An Observational Analysis of Executive Performance in School Children
Background. Today’s research on human executive functioning (EF) demonstrates a deepening understanding of this psychological concept as a mental process, as it has been assessed in testing contexts. But little effort has been made to approach the executive function from an ecological viewpoint, one which allows its study in the context of real life, and treats this function as simultaneously mental and behavioral.
Objective and Design. The purpose of the present research was to explore how 37 Colombian children, aged four, six, and eight years old, with typical psychological development, used their executive functions in a daily context, such as school classes.
Results. Observational analysis revealed that only 40% of the participants could control and regulate their behavior to achieve class goals. In the few cases where executive regulation was observed, socio-economic status and executive performance marked the behavioral patterns used by children to control and regulate their tasks in class.
Conclusion. Participants in this study showed that, independent of their EF performance level, their ability to use EF to control and regulate a daily activity, such as their behavior in class, depends on their ability to understand the advantages of acting executively. Most importantly, this skill differs among children by variables such as socio-economic status.
Themes: Educational psychology
Keywords: executive function (EF), children, observational analysis, cognition, socio-economic status (SES)