Interviewing an EF Expert, Part 6

An EF coach working next to student at table

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 this is the final post in this series. Check out part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5.

What is the role of an executive function coach? Who would benefit most from this resource?

Shelly’s response: “The role of an executive function coach is to empower students who are independent, confident, and who have a clear understanding of who they are as learners.”

Executive function coaching is delivered within the context of an educational therapy relationship between the student and the executive function coach. This relationship helps to foster strong emotional self-regulation, including the ability to take risks, try new strategies, and approach novel tasks with confidence. The biggest difference between tutoring and educational therapy is that tutors focus on what to learn while educational therapists focus on how to learn.

What Do Educational Therapists Do? 

An educational therapist takes a holistic approach, with the goals of both improving a student’s academic performance and helping the student reach psycho-educational and social-emotional goals.

Developing executive function strategies includes modeling, coaching, scaffolding, and reflecting on strategy use. It also involves allowing time for students to internalize and generalize the strategies learned to both home and school settings.

What Will Students Learn?

The executive function coaching process can work on skills to:

  • Overcome procrastination and avoid distractions to improve time management
  • Plan, prioritize, and break down long-term assignments into manageable parts
  • Develop effective and efficient study and note-taking strategies
  • Organize and maintain materials including backpacks, work environment, notebooks, and assignments
  • Create personalized and systematic writing systems.


  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

*Shelly Levy is the Director of SMARTS Training & 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: