Executive Function Strategies
Ryan Edel June 18, 2020
As you review the EF strategies, please consider the following reflection questions:
Which strategies do you already use to guide processing?
With my students, I provide "keeping it real" pep talks, where I talk about my own struggles managing time as a college student, and then I use that as a segue into effective strategies for executive function. I ask students to talk with each other about their work/life schedules, write down specific plans for which times and days they'll complete their writing assignments for my course, and then we follow-up after major assignments with a reflection on how well the scheduling plan worked.
For my online students, this kind of connection is much harder. What I do instead is send out three or four e-mails a week, and each e-mail highlights what we're working on, what's due, and how to contact me in case they need to request more time for an assignment. I divide up all the lectures and discussions and assignments into 16 units for each course (they correspond to the weeks of fall and spring semesters.) This way, there's a clear start and end point for each series of assignments. Finally, I give students advice on what to do in case they fall behind. For face-to-face students, I have them meet with me to work out schedules to catch up — for online students, I watch gradebook progress and personally e-mail students who fall behind. I also give them advice to focus on the discussions because I can give extensions on the research assignments — this way, they focus on the connection with classmates rather than feel that they're struggling alone with insurmountable mountains of work. And for a number of students, I recommend submitting materials in handwritten or video format in case they simply aren't able to type fast enough to keep up with the pace of the course.
Which of the sub-categories of the UDL framework do the strategies you list fall under?
Many of my executive function support falls under Engagement. Under Sustaining Effort and Persistence, I foster collaboration and community by having students talk with each other about their time management, and then I further this by granting extensions on independent writing assignments so students can focus on collaborative activities. This then contributes to Self Regulation by facilitating personal coping skills and developing self-assessment and reflection, especially when I opening reflect on my own past and present habits before asking students to do the same with each other.
Under Representation, I aim to help students with Comprehension of their work habits by highlight patterns in the relationship between work habits and academic success, and then I ask students to visualize how they will complete their assignments.
Action and Expression
Under Action and Expression, I provide options for Expression and Communication by providing ways for students to submit assignments by hand or by video in case typing doesn't work for them, which helps them with construction and composition. This also helps build fluencies with graduated levels of support because students are able to develop their understanding and mastery of concepts using more comfortable modes of verbal and written communication and then work their way into the more complex (and often more intimidating) modes of academic writing. Under Executive Functions, my conversations with students about my own time management habits and then opening these conversations to the varieties of their own habits helps guide appropriate goal-setting and supports planning and strategy development by providing real-world ideas for how to implement better study habits. Additionally, by having students communicate with each other, this enhances the capacity for monitoring progress by encouraging them to be honest with themselves, which then allows them to better communicate with me regarding their present academic habits so I can better tailor my guidance to their individual needs.
Which unaddressed categories might assist students in your area?
In looking my online resources, I feel I need to add more resources that recruit interest in study habits, particularly in relation to why these habits matter. I think that adding videos and firsthand student accounts can help my own students better relate to ideas of how to manage their time and succeed in academic settings. Although it's helpful for many students to hear about my own struggles with managing time, I think I could provide better options for self regulation by providing students with a experiences from a variety of ordinary students as a way to optimize relevence, value, and authenticity while also fostering greater individual choice and autonomy. After all, not every student wants to be like the teacher — most students will have experiences very, very different from my own.
I think that adding a combination of memes, videos, and other firsthand accounts from students would provide greater options for perception, particularly through alternatives for auditory and visual information. For a topic like personal time management, students may have difficulty relating to information that's strictly textual — this goes to issues of language and symbols. For all students — and particularly students from other countries studying English as a foreign language — using multiple media provides greater opportunity to connect with students in ways that I myself might not be able to do, such as by sharing videos of students sharing their experiences in Spanish, or students who share their experiences of going to college after growing up in underprivileged environments. This might aid comprehension of executive functions by maximizing transfer and generalization from a wide variety of experiences that students may better relate to.
Action and Expression
I haven't done much to ask students to employ options for physical action in relation to executive function — I could provide and recommend tools and assistive technologies that may aid students with managing their habits. I myself rely on reminders from my phone and handwritten to-do lists, and I could share these tips with my students, perhaps even incorporate those as assignment options when they begin the planning stages for their research papers. Also, I would like to add more direct options for executive functions, particularly through enhanced capacity for monitoring progress. I think something along the lines of a "progress journal" would help many students, especially if they had options for either writing their progress, or taking quick videos where they talk about their accomplishments so far.