Findings from a randomized controlled trial of Tools of the Mind (Tools) suggest that the program improves kindergarten students' academic outcomes in reading and writing, enhances children's joy in learning and teachers' enjoyment of teaching, and reduces teacher burnout.
The Tools program is a play-based preschool and kindergarten curriculum that emphasizes self-control, language, and literacy skills. The study, published in the journal PLoS One, analyzed the effectiveness of Tools on kindergarten teachers and 351 children (mean age 5.2 years at entry) with diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in 18 public schools in Canada. Schools were paired with closely matched schools and then randomized to either the intervention group or control group. Teachers in the intervention group received a three-day workshop on Tools before the school year began, along with funds for resources. Control group teachers were offered the same amount of training hours and funds for whatever training and resource materials they wanted.
The results showed that students in the Tools group made greater improvements than students in the control group on standardized tests for reading and writing. By May, three times as many children in Tools classes than in control classes were reading at grade level or better. Similarly, three times as many children in Tools classes than in control classes were able to write a full sentence that they composed themselves. Tools teachers also reported that their students could continue to work unsupervised for two and a half times longer than control teachers estimated for their students, and that 100% could get back to work right away after breaks, compared to 50% of control children.
The Tools program also had a positive impact on how teachers felt about teaching. More than three-quarters of Tools teachers, but none of the control teachers, reported in May that they were still enthusiastic about teaching.