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The Ins and Outs of Executive Functioning

This is a term educators are using more and more…but what exactly is “executive functioning?” In truth, executive function is not just one thing; it is a term referring to a larger set of non-academic skills that students need to be successful in and outside of the classroom. There are many skills that fall under the umbrella of executive functioning: time management, organization, study skills, flexibility, adaptability, self-advocacy, planning, and goal setting.

As adults, most of us did not learn about these skills in the classroom. We developed them as we grew up and, many of us, still struggle with some of them today. However, educators now see that the assumption that students will gain these skills in coming years is actually quite detrimental. Executive functioning needs to be taught and supported from when students are young so, when they need these skills the most, they will already have a strong foundation. However, it is difficult for teachers to address all of these skills in the classroom.

While we know how important these skills are, teachers have so much academic material to cover, as well as their own time constraints. The average school day may not be enough for some students to master these skills. But, there are various simple ways that executive functioning can be worked on at home. By strengthening these skills on two fronts, students can continue honing their executive functioning abilities to ensure they will be more concrete as the students grow.

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