Category Archives: Executive Function

Executive Function Essentials: A toolkit for remote and in-class learning

We’re excited to announce Executive Function Essentials 2021, our newest training series that focuses on teaching executive function strategies for remote and in-person classroom settings. Presented by Lynn Meltzer, Ph.D., and the staff of the Institutes for Learning and Development, this four-session series will help you build your executive function toolkit by:

  • Deepening your understanding of metacognition, organization, flexible problem solving, motivation, engagement
  • Developing a practical appreciation of the latest research
  • Gaining strategies and activities to use when teaching remotely and in-person

Session Overviews

Depending on your teaching goals, choose the sessions that are right for you. All presentations will be recorded if you cannot attend live.

  • In addition, we will offer two application-based presentations on the subjects of dyslexia on March 4 and math on April 1, 2021.

Start your 2021 with the resolution to teach essential executive function strategies across all teaching and learning formats. Learn more and register today!

We look forward to having you join us. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments.

  • Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Executive Function Strategies Vs. Skills: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to supporting students’ executive function needs, the terms “skill” and “strategy” are often used interchangeably. In the SMARTS Executive Function curriculum, we believe it is important to underscore the difference between such seemingly similar terms.

Skills refer to abilities that may be enacted without much thought from the individual. Strategies, on the other hand, are intentionally employed by an individual to accomplish a specific task, such as reading a book or studying for an exam.

When it comes to teaching executive function, it is important to promote a strategic approach for many reasons.

  1. Strategy instruction is a strengths-based approach, that focuses on students achieving personally meaningful goals, supported by teachers’ explicit teaching and modeling of strategy use. Students who struggle may internalize their failures and come to believe that their efforts will not lead to success. However, when armed with strategies, students have options for how they can respond to an academic or organizational challenge.
  2. Strategy instruction promotes self-understanding. Using strategies is an intentional and deliberate process; students become active learners who engage in self-reflection about which strategies were most successful in specific situations. This metacognitive process is an important part of teaching students to understand how they learn most effectively. When students feel valued and involved in their learning, they are more likely to be motivated.
  3. Strategy instruction is beneficial for all learners. Every student can benefit from having a larger set of strategies to pull from when they face challenges in academics and in their everyday lives.

The SMARTS Executive Function curriculum helps students understand their areas of strength and challenge and explicitly teaches executive function strategies. Learn more about the three key tenets at the heart of the SMARTS program.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, SMARTS Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Free Webinar: Executive Function in Schools

No matter which definition of executive function you use, it’s clear that executive function and teaching executive function strategies are key to successful learning. What is harder to pinpoint is this: whose job is it to teach executive function strategies?

In some schools, executive function is the domain of Student Services teachers. These teachers (including special education, ELL teachers, Speech and Language Pathologists, and social workers) often work with students who have been identified as being at-risk of school failure. These students can have unique executive function challenges and may have IEPs or 504 Plans that mandate executive function support.

Student Services teachers are often experts at differentiation and meeting students where they are. However, if executive function strategies are taught exclusively in these settings, how will students learn how to generalize executive function strategies to their other classes?

Another approach is for schools to integrate executive function into academic contexts that put a high executive function demand on all students. Certain assignments (such as Project Based Learning or standardized testing) or certain times of year (such as transition years like sixth grade or ninth grade) can easily overload students’ and teachers’ executive function capacity. Integrating executive function strategies, taught by student support teachers or general education content teachers, can address executive function needs proactively for entire classrooms or grade levels.

However, will general education teachers, often strapped for time and concerned with curriculum standards, be able to find the time to teach executive function strategies? And how can these teachers differentiate to meet the needs of diverse learners?

As administrators and teachers grapple with these questions, some schools are looking at ways to integrate executive function into the broader systems and structures of the school district. While there are no federal or state standards for executive function, schools can develop their own frameworks that identify executive function expectations and strategies across grade levels and content areas. This approach, though complicated, embeds executive function across the district, making everyone responsible for supporting students’ executive function development.

Each of these approaches to integrating executive function into schools has advantages and disadvantages. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, we are committed to helping educators find their unique path to developing executive function supports that engage and empower their students.

Want to learn more? Join us for two free webinars this July.

Join  me, Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director, and Shelly Levy, M.Ed., SMARTS Curriculum Coordinator, to learn about executive function, best practices for integrating executive function into schools, and the content and structure of the SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum.

Hope to see you there!

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director