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Executive Function

Executive Function Strategies Vs. Skills: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to supporting students’ executive function needs, the terms “skill” and “strategy” are often used interchangeably. In the SMARTS Executive Function curriculum, we believe it is important to underscore the difference between such seemingly similar terms.

When it comes to supporting students’ executive function needs, the terms “skill” and “strategy” are often used interchangeably. In the SMARTS Executive Function curriculum, we believe it is important to underscore the difference between such seemingly similar terms.

Skills refer to abilities that may be enacted without much thought from the individual. Strategies, on the other hand, are intentionally employed by an individual to accomplish a specific task, such as reading a book or studying for an exam.

When it comes to teaching executive function, it is important to promote a strategic approach for many reasons.

  1. Strategy instruction is a strengths-based approach, that focuses on students achieving personally meaningful goals, supported by teachers’ explicit teaching and modeling of strategy use. Students who struggle may internalize their failures and come to believe that their efforts will not lead to success. However, when armed with strategies, students have options for how they can respond to an academic or organizational challenge.
  2. Strategy instruction promotes self-understanding. Using strategies is an intentional and deliberate process; students become active learners who engage in self-reflection about which strategies were most successful in specific situations. This metacognitive process is an important part of teaching students to understand how they learn most effectively. When students feel valued and involved in their learning, they are more likely to be motivated.
  3. Strategy instruction is beneficial for all learners. Every student can benefit from having a larger set of strategies to pull from when they face challenges in academics and in their everyday lives.

The SMARTS Executive Function curriculum helps students understand their areas of strength and challenge and explicitly teaches executive function strategies. Learn more about the three key tenets at the heart of the SMARTS program.

  • 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

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