Executive Functioning

Students with learning challenges often have difficulty with one or more facets of Executive Functioning (EF). These include:

  • self-regulatory activities such as checking, monitoring, and revising when learning;
  • sorting, organizing, and prioritizing information; and
  • weakness in cognitive flexibility.

Students who need support with EF often experience information overload and need to develop skills to process and prioritize input. They need to figure out what is most important, ignore the irrelevant informatino, and shift between the main idea and the details.

Strategies to improve EF include building skills and providing tools in the following areas:

  • GettyImages_172655341Time Management: Students learn how to utilize visual calendars, time organizers, checklists and “to do” lists, break long assignments into chunks with corresponding time frames for completing each chunk, and/or use time-management software.
  • Memorization Strategies: I provide students with mnemonics devices, based on their individual learning profile, to aid in information retention and retrieval.
  • Cognitive Flexibility: Flexible cognition means adapting inference to unfamiliar or unexpected situations, creatively combining concepts, and modifying familiar knowledge and habits to produce new ideas and actions. Students learn to ask themselves: Do I know another way to solve this problem? Does this look similar to other problems I have seen? Is this problem the same or different from the one before it?
  • Prioritizing: Students learn how to: (1) prioritize steps in executing academic and personal responsibilities, (2) prioritize information, (3) listen to a speaker’s intonation to decipher what is important information and (4) utilize various techniques to determine and note the most important ideas in a text and the details that support it.
  • Note-Taking: Students learn to prioritize and remember information, to determine the core concepts and supporting details, and to create strategies for memorization. They also learn the benefits of editing and revising their notes.
  • Self-Monitoring: Students become aware of, and develop tools to check for: (1) focus and motivation, (2) execution of various academic tasks, (3) retention and (4) critical thinking/analysis.