Executive Function, Equity, and Intersectionality

Executive function strategies are essential for academic and personal success, yet disparities exist in access to the support needed to develop these strategies. Factors such as race, gender, socio-economic status, and learning differences intersect to influence the development and support of executive function strategies, creating inequalities that must be addressed for equitable outcomes in education.

Intersectionality and Executive Function

One of the key concepts in understanding the impact of these factors is intersectionality, which recognizes that individuals hold multiple social identities that intersect to shape their experiences. Research indicates that students from marginalized backgrounds often encounter barriers to developing executive function strategies. For instance, students of color may experience racial bias in educational settings, affecting their ability to access supportive resources and develop strategies such as self-regulation and organization.

Similarly, students from low-income backgrounds may lack access↗(link opens in new tab/window) to essential educational opportunities and resources necessary for developing executive function strategies. These intersecting factors can influence access to resources, quality of education, and support systems, all of which are critical for the development of executive function strategies.

Gender and Executive Function

Gender also plays a role in the development and support of executive function strategies. Studies show that boys and girls may develop executive function skills at different rates, with girls often exhibiting stronger strategies in areas such as organization and planning. However, societal expectations stereotypes can impact learning difference diagnoses among girls and boys and the supports that are offered. Most female students have a lower chance of being diagnosed↗(link opens in new tab/window) with a learning difference than their male counterparts because their behavior and symptoms may differ. Without formal diagnoses, students may not receive the strategies and support they need to succeed.

Challenges Faced by Students with Learning Differences

Students with learning differences may face unique challenges in developing executive function strategies. For example, students with ADHD may struggle with impulsivity and attention, affecting their ability to plan and organize tasks effectively. Providing direct, explicit instruction and targeted support for these students ensures that they have equal access to opportunities.

Addressing the intersectionality of factors such as race, gender, socio-economic status, and disability is essential for supporting the development of executive function strategies in all students. By recognizing and addressing the unique challenges faced by students from marginalized backgrounds, educators can help create a more equitable education system that supports the success of all students. Learn more about ResearchILD’s commitment to educational equity through our Executive Function and Equity Fellowship.

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About the Author

Caitlin Vanderberg, Ed.M., is a SMARTS Associate and an Educational Specialist. She leads the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit and provides academic support to students with learning, attention, and executive function challenges. Before joining ResearchILD in 2020, Caitlin worked as an assistant elementary school teacher and with many arts education programs. Caitlin holds an Ed.M. in Mind, Brain, and Education from Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

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