The teenage years bring a certain amount of hormonal mayhem to young people at the very time that they are required to exercise more responsibility for organising their lives. The ability to display higher order thinking skills, to acquire, retain and recall information, to prioritise and synthesise and term data into a systematic plan may be called executive functions.
In schools we tend to recognise executive functions by outcomes, that is, success in examinations. We may be left to lament the failure of so many to be able to thrive in the examination environment as a ‘lack of ability’ rather than a lack of development opportunities.
What if we were more pro-active in promoting the development of executive skills to all learners as part of the curriculum?
Of course the content led curriculum, packed with information and with all the subjects looking to promote their own unique way of learning related to the ‘supposed’ demands of the subject tends to preclude this. ‘That is a fine idea, but it won’t work in my subject’ is the traditional lament offered by teachers when asked to consider any element of process or study skills within their subject. Such attitudes often mean that the ‘how’ of learning is often lost in the clamour for more time for the ‘what’ of learning. Opportunities are often lost to develop young people as effective independent and autonomous learners who can function effectively beyond the confines of the school with attitudes, behaviours and competences which they can deploy in their adult life in their family, work and community.
For my own part, in parallel with the moves towards project based learning being adopted by Finland and Singapore, I would adopt and adapt one of the commercial project management packages such as Prince II to educational purposes to provide a systematic grounding in executive functioning skills.
This article and accompanying video from our friends at Edutopia gives some deeper insights: Bolstering Executive Function | Edutopia