Teaching Executive Functioning Skills Online
Online learning places unique demands on students’ executive functioning skills. There are more chances for distraction and the need to inhibit responses to exciting stimuli; there is a greater need for working memory and flexible thinking.
Teaching these skills is difficult without the dynamic supports found in face-to-face classrooms. Fortunately, there are many tools and strategies available to help learners of all ages.
Identifying the Needs
Executive functions are the skills that help us pay attention, plan and organize tasks, follow instructions, manage impulse control, and remember important information. Students need these skills to learn and succeed in online learning environments. These skills are developed starting in infancy (sorting blocks by color) and continue through adolescence (judging how long it will take to write a paper, for example).
Build children’s executive functioning skills and they’ll be better students and classroom citizens, able to juggle school, work, and family commitments. Strong executive function enables them to navigate life’s many challenges and make good choices for themselves and others.
Teaching executive functioning and study skills is essential for all learners, regardless of ability level or diagnosis. Teachers can use a variety of strategies to teach these skills. Some tips include: using role-play, playing games, providing mini-lessons, highlighting skills throughout the day, or engaging in class discussions.
Developing a Plan
For online learners, executive function skills are a critical element of the learning experience. They are important for all students, but especially those with EF deficits.
Providing a variety of ways for students to practice EF skills is key to developing these essential learning skills. Teachers can use a variety of different strategies including teaching EF skills explicitly, using role-play, developing and reflecting on goals, creating a study skills block in the schedule, highlighting skills throughout the day, and incorporating technology into daily activities.
One way to develop goal-setting skills is to have students act out real-life scenarios. For example, if a student doesn’t remember what homework they have to do for the next assignment, students can act out how they might solve the problem, such as by going to the teacher, looking up assignments online, or asking a friend face-to-face. Students can also be encouraged to set and monitor goals with their peers. This can be done during morning meeting, advisory periods, or end-of-the-week reflection time.
Implementing the Plan
Teaching kids and teens how to use executive functioning skills is important for all learners, not just those with ADHD or learning disabilities. All students benefit from explicit instruction on strategies for organizing their desks and binders, planning tasks, prioritizing, and working memory. They also benefit from strategies for staying focused and completing homework assignments on time.
One effective way to do this is to integrate EF instruction into classroom activities and routines. For example, consider having students re-do quiz problems that they got wrong for extra points or having them work on an assignment a little bit at a time (an approach that builds flexibility and perseverance).
In addition, incorporating tasks like setting a reminder on their phone to finish homework or writing down their school schedule into regular class assignments can help kids and teens learn how to manage their own academic time. And playing games that require EF skills can be a fun and engaging way to get kids and teens to practice these essential strategies without even realizing it!
Monitoring the Plan
Have you ever worked with a student who struggles to understand a new concept or stay focused on the task at hand? It may be a sign that the student needs to strengthen their executive functioning (EF) skills.
EF skills help students plan, organize, and sustain attention. They also allow students to manage their emotions and solve problems. These skills are essential to academic success and independent living.
Project monitoring helps stakeholders measure the impact of a specific strategy. This includes tracking outputs, identifying any short-term or long-term impacts, and collecting and analyzing data. Monitoring should be conducted at all stages of a skills training project. This includes outreach activities, application and shortlisting processes, classroom training, and post-training monitoring of employment/internship/business outcomes. Coeducational projects should also collect and disaggregate monitoring data by sex to ensure that young women and men benefit equally from the project.
If you’re looking for an intentional and sustainable plan to boost EF, we have a professional course that provides all the tools, resources, and guidance you need!