Monday, November 18, 2013

Interventions That Improve Character and Cognition

This paper reviews the recent literature on measuring and boosting
cognitive and noncognitive skills. The literature establishes that
achievement tests do not adequately capture character
skills--personality traits, goals, motivations, and preferences--that
are valued in the labor market, in school, and in many other domains.
Their predictive power rivals that of cognitive skills. Reliable
measures of character have been developed. All measures of character
and cognition are measures of performance on some task. In order to
reliably estimate skills from tasks, it is necessary to standardize
for incentives, effort, and other skills when measuring any
particular skill.

High-quality early childhood and elementary school programs improve
character skills in a lasting and cost-effective way. Many of them
beneficially affect later-life outcomes without improving cognition.
There are fewer long-term evaluations of adolescent interventions,
but workplace-based programs that teach character skills are
promising. The common feature of successful interventions across all
stages of the life cycle through adulthood is that they promote
attachment and provide a secure base for exploration and learning for
the child. Successful interventions emulate the mentoring
environments offered by successful families.

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