Technical Appendix


Self-regulatory skills can be defined as the ability of children to manage their own behaviour and aspects of their learning. They are related to meta-cognitive skills and knowledge and are sometimes referred to as executive function. In the early years, relevant activities usually involve supporting children to develop strategies to manage their own behaviour, particularly in relation to their learning, such as by planning what they are going to do, then reviewing their performance as well as exploring different ways they can try to be successful, so as to develop their learning strategies. For younger children the focus is often on managing impulsiveness and their behaviour towards other children.

Search Terms: learning strategies; self-regulatory strategies; self-regulatory skills; meta-cognition; meta-cognitive skills; executive function.

Evidence Rating

The evidence in the early years is currently limited. There is one meta-analysis with a subgroup analysis (containing only 9 studies) of Kindergarten pupils. Intervention studies tend to be small-scale and weak on causal inference. Although there is research investigating the relationship between self-regulation strategies and learning, the experimental evidence does not provide a clear picture about which elements or activities improve children’s learning. By contrast the evidence about older children is much stronger. Overall, self-regulatory approaches are a promising area to support very young learners, but in need of more rigorous research.

Additional Cost Information

Costs are estimated as very low. There are few, if any, direct financial costs associated with this approach. However, high-quality professional development is likely to enhance the benefits on learning. Additional resources such as books or other resources such as puppets for discussion may also be required. Approaches to support individual children will be more expensive, particularly if expert professional support is used, such as from an education psychologist.


Aubrey, C., Ghent, K. & Kanira, E.
Enhancing thinking skills in early childhood open_in_new
International Journal of Early Years Education, 20:4, 332-348
Barnett, W. S., Jung, K., Yarosz, D. J., Thomas, J., Hornbeck, A., Stechuk, R., & Burns, S.
Educational effects of the Tools of the Mind curriculum: A randomized trial open_in_new
Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23(3), 299-313
Bierman, K. L., Nix, R. L., Greenberg, M. T., Blair, C., & Domitrovich, C. E.
Executive functions and school readiness intervention: Impact, moderation, and mediation in the Head Start REDI program open_in_new
Development and Psychopathology, 20(03), 821-843
Flook, L., Goldberg, S. B., Pinger, L., & Davidson, R. J.
Promoting prosocial behavior and self-regulatory skills in preschool children through a mindfulness-based kindness curriculum open_in_new
Developmental Psychology, 51(1), 44
Hong, S. Y., & Diamond, K. E.
Two approaches to teaching young children science concepts, vocabulary, and scientific problem-solving skills open_in_new
Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27(2), 295-305
Klauer, K. J., & Phye, G. D. (Abstract arrow_downward)
Inductive reasoning: A training approach open_in_new
Review of Educational Research, 78(1), 85-123
Miech, R., Essex, M. J., & Goldsmith, H. H.
Socioeconomic status and the adjustment to school: The role of self-regulation during early childhood open_in_new
Sociology of Education, 102-120
Taggart, G., Ridley, K., Rudd, P., & Benefield, P.
Thinking skills in the early years: a literature review open_in_new
Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research
Whitebread, D., Bingham, S., Grau, V., Pino Pasternak, D., & Sangster, C.
Development of metacognition and self-regulated learning in young children: Role of collaborative and peer-assisted learning open_in_new
Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 6(3), 433-455

Summary of effects

Meta-analyses Effect size FSM effect size
Klauer, K. J., & Phye, G. D., (2008)
0.47 - Inductive reasoning
Single Studies Effect size FSM effect size
Barnett, W. S., Jung, K., Yarosz, D. J., Thomas, J., Hornbeck, A., Stechuk, R., & Burns, S. (2008)
0.11 - Vocabulary
Bierman, K. L., Nix, R. L., Greenberg, M. T., Blair, C., & Domitrovich, C. E. (2008)
0.24 - Executive function
Blair, C., & Raver, C. C. (2014)
0.13 - Self-regulation
Flook, L., Goldberg, S. B., Pinger, L., & Davidson, R. J. (2015)
0.54 - Executive function
Ford, R. M., McDougall, S. J., & Evans, D. (2009)
0.64 -
Hong, S. Y., & Diamond, K. E. (2012)
0.55 - Science concepts
Effect size (median) 0.43  

The right hand column provides detail on the specific outcome measures or, if in brackets, details of the intervention or control group.

Meta-analyses abstracts

Klauer, K. J., & Phye, G. D. (2008)

Researchers have examined inductive reasoning to identify different cognitive processes when participants deal with inductive problems. This article presents a prescriptive theory of inductive reasoning that identifies cognitive processing using a procedural strategy for making comparisons. It is hypothesized that training in the use of the procedural inductive reasoning strategy will improve cognitive functioning in terms of (a) increased fluid intelligence performance and (b) better academic learning of classroom subject matter. The review and meta-analysis summarizes the results of 74 training experiments with nearly 3,600 children. Both hypotheses are confirmed. Further, two moderating effects were observed: Training effects on intelligence test performance increased over time, and positive problem solving transfer to academic learning is greater than transfer to intelligence test performance. The results cannot be explained by placebo or test-coaching effects. It is concluded that the proposed strategy is theoretically and educationally promising and that children of a broad age range and intellectual capacity benefit with such training.