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Improving skills development in childhood

A large and growing body of research demonstrates that cognitive skills, as well as social and emotional skills, are important for living socially and economically successful lives. However, learning such skills is a complex, dynamic and multifaceted process. Recently, NSF-funded researchers developed a model that shows development of these critical skills benefits from childhood and school interventions. The model also identifies the optimal timing of these interventions.

Based on the model, the researchers discovered that efforts to improve cognitive skills are most effective early in children's lives and have long-lasting benefits, while investments in children's social and emotional skills are effective in both early and later stages of development. The research has important implications for policies aimed at supporting disadvantaged children, as the timing of interventions may impact their effectiveness.

When trying to measure learning and skills, researchers face a number of issues. Surveys and tests, for example, do not provide accurate measures of the parental environment or a child's skills, and previously learned skills have a profound impact on further learning. This research simultaneously accounted for a number of different aspects of the learning process.

This work received the 2014 Frisch Medal from the Econometric Society.

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  • improving cognitive skills early in children's lives can have long-lasting benefits
Improving cognitive skills early in children's lives can have long-lasting benefits.
David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net

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