There was an interesting piece on NPR this afternoon on the effect of good preschool education in helping kids do better in school and in life by instilling in them motivation and other “soft” factors. An excerpt:
Researchers didn’t know exactly why the preschool students were doing better, but it appeared they were more motivated – they wanted to do well. For example, one reason they did better on achievement tests is because they were more likely to finish the tests. The students who had not gone to preschool left more questions blank. They didn’t even try.
“Now you’re getting into something really deep,” says economist James Heckman. “How is it that motivation is affected? What causes motivation?”
Heckman is a Nobel laureate who teaches at the University of Chicago. Preschool was not among his interests until he came across the Perry Study several years ago. What caught his attention is the apparent paradox at its core: The people who went to preschool were not “smarter” than their peers, but they did better.
“It’s true that IQ wasn’t raised by the study,” Heckman says. “But it is true that achievement was. And I thought that was amazing.”
The assumption at the heart of a lot of economic theory is that measured intelligence is the key to everything. But with the Perry Preschool children, something else made the difference. It was not IQ. Heckman is now working with psychologists to try to understand how the preschool may have affected the development of what he calls “non-cognitive” skills, things like motivation, sociability and the ability to work with others.
These are critical skills that help people succeed at school, at work – and in life.
The full story is at: