Executive functioning is a major buzzword in education circles. Many researchers believe that executive functions (EF) are a set of individual mind/brain functions that help children to regulate their behavior, remember what they are doing, and act intelligently. This is why they are called "executive" because they act at the executive level of an institution or business by offering high-level strategy and priority setting. When operating harmoniously, executive functions let human beings propose important goals, direct sustained energy toward these goals, and adjust behavior intelligently to achieve these goals.
RiT is very cautious about diagnosing and working with EF. The principal reason for the caution is that children's brains are in a major state of development until at least the second decade of life. EF researchers caution that it is easy to misdiagnose children with executive function disorders. For example, if a child cannot write a five-paragraph essay well, is it because they are poorly schooled in how to do it, not motivated, or because of an executive function disorder? Hunger, test anxiety, and apathy can present as if they were problems with EF. Check out RiT's blog post on EF for more detail.
Based on a review of research, RiT works with children's executive function in the following ways:
Indirect Executive Function Instruction
We embed executive function instruction into our tutoring and according to specific school tasks. Our goal is to teach students to use their executive function to be better students, to become better test-takers, and to use digital and manual tools to organize their work. Our executive function coaching is always attached to school tasks. This approach is known as the "indirect" approach to executive function.
Many young children do not know how to approach unstructured assignments and tasks strategically. They have difficulty developing a plan of attack. We work with children to establish strategies and goals that break down assignments into digestible pieces. For example, RiT tutors teach children how to read instructions to extract expectations and hints for how to do the assignments.
Education specialists define metacognition as "thinking about thinking." It is a type of self-awareness about learning and planning. For instance, sometimes children lose track of their place in a paragraph and continue as if nothing happened. One reason they do this is that they are not being reflexive readers and are just processing words thoughtlessly. We teach children to slow down and check in with their thinking.
As school becomes more complex, some children fall behind because they have holes in their foundational skills. While schools move forward through the grades, some children are left behind. W train children in basic skills so they become automatic and require less working memory. This frees up mental energy for children to tackle new and challenging problems.