Executive functions (EFs) refer to a set of interrelated cognitive functions that control and guide behaviour, thoughts and emotions (Huizinga, Baeyens & Burack, 2018). Particularly working memory, as one of the core EFs, is a consistent, strong long term predictor for scholastic functioning and academic achievement (Vandenbroucke et al., 2017). Since many years researchers and professionals have tried to stimulate and remediate EF problems to help children evolve into competent, autonomous and mentally healthy individuals. Existing clinical interventions targeted at direct training of EF have not led to long-term, durable effects, and have not shown transfer of the trained skills to everyday life (Diamond, 2013). Recent EF programs have started to intervene in settings where the cognitive functions are most intensively used, such as the classroom context, and to focus on elements of the teacher-student interactions (TSI) in which EF development could thrive more strongly (Diamond, 2013; Diamond & Ling, 2016). This new generation of context-focused EF programs have been developed primarily by expert judgment, without full theoretical understanding or empirical evidence of which of the many different TSI strategies contribute to the program effects. In a series of observational, experimental and interventional studies we set out to determine the TSI strategies (at the dyadic and classroom level) that are efficacious in promoting EF performance and development. At the LEARN! seminar we will give an overview of our study outcomes to reflect on the causality and universality of the effect of TSI on EF development (with a main focus on working memory development).
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