Language matters when talking about executive function strategies!

Choosing your language carefully is essential when you’re looking for buy-in from students (and their parents). A recent article on Mind/Shift called Why the Language We Use About Learning Determines Inclusivity highlights the importance of language nicely.

Often times language that seems natural to professional educators may not be effective when communicating with students or parents if it does not acknowledge their perspective. Ron Berger, teacher and chief academic officer for EL Education, talks about the challenges of choosing the right words:

“For them [parents] if you use words like makerspaces, project-based learning, different pedagogies, it scares them,” Berger said. “They feel like, ‘don’t experiment with my kids. My kids are already at risk. My kids just need the basic skills. They need to pass those tests. They need to do well in life. Don’t try crazy new ideas with our kids.’ And I empathize with that. I totally understand it.”

The same concern arises when talking with parents about strategies to help kids with learning differences. I’ve observed that the learning differences field is awash in technical jargon, which can be very intimidating for parents and students alike. I remember when I entered the field it seemed like all of my colleagues were speaking another language packed with incomprehensible acronyms and shorthand.

The parent of a child with a diagnosed learning difference may be feeling  frustrated, discouraged, and even desperate for help. It may be hard for them to feel confident about executive function strategies when the educator is spewing a word salad at them. It is essential to have student and parent buy-in for an educational intervention to be truly successful; therefore, it is crucial that the intervention be communicated in clear terminology that acknowledges their perspectives.

This article is a good reminder to leave the jargon at home when talking to students and parents – at least in the beginning. We have to remember to try to put ourselves in their shoes and choose language to describe executive function strategies in a way that does not make them feel like we are speaking a different language.

What do you think? Have you run into this problem when talking with parents and teachers? Let me know in the comments!

  • Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager