them with their friends who hadn’t. They found that those who had early learning experiences in preschool benefitted from a lasting "boost" in several areas that predict academic success, including self-regulatory skills, like regulating attention, as well as cognitive skills, like being able to quickly evaluate relationships between numbers. 

The discovery of lasting self-regulation in these students who had attended preschool years before was made at an especially interesting time: student data was collected in the fall of 2021, after children had spent an entire year learning remotely. If these skills persisted even after that anomalous year, imagine the impact in more ordinary times.

Tools Takeaways

  • Previous research on benefits of PreK hasn’t focused on the “unconstrained” skills we know are important for student success, until now
  • Self-regulation skills that develop in PreK continue to benefit students years later

To read the paper, click here.