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The Toolbox Project: Changing the way children learn about self-control

Project Leader(s)

Ethan Kross

Angela Duckworth

University of Michigan
There are currently many efforts underway to improve self-control among students. Most of these involve training children how to enhance the building blocks of self-control (e.g., executive functions), teaching them how to implement specific strategies that are useful in a limited number of situations, or developing socio-emotional competencies more broadly. Although many of these approaches have been linked with positive outcomes, none focus on comprehensively educating children about the “science of self-control”—what is it? How does it work? What strategies support it, and why is this knowledge important? This proposal is driven by the idea that educating children about this information has the potential to improve their self-control dramatically, while also having transformative basic science and educational implications. Therefore, we seek funding to partner self-control experts with talented childhood educators to develop and evaluate a classroom curriculum on the science of self-control. The principle is this: If children can learn what self-control is, what skills are needed to engage it, and how it can have outcomes that will benefit them, they will have the potential to implement a lifetime of self-control skills on their own. We expect teaching students this information will educate them about the science of self-control, provide them with a metacognitive toolbox that they can use to implement self-control across situations in daily life, and lead to enduring positive shifts in their well-being, character virtue development, academic achievement and interpersonal functioning. The project will deliver the protocol we develop for partnering researchers with educators to translate scientific findings into curricula, the curricula we develop, curricula evaluation data, 2-3 journal articles summarizing the program evaluation, an op-ed highlighting our key findings, and copies of public lectures that summarize the project.
Grant Amount:
Start Date:
December 2016
End Date:
August 2019
Grant ID:

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