This is the one that just drives parents and teachers crazy.
There are students that actually do their work, and then don’t turn it in. When you ask them, “Why?” they usually answer with a shrug of the shoulders and say, “I don’t know.”
Huh? I mean, “The dog ate my homework” makes more sense than, “I don’t know.”
They went to all the trouble to do the work. They did the hard part. They might have spent hours doing it. All they had to do was transport the work from home to school and the teacher.
Usually, this behavior is tied to a whole string of skills that we group under the heading Executive Function. Executive Function is usually associated with study skills, but it actually involves much, much more.
John has a term paper he’s known about for 6 weeks. It’s due tomorrow and he hasn’t started it.
Samantha digs through her backpack each and every day to find school assignments that she knows are there, but can never quite find them.
Justin find books, assignments, pencils, ruler, compass, paper, pens, notebooks…but never in one place. They get left in classes, in the library, his locker, his room at home. He is a walking “pig pen” of school related items. He pretty much never has what he needs right when he needs it.
Diane can never keep her assignments straight. How many questions was she supposed to do? Was it the evens or the odds? Was it for tomorrow or next week? Was she supposed to write just the answers or was she also supposed to explain?
Marko has a group project assignment with three other students. He hopes it goes well because he has no idea where to start or what to work on. He doesn’t even have the other students’ phone numbers.
Executive Function skills are part of the learning skills continuum. They are essential to good learning. They include: organization, time and materials management, sequencing with time for planning, and formulation of plans and strategies for behavior. They are functions of the frontal lobe of the brain.
Here is the hardest part about Executive Function:
These are skills that are needed in school, often before they are fully developed in the student, and skills that many students don’t develop automatically. These are life skills that can be taught, but rarely are. They are just assumed.
Executive function is each person’s own personal CEO. It guides and directs his behavior, helps him organize, plan, and make decisions.
It reasons, strategizes, and evaluates. Everyone makes mistakes-lots of them-but thank goodness we have executive function, because this part of our thinking allows us to evaluate what went wrong and make adjustments and different decisions in the future.
Executive Function allows us to be flexible and adjust to change, to change our mind and take a different course of action, or to think about things in different ways.
Students who wait until the last minute to do assignments, don’t turn in assignments completed, or wait too long before studying for a test may have under-developed executive function skills.
When do these skills normally reach maturity? At around age 25! That’s after most students are out of school.
The good news – Like the other skills we have talked about, Executive Function can be trained, strengthened, and improved with specialized programs designed to develop those skills.
When you hear of kids that drive their parents and teachers crazy because they do work and don’t turn it in, or they exhibit the other behaviors listed above, realize there is hope. They aren’t “bad” or unmotivated. They just need more training in Executive Function.