On Track 2.0 and STEP IT: Interventions to Improve Cognitive Control and Well-being

The aim of these projects is to support and strengthen cognitive skills involved in learning which are not always addressed explicitly. Teachers and teacher education students will employ research-based knowledge in the development of materials to support and train executive functions in schoolchildren.

School children. Photo: Colourbox

In a digitally permeated society, where the academic and social well-being and reading skills of schoolchildren are declining, we need interventions to explore potential causal links between cognitive control, digital media literacy, reading abilities, motivation, and social and academic well-being.

The overarching aim across the two projects On Track 2.0 and STEP IT is to offer research-based knowledge about executive functions and self-regulation to teachers, practitioners, and teacher education students and engage them in the development of research-based, practice-informed interventions to further these functions. The projects will include the design of activities and teaching materials that are research-based, easy to implement and freely available to teachers and teacher education students.

 

 

Our research projects are built on the On Track pilot project, supported by TrygFonden and completed in 2023. In this initiative, a total of 18 middle school class groups took part in a three-session workshop intervention. These sessions included cognitive tasks and self-reflection exercises centered around a narrative featuring Detective Sofus, who struggled to focus on solving a mystery after a blow to the head. Through solving tasks and puzzles collectively, pupils helped Sofus develop concentration strategies and ultimately solve the mystery. Pre- and post-intervention tests, including objective and subjective measures of attentional control suggested that the  intervention could effectively support these skills in a classroom context.

 

Funded by the Independent Research Foundation Denmark, STEP IT (Strategic Teacher Education for academic, social, and emotional well-being through Practice-oriented International research on learning and Technology) focuses on developing and implementing research-based sessions and workshops in the teaching education at the University College Copenhagen (KP). Key collaborators include lecturers Lise Dissing Møller and Marie Rita Wensien-Jegsen from KP’s “Future Classroom Teacher” specialisation.

The project will be approached as a collaborative effort between researchers and teacher education students and staff. During their first two years in the Future Classroom Teacher program, students will be presented with and engage in research on the development of executive functions and self-regulation as well as challenges associated dysfunctions and dysregulation of these functions. Students will employ classroom observation practises and pedagogical interventions to support academic well-being in their respective internship class groups.

The findings will be discussed among researchers, fellow students, and KP lecturers and disseminated through research papers and presentations.

 

The On Track 2.0 project, funded by TrygFonden, aims to develop freely and easily accessible teaching materials to support concentration skills and academic well-being in schoolchildren.

Initial steps include conducting systematic literature reviews on interventions for cognitive control and self-regulation. Teaching materials will be developed with input from experienced teachers, practitioners, and with editors from Forstå, an academic publishing company under Lindhardt & Ringhof. Collaborators and students from the KP teacher education program, along with an international advisory board of experts within Education and Psychology, will also contribute to the content creation. We plan to recruit schools for a randomized controlled trial to test the materials in 2025.

 

 

Our collaboration partners include the teacher education program at KP and a diverse advisory board. We collaborate with researchers from the Australian Research Council-funded Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child, including Professor Lisa Kervin, who hosted PhD student Anne Marie Kristensen during her research stay at the University of Wollongong, Australia. The advisory board also includes Professor Jeppe Bundsgaard from the Danish School of Education, an expert in didactics, IT, and learning, and Professor Adele Diamond from the University of British Columbia, an expert in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, who hosted Anne Marie in her lab in spring 2022. Additionally, we work with the Danish publishing company Forstå, which will assist in the dissemination and didactical design of our interventions. We are grateful for the funding from TrygFonden and the Independent Research Fund Denmark, which have made these projects possible. Both projects are hosted by the Department of Psychology at the University of Copenhagen.

 

Researchers

Name Title Image
Anne Marie Hastrup Kristensen PhD Student Billede af Anne Marie Hastrup Kristensen
Signe Allerup Vangkilde Professor, Head of Studies Billede af Signe Allerup Vangkilde

About the projects

PhD student: Anne Marie Hastrup Kristensen

Supervisor: Signe Vangkilde

The PhD project On Track 2.0 has been made possible by funding from TrygFonden.

The research project STEP IT is funded by the the Independent Research Fund Denmark. A research assistant will be employed in this project in the autumn of 2024.

Both projects are hosted and supported by the Department of Psychology at the University of Copenhagen. Professor Signe Vangkilde supervises the projects.