Child Executive Functioning Skills Research

Measuring Cognitive Flexibility, Working Memory, and Inhibitory Control Skills

The MEFS App provides an efficient and reliable way to assess Executive Functioning skills directly, including in real-world contexts. The ease of use, high level of child engagement, and automated scoring relative to national norms makes the MEFS App ideal for Executive Function research with children – in the lab, in schools, in the field. The MEFS App can be administered repeatedly to the same individuals, to track changes over time. Existing Executive Function measures developed for research and clinical purposes are lengthy and/or require Ph.D. credentials. Some measures are not sensitive across the entire preschool period, let alone across the lifespan. No comparable Executive Function measure is as reliable starting at 2 years of age.

Validity of the MEFS App

Assesses Executive Functioning skills like working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility in one brief measure.

High correlations with other Executive Function assessments including the NIH Toolbox Battery of Executive Function Measures, Executive Function Touch Battery, and the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task, yet is briefer than any other measure; designed for a younger/less advantaged starting point; more sensitive to gradual changes; normed down to age 2; and the only Executive Function measure supported by training, professional development, intervention, and data analytics based on over 55,000 (and growing) test results.

The MEFS App is not strongly correlated with IQ, suggesting it is measuring a distinct construct.

High concurrent correlations with Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement, a widely used school readiness assessment; outperforms other Executive Function measures; predicts kindergarten reading level and first grade math achievement.

Children known to have difficulty with Executive Function perform more poorly on the MEFS App (e.g. socioeconomic disadvantage, ADHD-symptoms).

Reliability of the MEFS App

Re-test reliability is consistently very high (greater than .90).

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Pre-screening helps determine who can benefit most from EF guidance
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Measuring EF over time shows efficacy of teaching and curriculum
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Quick feedback provides data on efficacy of interventions
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Early intervention is critical to help prevent children from falling behind
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The MEFS App Technical Report

Explore the MEFS Technical Report on performance outcomes, the 2017 updated norming sample, reliability, validity, correlations, case studies, and more.

The MEFS Growth Charts (monthly and half-yearly versions) are based on our 2017 youth norms.

Click here to download:

Downloadable MEFS Technical Report
Downloadable MEFS Growth Charts

Researcher Spotlight


Dr. Panayiota (Pani) Kendeou
Guy Bond Chair in Reading and Associate Professor
Department of Educational Psychology
University of Minnesota 

Q: What is the Reading and Language Lab’s mission?
A: The primary questions addressed in the Reading and Language Lab concern the relations amongst language and memory, with a focus on understanding and improving learning during reading. In addition to these core issues, the lab is also involved with the development and application of technology-based interventions and assessments.

Q: What is the lab working on now?
A: We’re working to develop Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITSs) tools within a multi-tiered systems of support framework to: (a) Prevent language comprehension difficulties for kindergartners (Project ELCII) and (b) Provide an intervention for children who have comprehension difficulties in Gr. 1-2 (Project TeLCI).

Our preventative instruction and intervention ITSs focus on inference making skills because the ability to make inferences is the underlying process that supports the construction of coherent representations and inferences can be made in both reading and non-reading situations.

Q: Why the MEFS App?
A: An important mediator between the proximal outcomes of our intervention (inference making) and the distal outcomes (reading comprehension) is executive functions. We found that MEFS allows for an efficient, reliable, and cost-effective assessment of children’s’ executive functions in our studies.

Downloadable Tools for Researchers

In this new Institute of Education Sciences paper, Reflection Sciences, Inc. Co-founder Dr. Phil Zelazo and Co-authors Clancy B. Blair and Michael T. Willoughby highlight key findings on executive function in relation to its relevance in educational research and practice. Read the full article here.

The CSUS is a validated caregiver-report measure of children’s developing understanding of the mind and mental states of others, such as what other people perceive, think, and feel. This awareness grows throughout childhood, and is highly correlated with executive function (EF) (e.g., Carlson & Moses, 2001; Devine & Hughes, 2014). With stronger EF skills, children are better able to see things from another person’s perspective, as well as their own. Together, EF and social understanding provide a foundation for successful social interactions and conflict resolution.

Download the Long CSUS Form.

Download the Short CSUS Form.

The DEFSS is a standardized set of photographic stimuli, including both child and adult faces, that has been validated by participants across a range of ages. It consists of 404 validated facial photographs of people between 8 and 30 years old displaying five different emotional expressions: happy, angry, fearful, sad, and neutral.

Download the DEFSS Files.

Real World Reviews

“The research literature clearly points to the critical role that early Executive Function plays in children’s academic and social success, so we need to make sure the study effectively captures children’s skills in this area. The MEFS App combines the strength of a trusted measure of Executive Function with the power of big data, allowing us to view the findings from our study within the context of the thousands of other children who have used the app.”

Stephanie Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Understand, Measure, & Improve the true predictor of academic and life success.