Using Context to Build and Enhance Executive Functioning

 June 25, 2024 3:00 PM EDT

Margaret Foster MAEd

Students struggle with executive functioning for a variety of reasons — ADHD, anxiety, depression, short-term stress, fatigue, concussion, etc., and these can have a compound effect. These can also affect a wide range of students, both short-term and long-term, and it can impact their learning and performance at any age.

While educators and other specialists employ a range of interventions to improve executive functioning skills, recent research has shown that executive functioning performance is most improved when taught and practiced in context. This means that test-taking strategies should be taught when a test is approaching. Research strategies are taught through actual research projects. And reading strategies are best internalized when the purpose for reading is clear. This dual focus requires the educator to understand both the content skills (addition/subtraction, word decoding, photosynthesis) and the executive skills and strategies needed to engage the student in each specific course. Executive functioning success depends on these working together effectively and efficiently.

This presentation will briefly define executive functioning, then outline the major executive demands unique to each content area including reading, writing, math, science, etc. Next, we will examine how to engage in executive skill development with our students using labelling, application, and guided practice. Finally, we will explore how we, as educators and specialists, can become fluid at recognizing executive course demands, identifying student needs, and knowing how to initiate the process of effective interventions.

Margaret Foster, M.A.Ed, is a learning specialist and leading consultant in the areas of executive functioning, program development, and special needs. An educational coach, former classroom teacher, and speaker at national and international conferences such as The Council for Exceptional Children, CHADD, Project Zero, and Learning and the Brain, she has trained parents, educators, and school leaders around the globe. In addition, Margaret has co-authored Boosting Executive Skills in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Educators, and written an educational column for Psycom Pro (currently MedCentral).