Trialling an executive function training intervention for preschoolers

Research has shown that executive functioning skills – such as being able to pay attention, inhibit impulsive behaviours and keep relevant information in mind – are important for effective learning.

There is also evidence that school-age children's executive functions can be improved through cognitive training, and that cognitive training can be particularly effective for children with poor initial skills.

This study focuses on typically developing pre-school children from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. It will test whether a short executive function training programme gives lasting benefits on a range of academic outcomes. It will also explore whether the effects of the intervention are greater for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The intervention involves children completing four computerised tasks, once a week for four weeks. The intervention will be evaluated via a randomised controlled trial, comparing children who take part in the executive functioning training programme with an active control group.

The project aims to help close the achievement gap by targeting strong predictors of academic outcomes at an early age when children might benefit most from training.

Project details



Dr Daniel Carroll and Dr Danielle Matthews, University of Sheffield

Dr Lucy Cragg, University of Nottingham

Dr Emma Blakey, University of Cardiff

Grant amount and duration:


February 2017 - April 2019