What is Executive Functioning?

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Executive Functioning is an umbrella term which refers to a person’s cognitive skills to concentrate, think flexibly, problem solve, have impulse control, and become distracted, be self-motivated and have emotional self-regulation. Developing a person’s EF skills is vital to ensuring they will become a productive member of not only our classroom but in society as a whole.

Children who struggle with Executive Function often find it difficult to follow instructions, concentrate on a task for a period of time, become distracted or emotional and can be impulsive.

Teachers report misbehaviours to be one of the most disruptive elements of teaching. These minor disruptions can have an impact on children’s learning. Research strongly suggests that developing children’s EF from an early age can support a child in many social situations they meet in a classroom, reducing the misbehaviours observed.

The development of EF can done in a fun, play-based way with any child. It can begin at any age both individually and as a group. EF is positive strategy that also reinforces a child’s own self-confidence and wellbeing.

Executive Functioning is one strategy that can be used to support the children in our care, whether at home or in school.

The research conducted by me over a short 4-week period highlighted that children found school more interesting and fun and the children themselves reported to have more friends in school. There was also an increase in the number of children who reported to work hard in school. Children’s wellbeing is of paramount importance and if these were the only findings, it would be a huge positive. However, after observing the children before and after the implementation of Executive Functioning activities I also found that the incidents of classroom misbehaviours were greatly reduced. The children were more capable of concentrating and less likely to be distracted by other things happening in the classroom. The children were more engaged in their learning.

Not only were their positives in the classroom but parents also reported to have thoroughly enjoyed the time spent on these activities in the home. Parents of older children reported to engage more with their children in play-based activities. When multiple children were in the home there was a tendency to allow them to play independently and although this has huge advantages it is also important to continue to engage with your child/children in a play based way to challenge and develop their Executive Functioning.


The information evolved from research conducted through the John Coolahan Research Fund awarded by the Teaching Council   More information and Resources available at:  Efstrategies 

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