Executive Function and Online Learning

In a typical school year, students tend to settle into classroom expectations and routines by springtime. This year has been anything but typical. With the radically different context and expectations of online learning, your students may still be trying to adjust. Context matters for executive function. To help students succeed in an online learning setting, executive function demands must be consistent and transparent.

Where is my homework again?

Do not assume that students know how to find important information on their class websites or their school’s learning management system. While some students may seamlessly navigate these websites (even teaching you a few tricks), other students may find simple tasks quite challenging and give up when they feel overloaded by information. Provide explicit modeling to ensure that all students can find their homework, participate in discussion, turn in their work, and check their grades. Some students may require more coordination and executive function support. Keep your communication systems simple and consistent; it makes a big difference. Place teacher announcements in one designated spot, rather than scattering them across email announcements, discussion board posts, and in-person announcements.

I need help!

When teaching online, it can be difficult to determine when and where a student needs extra support. Students are more isolated from their teachers and peers, making them reluctant to ask for help. Some students may not even know where to begin asking for help. By conducting brief check-ins (via a Zoom poll or Google form), you can discern how comfortable students are navigating the online resources for their classes or if they are still experiencing information overload. It is never too late to open channels of communication and allow students to share their perspectives; this can ensure all learners feel heard and supported.

Our latest free webinar, “Executive Function Challenges and Solutions: Shifting Between Remote to In-Person Instruction,” offers a number of tips and tools for teachers to support students’ executive function in the current learning context.

For more ideas about supporting students during remote learning, check out these posts.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, SMARTS Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org