College Executive Function Learning Differences

Interviewing an EF Expert, Part 2

Top Tier Admissions(link opens in new tab/window), a company devoted to empowering students from around the world in the college and graduate school admissions process, recently interviewed ResearchILD’s very own Shelly Levy*, M.Ed., M.S., who is a leader in the field of learning development.

Shelly’s interview is a rich resource on executive function, and we will be diving into pieces of it here over the next few weeks (read all posts). 

How does executive function impact learning?

Shelly’s response: Executive function processes are essential for academic success, and we use them every day. Starting from elementary school on, executive function processes affect many academic areas. They are critically important for reading comprehension, written language, math problem solving, long-term projects, studying, and taking tests. In other words, everything we expect our teenagers to do every day in school.

The role of metacognition

The ability to engage with these executive function processes relies on students’ metacognition (also known as self-understanding). Metacognition is a topic we cover frequently here on the SMARTS blog. It’s impossible to define executive function without also considering metacognition.

Metacognitive awareness refers to students’ understanding and beliefs of how they think and learn as well as the strategies they can use to complete specific tasks. When students do not have executive function strategies, they lack an understanding of the way they learn best, their belief in their ability to succeed suffers, and they are unmotivated to put forth effort. When students know what strategies they need to be successful, they learn more about their personal strengths and challenges, which improves their belief in their abilities and motivates them to put in more effort, particularly for challenging tasks.

How can you promote metacognition for your students?

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

*Shelly Levy is the Director of SMARTS Training and an Educational Specialist at The Research Institute for Learning and Development in Lexington, MA. She has been in the field of special education for over 30 years.

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

College Learning Differences parent perspective

Parent Perspective: Is It Time to Worry Yet?

My favorite literary father, Atticus Finch, tells his daughter, “It’s not time to worry yet.” Notice, he doesn’t say “don’t worry.” Instead, he counsels to only worry when there’s a valid reason.

For parents of a student with learning differences, anxiety is valid. The worry can be used to motivate action that will help a student, assuming it is not overwhelming (which it can be, understandably).

When a student struggles with reading, math, or executive function skills, schools often say “wait and see.” It’s a call for inaction. Wait and see is almost always bad advice.

When my daughter didn’t pass a reading assessment several years in a row, everyone said, “Don’t worry, she just needs more time.” After many years of unnecessary struggle, I learned that she is dyslexic.

What she needed was understanding and different instruction. Without that support and understanding, she developed severe anxiety and depression(link opens in new tab/window) at too young of an age. Waiting was educationally and emotionally damaging. I should have worried sooner.

Now in high school, my daughter still struggles every day. She manages to pull good grades so nobody seems worried. But I think I’d better start worrying that she’s not learning how she learns, not being prepared for college in a way that will work for her. And I’d better start worrying about helping her find a college that will accept her literally and figuratively.

“Don’t worry,” the college counselors say. “She’ll get in somewhere. Wait and see.” I’m sure that’s good advice for most kids, but nothing in my daughter’s educational experience has just magically worked out by waiting and seeing. It’s been hard work, motivated by worry.

Hopefully, it’s not paralyzing, but if you have kids with learning differences, it’s always time to worry.

  • Parent of LD High School Student
College EF Conference Homeschool Social-Emotional Learning

37th Annual EF Conference Highlight: ResearchILD and SMARTS Specialists 

ResearchILD is excited to host a number of educational specialists, SMARTS experts, and teacher trainers at our 37th Annual Executive Function Conference on November 3 and 4. These speakers will share practical strategies that you can bring into your classroom on Monday morning.

These pre-recorded concurrent sessions will be available starting the week of October 24. Conference attendees will have unlimited access to all concurrent sessions and the recordings of the live plenary sessions through January 15, 2023.

Wearing Your Shoes: Teachers Collaborating with Parents to Promote Executive Function at School and at Home

Michael Greschler, M.Ed. & Mindy Scirri, Ph.D.

In this workshop, we will explore the impact of differing perspectives between teachers and parents/guardians, as well as practical strategies for collaborating with families to support students. Participants will learn strategies from the SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum, review strategy instruction materials developed to support EF at home and explore hands-on activities for bridging the gap between school and home.

Executive Function and Social-Emotional Learning: Strategies for Perspective Taking, Self-Understanding, and Self-Management

Shelly Levy, M.Ed. M.S. & Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed.

In this session, we will discuss the relationship between emotion and executive function, as well as ways of teaching EF strategies to promote emotional regulation. We will address strategies for developing perspective taking, self-understanding, and self-management. Attendees will develop a more nuanced appreciation for the impact of negative emotions on students’ performance. They will also learn how to teach executive function strategies in ways that promote engagement and motivation and empower students to become more independent and successful.

Beyond Jokes and Riddles: Cognitive Flexibility Across the Grades and Content Areas

Donna Kincaid, M.Ed.

This session will focus on practical strategies for improving students’ cognitive flexibility in academic and social situations. We will model a number of effective and easy-to-teach strategies and discuss their application across academic domains.

Transition to College: Promoting Students’ Self-Understanding and Executive Function Strategy Use

Joan Steinberg, M.Ed.

During this session, we will discuss the importance of self-advocacy as students initiate adult relationships with professors, medication providers, therapists, and executive function coaches. Our students will talk about the differences in academic demands between high school and college, and the need to shift mindsets and develop new habits for these changing demands. In addition, we will discuss a variety of planning and time-management strategies that have been used by our students and customized for different learning profiles.

Learn More

To hear from these presenters and more, we invite you to attend ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference on November 3 and 4, 2022.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

Cognitive Flexibility College Goal Setting

Teaching Financial Literacy with EF Strategies, Part 1

According to a study by FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) Investor Education Foundation(link opens in new tab/window), four in five young people are not able to successfully complete a financial literacy quiz. Since the Great Recession in 2008, financial literacy has declined across all demographics, but it is especially true for Millennials and Generation Z. One approach to boost your students’ financial literacy is teaching executive function strategies that foster skills in organizing, prioritizing, self-reflection, and flexibility.  It’s never too early to teach your students financial literacy and EF strategies that can have a lasting impact(link opens in new tab/window)

Planning + Loans 

Taking out a loan to help pay for college or a car is a substantial decision that can affect a person’s financial status in the long run. Teaching your students strategies for long-term organizing and prioritizing of materials and time (Unit 4 in SMARTS) is an excellent place to start. Encourage students to explore their obligations (have to’s), aspirations (want to’s), and negotiations when it comes to their time, activities, and lifestyle. Loans, interest rates, and inflation also offer real-world scenarios that can be explored in math classes across the grades

Some ideas for helping students plan for loans include:

  • What are the terms and fees associated with the loan? 
  • Are there prepayment penalties? 
  • Have they considered options to lower the interest rate, such as enrolling in automatic debit payments? 
  • Are they eligible to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan?

Shifting Flexibly + Budgeting

Strong budgeting skills are at the heart of setting oneself up for financial success. In order to create and maintain an accurate budget, students can first engage in activities that promote self-reflection and self-understanding. This is another element of personal finance where students can determine their spending “have to’s” and “want to’s”. What interests, hobbies, and activities are priorities that students should budget for? Playing games that encourage real-life budgeting(link opens in new tab/window) is a fun and low-stakes way to explore what it means to budget. When it comes to budgeting, students will need to remain flexible; unexpected costs can arise, so encouraging students to set aside a monthly stipend for last-minute emergency costs can prepare them for the unexpected.  

Stay tuned for part 2 of our EF and Financial Literacy series. 

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development: