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EARLI: Singing

Our flagship study is testing the impact of a vocal learning intervention in transitional kindergarten and kindergarten on a range of social, emotional, academic, and neurophysiological measures.

Research Question and Hypotheses

Our primary research question is: Can a daily in-school singing program help lift the developmental and academic skill trajectories of young children at risk of underachievement? We predict that such a program will improve academic outcomes and that this may depend on mechanisms at different levels. Our assessment will characterize individual differences and longitudinal changes in the following areas: (1) musical skills; (2) foundational language and literacy skills; (3) brain activity indices of related auditory and lexical processing; and (4) classroom connectedness and attitudes about school.

Our primary hypotheses cover these four principal mechanisms.

1) First, we hypothesize that children who participate in EARLI will show significantly greater improvements over time in basic music skills than the lagged participation control group, such as vocal and non-vocal pitch matching and rhythm and melody recognition and production.

2) Because the singing program has been tuned to focus on verbal-auditory processing relevant to early language and literacy skills, we hypothesize that children participating in EARLI will show significant increases in abilities related to auditory working memory, phonemic discrimination, phonological awareness, and story comprehension.

3) We also hypothesize that children who show significant changes in these early music, language, and literacy skills will show concomitant changes in brain activity indices of related auditory and lexical processing as measured using EEG/ERP. We predict that changes will be observed in sensory discrimination responses to tones and English words (N1, N2), mismatch negativity (MMN) responses to tones, English phonemes, and fast-formant transitions, and N400 lexical semantic effects to English words.

4) Finally, we hypothesize that children who participate in the EARLI singing program will show improved classroom social connectedness and attitudes about school relative to their own starting point and to those of the delayed participation control group.

NEA Research Lab: Early Academic Readiness and Learning Intervention (EARLI)