Promoting Executive Function and Hope

The uncertainty of the state of education is taking its toll on teachers, students, and parents. Constantly shifting schedules, unclear directions, and social isolation are chipping away at our motivation and building a sense of hopelessness.

Motivation is the foundation for academic success, as well as the application of executive function strategies. When we don’t believe we can succeed, our motivation suffers.  How can we keep hope alive in this trying time?

Hope Theory

Hope Theory, first proposed by Charles Snyder in the 90’s, presents a practical model for promoting hope and motivation in our students.

Hope Theory can be reduced to a simple formula: Agency + Pathways Thinking = Hope.

In other words, if we can promote students’ sense of agency and their ability to identify multiple paths towards success, they are more likely to believe in their ability to reach their goals and will be more willing to work towards these goals.

Promote Hope with Executive Function Strategies

Here at SMARTS, we believe that executive function strategy instruction is an ideal way to promote hope in students. Executive function is goal directed by definition, so when you are teaching students executive function strategies, hope is actually an important component.

Metacognition, an essential element of teaching executive function, fosters agency. When teaching students new executive function strategies, it’s important to help them develop greater self-understanding. Do they like this strategy? Does it match their strengths and challenges as students? Answering these questions promotes their sense of agency, crucial for nurturing a sense of hope.

What’s more, the application of executive function strategies naturally promotes pathways thinking. Using a strategy asks students to break down the steps they need to use to achieve their goal. So, instead of jumping right in or giving up when one step goes awry, students flexibly adapt their approach to stay on track.

This year, whether teaching in-person, remotely, or some combination of the two, be sure to integrate explicit executive function strategies into your work. Teach strategies that give students a sense of control over their learning process and faith in their ability to persevere despite setbacks.

This year we are teaching more than executive function. We are teaching hope!

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director