Are Approaches to Learning in Kindergarten Associated with Academic and Social Competence Similarly?
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Approaches to learning (ATL) is a key domain of school readiness with important implications for children’s academic trajectories. Interestingly, however, the impact of early ATL on children’s social competence has not been examined.
This study examines associations between children’s ATL at age 5 and academic achievement and social competence at age 9 within an at-risk sample. We tested whether ATL followed a compensatory growth model (was most helpful to those with the fewest skills) with respect to academics, and a cumulative advantage model (was most helpful to those with the most skills) with respect to socioemotional outcomes.
Participants (n = 669) were drawn from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a predominantly low-income, minority sample. Models regressing age 9 academic and social competence on age 5 ATL tested for moderation of ATL by age 5 levels of competence within each domain.
ATL was associated with both academic (i.e., reading and math achievement) and social (i.e., externalizing problems and social skills) competence. Interestingly, ATL was more advantageous with respect to externalizing problems for children with higher initial levels of competence (fewer problem behaviors), but more advantageous for academic competence for children with lower initial levels of competence.
Findings highlight the importance of early ATL for both academic and social success and support it as a critical intervention target. While ATL may help narrow the achievement gap for at-risk children, reducing the gap in externalizing problems may require targeted strategies for those with high early problem behavior.
KeywordsApproaches to learning Classroom behavior Academic achievement Social skills Problem behavior
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