The contribution of executive function to inference making for struggling comprehenders

The contribution of executive function to inference making for struggling comprehenders

First Author: Britta Bresina -- University of Minnesota
Additional authors/chairs: 
Reese Butterfuss; Kyle Wagner; Jasmine Kim; Kristen McMaster; Panayiota Kendeou
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose. We examined the relation between executive function and inference making in first graders, while controlling for overall language comprehension.

Method. 41 first graders were administered the Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS, Carlson & Zelazo, 2014), the TeLCI Assessment (two fiction modules), and the Understanding Spoken Paragraphs subtest of CELF-5 (Wiig, Semel, & Secord, 2003). Executive function (EF) standardized scores reflect students’ ability to maintain task goals, update task criteria, resist distraction, and flexibly shift attention in the context of MEFS’ sorting task. The TeLCI Assessment is comprised of 16 items divided between two interactive video modules. Students are asked to watch each fiction video for approximately five minutes and then answer eight multiple-choice inference questions. Correlations and regression analysis explored the extent to which EF predicted scores on the TeLCI assessment, controlling for language comprehension (CELF-5).

Results. MEFS and TeLCI assessment scores were significantly correlated (r = .41, p < .05). TeLCI assessment also was significantly related to overall language comprehension as measured by CELF-5 (r = .44, p< .001). A Regression analysis explored the extent to which MEFS predicted scores on the TeLCI assessment while controlling for overall language comprehension. The results suggested that MEFS account for 18% unique variance in TeLCI assessment (F (2, 39) = 6.37, p< .05).

Conclusions. These findings suggest that EF predicts inference making in children, suggesting that it may be an important individual difference cognitive factor to consider in the context of assessment and intervention of inference skills.