Recent data show shy children who participated in a temperament-based intervention had greater increases in critical thinking and math compared with their shy peers who did not receive the intervention.
Researchers randomly assigned 345 children and their parents and 122 teachers from 22 low-income, urban elementary schools to participate in INSIGHTS, a temperament-based intervention that uses theory, research and clinical strategies to support children’s academic learning, or a 10-week after-school reading program, which served as the control. Eleven schools were randomly assigned to participate in INSIGHTS. Study participants were aged 4 to 7 years at baseline. Data were collected 10 weeks before intervention in the winter of kindergarten year, in the late spring of kindergarten year after intervention, and in the fall of first grade.
The INSIGHTS program teaches caregivers to recognize a child’s temperament based on four typologies: industrious, high maintenance, social and eager, or shy. The program encourages caregivers to reframe their perceptions more positively and use strategies that match their child’s particular temperament.
Children in the INSIGHTS group and the control group improved in math, language arts and critical thinking skills during kindergarten. Shy children had smaller academic improvements compared with their less shy peers. Shy children had lower scores on teacher reports of critical thinking, language arts and math skills compared with less shy children.
Shy children in the INSIGHTS group had statistically higher growth in critical thinking skills compared with shy children in the control group, whose critical thinking skills declined. Shy children in the control group experienced a decrease in math skills as well, whereas math skills among shy children in the INSIGHTS group remained stable.
Improvements in language arts skills among shy children were not attributed to INSIGHTS, possibly due to the nature of the control group’s intervention, according to researchers.
Shy children in the INSIGHTS group had greater increases in behavioral engagement compared with children who were not shy. This improvement was associated with better math and critical thinking skills among shy children in the INSIGHTS group compared with children in the control group.
“Our findings indicate that changes in behavioral engagement are an important mechanism through which preventative interventions can influence their academic development. Moreover, the results presented here demonstrate that a preventative intervention focusing on enhancing teachers’ awareness of and responsiveness to child temperament may be particularly helpful for children with shy temperaments,” the researchers concluded.
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