Shelbie Nicole Weightman



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From a young age, executive functioning begins to develop in children. Executive functions are a group of cognitive processes that are important for processing speed, working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility. These skills typically begin to develop drastically around the time children are entering the preschool years. However, research has shown that poverty can negatively impact the development of executive functioning due to the lack of resources available. There is evidence that chronic exposure to poverty and chronic exposure to certain psychological stressors related to poverty can predict children’s executive functioning at four years-old (Raver, Blair, & Willoughby, 2013). On average, children who are poor have much lower starting points and cognitive growth slopes later on throughout childhood (Raffington, Prindle, & Shing, 2018). I am interested in strategies that can combat this issue and reduce the gap in executive functioning skills between children from different family incomes. A high-quality, teacher-child interaction involving classroom organization and emotional support has been shown to have a great impact (Choi, Castle, Williamson, Young,Worley, Long, & Horm, 2016). Along with this, incorporating mindfulness-based prosocial skills curriculum into the early ages of education has also shown to help close the gap in executive functioning, as well as social-emotional development (Flook, Goldberg, Pinger, & Davidson, 2014). In both of these strategies, the children from low-income backgrounds had the largest gains. We will investigate the correlations between higher quality elements of the classroom environment and preschoolers’ growth in executive functioning skills. Data will come from a large-scale longitudinal study of preschool school readiness skills development.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Independent Research

Primary Advisor

Mary Fuhs

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project

Impact of Classroom Quality and Preschool Experiences on Executive Functioning