Executive Function News ResearchILD

SMARTS: 2022 in Review

Providing students with the strategies and tools they need for academic and life success is at the heart of our mission.

The SMARTS curriculum was developed by ResearchILD, and our impact over this past year reflects teachers’ increased understanding that executive function strategies are critical for helping students to navigate the academic and social challenges of school.

By the numbers

226,875 students have received executive function strategy instruction via SMARTS.

14,025 educators have attended our conferences, trainings, and workshops.

6,075 teachers have used the SMARTS curriculum in their classrooms.

2,082 schools in 47 states and 28 countries have participated in our programs.

82% growth in SMARTS licenses from 2021 to 2022.

Educators in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and 28 countries have implemented SMARTS and/or participated in our conferences and workshops.

2022 Accomplishments

  • Addressing executive function needs through an equity lens
    In 2022, the EF and Equity Fellowship brought together educators to explore how schools are addressing students’ executive function needs through an equity lens. Each month we examined how educators can use executive function as a transformative tool for building differentiated, inclusive instruction and developing community-based practices. Areas of focus for the current academic year include implicit bias and social-emotional learning.
  • MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit
    After launching the Strategy Use Survey in January, we began developing the online version of the Motivation and Effort (ME) Survey. In numerous pilots, educators shared feedback to shape the final version. 2022 marked the second year of the SMARTS Student Ambassador Program, a student focus group designed to ensure our materials accurately reflect students’ lives. The ME Survey is targeted for release in January 2023 as part of the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit.
  • Conferences and trainings reach a worldwide audience
    Our 37th annual Executive Function Conference explored the intersection between executive function and social-emotional learning. The conference brought together 20+ experts in the fields of executive function, ADHD, social-emotional learning, and education with a virtual audience from 7 countries and 28 states across the US. We also offered free webinars that introduced educators to the fundamentals of executive function, and in-depth training that took educators on a deeper dive into executive function.

Get ready for 2023!

We are looking forward to 2023 and are excited about implementing our new initiatives and transforming the lives of more students so that they can learn how to learn. Read the full impact report here.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

Build Your Executive Function Toolkit in 2023

Are you interested in building your Executive Function Toolkit? Join us in February and March to hear from EF experts on topics such as executive function and social-emotional learning, organizing time and materials, UDL, and goal setting. Learn more and register today

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

News Training Webinar

Happy 4th of July from SMARTS

Happy 4th of July from all of us here on the SMARTS Executive Function team! We wish you a happy and safe holiday. After a challenging school year, we hope that your summer is full of rest and relaxation.

Summer is also a great time to reflect on the year and set meaningful goals for the future. Many of your students may also be tackling their summer reading lists; here are some strategies that can help.

As you contemplate the new school year, we hope you will find ways to incorporate executive function into your work. Get an early start with our Executive Function Summer Summit and SMARTS Executive Function Summer Workshop. 

  • Executive Function Summer Summit
    July 27, July 29, August 3, August 5
    The Executive Function Summer Summit will cover topics such as metacognition, organization, flexible problem solving, motivation, engagement, and even math and dyslexia. The four sessions of the Summer Summit (July 27th, July 29th, August 3rd, and August 5th) can be purchased as a bundle for a special price and will be recorded in case you cannot attend live.
  • SMARTS Executive Function Summer Workshop
    August 10, 12, 17, 19

    If you will be teaching SMARTS next year, join us for the SMARTS Executive Function Summer Workshop on August 10th, 12th, 17th, and 19th. Come spend time with the SMARTS team to explore the curriculum, dig into SMARTS strategies, learn with your peers, and develop a customized implementation plan for a new year. As always, there are discounts for SMARTS users.

Wherever your summer plans take you, SMARTS is here to help. Here’s to a great summer!

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Program Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

Executive Function News

Executive Function and Junk Food

There’s no question that what we eat has a major influence on our day to day behavior and our long term health. But how does what we eat affect our executive function processes? Unsurprisingly, research has found that healthy foods are correlated to boosted executive function performance, and unhealthy foods are not. Personally, I was very happy to hear that blueberries and smoothies high in antioxidants appear to boost performance on executive function tasks.

The bad news, especially after an indulgent holiday season, is that sugar is not good for executive function. In the short term, eating sugar sends a pleasurable rush to the brain. As the brain seeks out this reward, it undercuts our inhibition to say no to sugary treats, undermining the executive function processes that allow us to delay gratification. Check out this great TedTalk for more on the neuroscience of sugar.

Even worse, unhealthy eating appears to have negative consequences  for our long-term brain health. A study done by Fania Dasseen and Katrijn Houben at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, found a link between obesity and lower reported levels of executive function performance, implying that individuals who struggle to maintain their weight also struggle with executive function tasks.

It is important to note that the study did not find a causal link; it is possible that being obese impedes executive function development, having executive function difficulties predicts the risk of being obese, or a third factor, such as genetics, could explain both.  Regardless, the risk to brain development is real. Another study by Amy Reichelt, at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, found that a diet high in fat and sugar impeded the neuroplasticity of adolescent rats.

The good news is that, by pairing executive function strategies with healthy eating programs, both diet and executive function abilities may be improved. A study by researchers at Curtin University in Australia taught strategies for cognitive flexibility and improved metacognition and found that participants improved both their eating habits and their performance on executive function related measures

As more research is done to explore the role that food has on our application and development of executive function processes, and the influence executive function strengths and challenges have on diet, educators should be aware and look for opportunities to explore the relationship between diet and executive function in their students’ lives. When discussing healthy eating habits, find ways to teach strategies for eating healthy systematically and explicitly, providing opportunities for students to develop greater self-awareness. When teaching executive function strategies, ask students to reflect on how their diet influences their food choices.

Personally, now that the Christmas cookie season is safely behind us, I’ll be taking some time this January to reflect on the role of junk food in my own diet.