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Examining Behavioral Changes in Children’s Cognition

The transition into elementary school is characterized by rapid changes in children’s cognitive abilities, including memory, metacognition, executive functions (EF), and domain-specific academic skills. As a part of my program of research I have worked to documenting the developmental trajectories of the acquisition and refinement of these abilities, and the role of individual differences in children’s performance, is a critical step toward understanding the ways in which contextual factors may influence their growth. 

  • Grammer, J. K., Purtell, K. P., Coffman, J. L., & Ornstein, P. A. (2011). Relations between children’s metamemory and strategic performance: Time-varying covariates in early elementary school. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 108, 139-155. 

  • Grammer, J. K., Coffman, J. L., & Ornstein, P. A., & Morrison, F. J. (2013). Change over Time: Conducting Longitudinal Studies of Children’s Cognitive Development.  Journal of Cognition and Development, 14, 1-14. 



Relating the Classroom Context to Children’s Developing Memory and Academic Skills

Despite consistent evidence highlighting the importance of early school experiences for the development of children’s academic skills, significant questions remain about how to best characterize aspects of the elementary school environment that foster the development of children’s learning and academic achievement. In my work with collegues from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peter Ornstein and Jennifer Coffman, in addition to establishing relations between aspects of teacher instruction and children’s strategic memory skills, we have found that similar aspects of teacher instructional language are also related to changes in children’s mathematics achievement.  I continue to be interested in the relations between the classroom context and children’s memory performance, executive functions, and self-regulation.

  • Coffman, J. L., Grammer, J. K., Hudson, K. N., Thomas, T. E., Villwock, D., & Ornstein, P. A. (2018, epub ahead of print). Relating children’s early elementary classroom experiences to later skilled remembering and study skills. Journal of Cognition and Development.

  • Grammer, J. K., Coffman, J. L., Sydney, P. G., & Ornstein, P. A. (2016).  Linking teacher instruction and student achievement in mathematics:  The role of teacher language. Journal of Cognition and Development, 17, 468 – 485. doi:  10.1080/15248372.2015.1068777

  • Grammer, J. K., Coffman, J. L., & Ornstein, P. A. (2013). The impact of teachers' memory relevant language on children's strategy use and knowledge. Child Development, 84, 1989-2002. PMCID: PMC4112095

  • Grammer, J. K., Coffman, J. L., & Ornstein, P. A., & Morrison, F. J. (2013). Change over Time: Conducting Longitudinal Studies of Children’s Cognitive Development.  Journal of Cognition and Development, 14, 1-14. PMCID:  PMC4063681

Neurological Correlates of Executive Functions

In addition to examining the development of behavioral indices of children’s cognition, I also investigate the neurological changes associated with these abilities using event-related potentials (ERPs).  Although this work is typically conducted in a laboratory setting, I have developed a set of techniques for collecting these data directly in elementary schools.  By conducting this work in schools, it is possible to recruit larger and more diverse groups of young children, increasing the generalizability of this research.  Working with colleagues at the University of Michigan, we have published the first data generated from these school-based efforts, describing age-related differences in ERP correlates of children’s executive function.  Additional manuscripts outlining longitudinal changes in these ERPs across early elementary grades the impact of school experience on these components are forthcoming.  As a part of these efforts, I have also developed and refined two ERP measures to assess response inhibition and working memory with young children.  One of these measures, a child-friendly Go/No-go task, is currently being implemented on NIH and NSF funded projects. In addition to addressing questions related to children’s academic performance, this measure is also being used to examine neurological correlates of motivation, anxiety, and depression in children ages 3-9.

  • Kim, M. H., Marulis, L. M., Grammer, J. K., Morrison, F. J., & Gehring, W. J. (2017). Young children’s motivational beliefs and achievement-related emotions are associated with electrophysiological measures of error monitoring processes. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 155, 32 – 47. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2016.10.010

  • Grammer, J. K., Gehring, W. J., & Morrison, F. J. (2018). Associations between developmental changes in error‐related brain activity and executive functions in early childhood. Psychophysiology, 55(3), e13040.PubMed PMID: 29238990.

  • Kim, M. H., Grammer, J. K., Marulis, L. M., Carrasco, M., Morrison, F. J., & Gehring, W. J. (2016). Early math and reading achievement are associated with the error positivity. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 22, 18-26. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2016.09.002

  • Grammer, J. K., Carrasco, M., Gehring, W. J. & Morrison, F. J. (2014).  Age-related differences in error processing in young children. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2014.02.001

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