The development of executive functioning at the transition from kindergarten to elementary school. The role of the home and school context and its importance for academic functioning.
Executive functioning (EF) refers to a set of cognitive functions used to control our behavior, cognition and emotions. It is a complex concept consisting of three core EFs, working memory, inhibition and cognitive flexibility, which are in itself multi-dimensional constructs that can be broken down into subcomponents. Well-developed EFs are essential for school functioning, especially at times of school transition (e.g., from kindergarten to elementary school), when higher demands are placed on children’s EFs. Unfortunately, studies examining EF-development and its importance for school functioning at the moment of this transition are limited and rarely distinguish (all) different EF-subcomponents. Moreover, although it is generally acknowledged that EF-development can be influenced, research on the importance of the environment, and especially the school context, is still scarce. As a consequence current knowledge is insufficiently refined to guide prevention and intervention of EF- and school difficulties. The current research project will investigate (1) the development of specific EF-subcomponents across the transition to elementary school, (2) the impact of school context factors (i.e., teacher-student interaction) on this development, and (3) the predictive nature of EF-subcomponents on school functioning after this transition. Methodologically, a longitudinal design is complemented with an experimental study to gain insights in long- and short term relationships and underlying mechanisms. Findings can nuance our existing insights on EF and increase understanding in underlying mechanisms.