Executive Function skills development in ALL classrooms; let’s try and make this a reality…
As part of the Connections in Mind (CiM) Summit 2018, Laurie Faith, educator, trainer and creator of the Activated Learning approach was also invited to speak about her groundbreaking work in introducing Executive Functioning (EF) based teaching into the classroom. Laurie’s research focuses on self-regulated learning, EFs, and bridging the research-to-practice gap. Connections in Mind are now working with Laurie to bring Activated Learning to British classrooms.
This is exciting news! Very. Exciting. News. We can REALLY make a change to our classrooms and help all students and teachers if we open our eyes to some simple yet highly effective strategies for supporting students with their EF skills. Not only are these strategies vitally important for students with Specific Learning Differences, in particular AD(H)D, who can struggle more than the average child with EF skills (working memory, emotional control, planning, organisation and attention for instance); but they are equally important for all students.
Never in the history of humanity has there been more demand on our ability to prioritise, organise, switch and sustain focus in a world crammed full of technology and fast-paced interaction. EF skills are vital for us all in the modern world. And never has there been more need for our classroom teachers to be thrown a lifeline of highly effective strategies that will support them and the multiple needs of every single student in the classroom (https://www.atl.org.uk/latest/send-crisis-teachers-perspective)
What is Activated Learning and what can it do for a school?
According to Laurie, there are 4 core things that students and teachers need to do ‘Activated Learning’ and these are:
2) Conceptual understanding about how EFs develop, vary and relate to intellect and creativity
3) Connect the EF skills to everyday performance
4) Will and Mindset: to stop everything and talk to students about learning, showing self-understanding, self-acceptance and self-compassion
In fact, self-regulated learning is at the core of Laurie’s ethos; “Let’s talk with our WHOLE classes OFTEN about why and how they are struggling and exactly how they can succeed”. What is apparent when you look at her simple yet effective classroom techniques (which include EF posters, scaffolding techniques for planning, exploring barriers to learning for a given task and discussing solutions), you can really see the change in the classroom environment. Instead of teachers running between students and trying to be the ‘frontal lobe’ for all learners in the room, Activated Learning teaches how to scaffold and share the techniques for students to know why something is tricky and more importantly decide how to help themselves.
I firmly believe there is no greater gift to bestow on a student than these techniques with an emphasis on autonomy for the learner. As Laurie points out, “a sense of control over their learning is calming and regulating for our most stressed out students”. There is a wide range of easily accessible materials for teachers to access here and these methods are simply brilliant. They need a whole school approach and they are vital as they lessen the need for individual support and can reduce exclusions.
In my role as SEND Consultant for OC Tuition I have lost track of the number of parents I have spoken to in recent months who have been told by teachers that their child is, ‘being disruptive in class’ or ‘not able to focus’, constantly being in trouble and sometimes being asked to leave school permanently. This simply does not need to be the case. If we can embed an awareness of EF skills in ALL classrooms, students will have a toolkit of strategies to overcome these behaviours, which is both empowering and motivating for them. Surely our role as educators is to provide the strategies to enable young people to go out into the world successfully? This is the way to do it.
In partnership with Laurie Faith, Connections in Mind are now pioneering the Activated Learning approach in British schools. Further information can be found here.