A classroom-based intervention targeting working memory, attention and language skills in 4-5 year olds (RECALL): a study protocol for a cluster randomised feasibility trial

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Abstract

Background: There is international recognition of the need for creative, classroom-based interventions to support children at risk of low academic achievement and well-being, due to poor attention and language skills on school
entry. Working memory (WM) is a cognitive skill that is strongly associated with attention and language skills. There has been speculation that WM training, embedded within typical educational activities, may improve children’s WM
skills and produce transfer effects to real-world skills such as attention and language. However, little is known about the effectiveness of this approach.
‘Recall to Enhance Children’s Attention, Language and Learning’ (RECALL) is a novel, 6-week, classroom-based intervention targeting WM, attention and language skills in 4–5 year olds. RECALL was co-produced with health
professionals, teachers and parents. This protocol describes the rationale, methods and analysis plan for a proposed cluster randomised feasibility trial of this RECALL programme.
Methods: This is a three-arm, cluster randomised feasibility trial comparing RECALL to an existing programme (active control), and no-intervention (education as usual). We will recruit six schools in socially disadvantaged areas
in one region of the UK. Two schools will be randomly allocated to each arm of the trial. In each school, one class of children (ages 4-5 years) of approx. 30 children will be involved in this study. Ten children in each class will be
sampled purposefully for outcome measurement including: standardised assessments of WM, language and attention skills; teacher ratings of attention; and parent ratings of functional communication skills. These will be
administered at baseline and 1-week post-intervention in order to test the acceptability of the measures. A process evaluation using semi-structured interviews with participants will explore the acceptability of RECALL and the procedures employed in this trial.
Discussion: This feasibility study will explore the acceptability of RECALL to the health professionals and teachers who will deliver it and inform the optimal design of the programme. The inclusion of an active control group and
the blinding of outcomes assessors enhance rigour in this study. The findings will determine whether this study can be scaled-up into a definitive cluster randomised trial to evaluate the effectiveness of RECALL.
Trial registration: ISRCTN13633886. Registered 7 Sept 2018.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
Volume5
Issue number82
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2019

Keywords

  • working memory
  • attention
  • language
  • intervention
  • school
  • children
  • feasibility
  • study protocol

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