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Review 1: Best, Miller and Naglieri, (2011).

Purpose and Literature Review


The purpose of this paper is made clear from the first two paragraphs, where the
authors describe the importance of executive functions and learning, and then highlight
an area important to junior high and high school education that has been neglected by
current research.
The literature review in this paper is expansive and extremely detailed, citing
more than 70 articles. References to other studies are used to prove a point or tie ideas
together, rather than a list of prior research. One caution about the reviewed literature is
that many of the studies cited were either written by Jack Naglieri, an author of this
paper, or they utilized his psychological testing products. Potentially, this researcher
could be biased or profit minded, and this may have caused the literature review to
neglect research of similar topic that utilized testing products from his competition.
Question and Hypothesis
The hypotheses target a gap in the literature that was highlighted in the literature
review. They are clear, measurable and easy to find in the article as they are set in their
own labeled paragraph. However, after stating the first hypothesis, the authors went on a
seemingly tangential explanation of the construct of the CAS, a test designed by Naglieri
that is being used in this study. This may have been more appropriate to discuss in the
Material and Methods section.
Sampling
Because Naglieri also designed a standardized test of executive functions, they
were able to utilize the data from the standardization sample of the CAS in this study.
This lends itself to being a formidable sample of individuals (N = 2036; ages 5 - 17)
chosen to represent the US demographic with respect to gender, race, ethnicity, parental
education, geographic region and community setting. A limitation to this sample is that
they used Census data from 1990, which is a staggering 21 years outdated at the time of
publishing; however, the researchers described how the current demographic has
changed, and they demonstrate that the change in demographic is negligible. While all
2036 individuals data will be used for the first hypothesis, only 1395 of said individuals
completed the WJ-R, which is a measure necessary to the second hypothesis. While this
is still a formidable sample size capable of highlighting patterns and correlations, it is
unclear in the article how representative of the census data the 1395 participants were.
Instruments
The measures chosen in this study were two standardized measures, the Cognitive
Assessment System and the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement Revised. The
CAS is described theoretically and psychometrically. The three subtests being used form
the CAS are then described in further detail with regards to administration and scoring, as
well for subtest internal consistency and reliability. The WJ-R is described by listing the
subtests and explaining which subtests comprise the composite scores. There is no
discussion of psychometric properties of the WJ-R, possibly because it is a well known
and accepted psycho-educational assessment tool. However, the detailed description of
the CAS followed by a more humble description of the WJ-R creates the feeling of a
sales-pitch for Naglieri.
Design and Procedure
The testing procedure is simple, and outlined in a replicable manner. The
statistical analyses procedures were clear and transparent, with additional formulas
beyond the typical ANOVA computations being provided, accompanied by clear
rationales for their use.
Results and Discussion
The data is organized in a very clear manner, with questions as headings. There
are tables are graphs, which are simple to read and powerfully demonstrate the authors
points. However, these graphic displays are not limited to the results section; instead,
they are scattered throughout all sections of this paper rather than being displayed in the
results section.
The discussion analyzes several different variables involved in exploring their
hypotheses. Further, they use the data to infer educational applications and combine this
with information from other research to highlight new directions for future studies.
Additionally, they outline where their results contradicted or conflicted with previous
research and ventured to posit a theory as to why this occurred. The authors concluded
with a brief, lackluster paragraph that was inconsistent with their rich discussion of
theoretical and practical implications. Moreover, their final concluding sentences were
appraising the strengths of the CAS, which again, seemed more like an advertisement
than an appropriate conclusion to this article.
Suggested Improvements
Rather than focusing on the strengths of the CAS, more focus on the etiology,
development and specificity of the measured executive functions would have improved
the theoretical cohesiveness of this paper.
Review 2: Davis et. al., (2011).
Purpose and Literature Review
The purpose is made abundantly clear in the articles abstract, but not in the
introduction or literature review. The literature reviewed was relevant to the hypothesis,
and outlined an inconsistency within past research that this study chose to target.
Question and Hypothesis
The primary hypothesis is relevant to the literature that was reviewed, and is
quantifiably testable. A secondary hypothesis, while testable, was not discussed in the
previous literature review. Finally, the third hypothesis comprised a sub-study that was
not previously discussed, and did not state an expected outcome; but rather, alluded to
exploring a potential change in the brain using fMRI technology.
Sampling
The sampling criteria was specific and is clearly laid out. The sample of children
who qualified (N = 840) were randomized to obtain the final sample of 171 children, and
the precise demographic of participants was provided. An ADHD clincial population was
included evenly throughout the three groups do increase external validity. The
researchers were transparent with their sample, explaining why one child was excluded
from the study, and that even those who did not adhere to their conditions were
encouraged to post-test. Finally, they provide a flowchart of participants which contained
clincial information about their sample, and how many children in each of the groups
continued with their exercise requirements as prescribed until the end of the study.
Overall, this is an adequate sample of children from which results may be generalized.
Instruments
During the exercise periods in this study, the children wore heart rate monitors.
Prizes were given to children who could keep their heart rates above 150 beats per minute
for the 20 minute exercise durations. The researchers did not discuss the accuracy of the
monitors selected, but they did provide the three specific models so the reader could
explore this topic independently. To determine cognitive functioning, the Cognitive
Assessment System was used. This measure was discussed on a theoretical and
psychometric basis, and was demonstrated to be both reliable and valid. One of the four
processes measured by this test focuses specifically on executive functions, and, the
authors point out, the CAS has greater reliability than neuropsychological tests of
executive function. Finally, academic achievement levels were measured using the
Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement III. Information about this measure was
limited to a brief mention of the two composite scores that were included in the analysis.
Procedure and Evaluation of Design
This study had two groups with differing exercise dosages, which were clearly
defined, and one control group. Based on previous research, it would be unethical to
instruct children not to exercise, so the control group, a randomized group of sedentary
children, were simply not provided transportation or enrollment in the after school
exercise group that the other students were. The exercise the students participated in was
alluded to, and the authors direct the reader to a specific resource that included all the
activities utilized. The duration of study was clearly defined and included measurement
of error, and the researchers specified how many cohorts participated over three years.
Psycho-educational testing was done under very similar conditions pre and posttest, by
the same examiner, who was unaware of which group the children were in. Confounding
variables such as dietary changes, social/emotional issues or changes in students lives
were not discussed. Finally, the researchers very clearly outline how participants were
chosen for the fMRI sub-study and how they proceeded to take the images. However, this
study is tangential to their primary hypothesis and it would have been more streamlined
and organized to write a separate paper on it.
Results and Discussion
The results were written concisely and to the point, including enough data for
future studies to find useful for comparative purposes. Data was presented in clearly
labeled graphs that demonstrated the changes between the groups. . The results were
expanded upon and tied together in the discussion section, which had several instances of
poor grammar. The discussion ended with implications for future research, and practical
implications for education.
References
Best, J. R., Miller, P. H., & Naglieri, J. A. (2011). Relations between executive function
and academic achievement from ages 5 to 17 in a large, representative national
sample. Learning and Individual Differences, 21(4), 327-336.
Davis, C. L., Tomporowski, P. D., McDowell, J. E., Austin, B. P., Miller, P. H., Yanasak,
N. E., ... & Naglieri, J. A. (2011). Exercise improves executive function and
achievement and alters brain activation in overweight children: a randomized,
controlled trial. Health Psychology, 30(1), 91.