This online course will provide an overview of executive functioning and how it impacts students and teachers in a K-12 setting. In addition to providing some background knowledge on the topic, this course will feature a number of practical strategies and digital tools that will allow educators to implement the learning immediately in their practices.
Executive functioning is described differently by a number of scholars, however, for this course we will be relying heavily on the work of Gioia, Isquith, Guy, and Kenworthy (2000), who describe executive functioning as consisting of the following skills: planning and organization, working memory, initiation, task and self-monitoring, inhibition, and emotional control. The work of Sarah Ward will also be used to inform the organization of this course, and her ‘plan backwards to execute forwards’ mantra is reflected in the course modules:
- Module 1 – What is Executive Functioning?
- Module 2 – Preparing
- Module 3 – Practicing
- Module 4 – Performing
The objective of this self-directed learning resource is to provide educational practitioners with the resources necessary to help their students, to the greatest extent possible, meet their executive functioning needs.
Module 1 - What is Executive Functioning?
In this module, we explore the processes that facilitate students’ own thinking or behaviour in efforts to achieve a goal – in other words, their executive functioning.
In short, executive functioning refers to the process of supervising one’s own thinking and behaviour as it pertains to achieving a desired goal (Jossey-Bass Teacher, 2017). The intricate and complex processes that facilitate these skills are executive functions, and these are often synonymous with the skills of planning and organization, working memory, initiation, task and self-monitoring, inhibition and emotional control. Like all skills, these can be honed and developed through practice, and are a function of brain development, as well as instruction and opportunities for practice.
Module 2 - Preparing
In this module we explore how to best to support our students’ efforts in planning and organizing their thoughts and materials before planning their work.
In module one we began with an overview of executive functions, and their definitions. We concluded module one with a look at a systematic approach to supporting students with digital tools.
As educators, we strive to empower our students to become self-directed learners. Teaching our students to plan and organize their thoughts and materials before beginning their work is the first step in teaching our students to be self-reliant, reflective and strategic learners.
In this module, we will be taking a closer look at how to support students in the realm of planning and organization.
We will examine:
- What ‘planning’ and ‘organization’ entail
- Strategies to support planning and organization
- Digital Tools to support planning and organization
Module 3 - Practicing
In this module, we explore supporting students’ development and practice of their self-monitoring skills.
In module two we looked at how the executive skills, organization and planning, can be supported using strategies and technology. In this module entitled Practicing, we will look at how tools and strategies can support self-monitoring and its associated executive skills.
Development of executive functioning can be accelerated by use of explicit instruction, modeling, supporting tools, guided practice and meaningful feedback. In this module we will be evaluating strategies and tools that help students practice self-monitoring, along with other associated executive functioning skills (Fischer & Daley, 2007; McCloskey, 2007).
We will examine:
- What self-monitoring and related executive function skills entail
- Strategies to support and encourage self-monitoring
- Digital Tools to support self-monitoring
Module 4 - Performing
This module will investigate how tools and strategies can improve task-monitoring in our diverse classrooms.
Before we dive into the last and final module for this course on executive functioning, let’s quickly recap what we’ve already covered so far.
Our course began with an overview of executive functioning, in which we defined each of the individual skills. We then moved on to our second module, entitled, preparing- which looked at the skills of organization and planning. The last module we looked at was called ‘practicing’, which looked at self-monitoring and the skills of inhibition, emotional control and working memory.
This final module will examine:
- What task-monitoring and related executive functioning skills entail
- Strategies to support and encourage task-monitoring
- Digital tools to support task-monitoring
- Activities for Adolescents (Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, 2015)
- Executive Function Activities for 5 to 7 year olds (Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University,2015)
- Executive Function Activities for 7 to 12 year olds (Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University,2015)
- Strategies for Motivating Students (Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University)
- Critical Evaluation of a Creation App (iPad/iPod) (Kathleen Schrock)
- Use Guided Access with iPhone,iPad, and iPod touch (Apple Support)
- Gioia, G.A., Isquith, P.K., Guy, S.C., and Kenworthy, L. Behaviour Rating Inventory of Executive Function, Professional Manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resource, 2000.
- Crockett, A.Z. (2009) Executive functions and self-regulated learning. Available at http: www.executivefunctionmatters.com
- Helping Children Learn: Intervention Handouts for Use in Schools and at Home, Second Edition by Jack. A Naglieri, Ph.D., Eric B. Pickering, Ph.D.Dawson P., Guare, R. (2009) Smart by Scattered. Guildford Press.