Executive function is a set of mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action. People use it to perform activities such as:
- paying attention to and remembering details, and
- managing time and space.
How Does Executive Function Affect Learning?
In school, at home or in the workplace, we’re called on all day, every day, to self-regulate behavior. Executive function allows us to:
- Make plans
- Keep track of time and finish work on time
- Keep track of more than one thing at once
- Meaningfully include past knowledge in discussions
- Evaluate ideas and reflect on our work
- Change our minds and make mid-course corrections while thinking, reading and writing
- Ask for help or seek more information when we need it
- Engage in group dynamics
- Wait to speak until we’re called on
What Are the Warning Signs of Executive Function Problems?
A student may have problems with executive function when he or she has trouble:
- Planning projects
- Comprehending how much time a project will take to complete
- Telling stories (verbally or in writing), struggling to communicate details in an organized, sequential manner
- Memorizing and retrieving information from memory
- Initiating activities or tasks, or generating ideas independently
- Retaining information while doing something with it, for example, remembering a phone number while dialing