I recently watched a Learning and the Brain webinar, taught by the team of Jack Naglieri and Kathleen Kryza. The topic was, unsurprisingly, executive functioning.
I confess, it took some effort to sign up. After all, I spend my workdays on Zoom teaching folks about their brains and executive functions. Just the thought of giving over three hours of a priceless Saturday morning to the topic was, well, tough. But I did it, knowing full well that somewhere in all of their content would be a new gem that I could share, increasing my own knowledge and perspective.
I was not disappointed.
Since the primary audience for this webinar was educators, there were two key questions raised:
Dr. Naglieri has the research to show that, YES, you can teach executive functions if you approach it from the right direction.
I was pleased to see that Naglieri’s research aligns with my own approach in Seeing My Time. That is, you don’t start with strategies. First, you teach students background information about their brain, laying the foundation of “why” we act as we do. Then, you give them the opportunity to build their own metacognitive capacity to problem-solve for their specific challenges.
In this process, the teacher or parent’s job is to share their own thought processes and strategic options. The “how” is modeled rather than directly instructed.
The point of this modeling method (here comes the gem!) is for the student to have a plan in their own head. You want them to consciously ask themselves three questions: What will I do before I begin? How will I handle the challenges in the middle of my task? And when I am done, how can I can use this planning experience in the future?
While I have long known that metacognition is the basis for behavior change, I had never broken that thought process into three distinct plans. Bingo! Weakness in the executive function of planning is huge for so many people. It’s why many adults seek out my help.
Thanks to Naglieri and Kryza, I now have another angle to discuss planning and how it directly ties to our daily to-do list, be it a school assignment or completing a task at work or home.
So here’s how to think about this three-step process, using the acronym: BCE. For each letter, you will be pausing to activate your metacognition and develop a plan.
Answer this question: Before I begin, I need to ______.
Imagine the challenges or problems that might stop you from completing this task.
Answer this question: If this gets hard or I get stuck, I will ________:
When you are done, answer these questions:
Consciously using this BCE approach to planning before you start a complex task or assignment is key to building strong metacognition, which is the foundation for executive functioning and your capacity to change behavior.
I hope this “gem” is valuable for you too!
Little by little,
Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program®. She is an educator and author of three books on executive functions, as well as a trainer and speaker. Marydee has more than twenty-five years of experience working with students and adults with executive function challenges.