We had a very interesting speaker last week on the topic of executive function of students. (Sarah Ward of Cognitive Connections.) She made great points about the importance of this frontal lobe skill for success in school. She described executive function as that little voice in your head that constantly analyzes the present and predicts the future moment. Good use of this skill results in good time-management, organization, and metacognitive reflection. One statistic she mentioned is that this little voice typically fires off about 60 statements a minute in people, or roughly one per second. She posited that students who have problems with time-management, organization, and priority-setting may have come from overly-managed upbringings, and she discussed the importance of giving young childeren scaffolded experiences of managing time and tasks so that they develop their internal metacognitive abilities.
First of all, it's interesting to me how this range of abilities is referred to as "executive function," because it aligns so obviously with the skills that company (and school) executives need in order for success. Staying focused on priorities, organizing time, and managing workflow are critical skills, both for executives and students.
Second, I've been fascinated for some time in how technology tools artificially extend our ability to remember, organize, retrieve, and communicate information. For example, social-bookmarking, blogging, tagging, folders full of files, and online discussion boards are examples of ways that technology lets us store information, organize it, and communicate about it. Carrying around the latest generation of smart-phones, we have everywhere/anytime access to our digital stores of information and new ways to communicate with others in this brave new world of digital overload. It seems like those internal executive function skills are good predictors of success with being able to use these tach tools to an advantage as opposed to becoming lost and disoriented in a digitally overwhelming environment. So I sense some strong alignment with those in our schools who focus on skills like executive function for our students' sake.
I remember hearing about a research study last year that analyzed professional auto/truck drivers comparing those with good driving records to those who had been in accidents. I wish I could find the reference, but what I remember about the findings is that the common factor among those with the good driving records was that when driving they were constantly asking themselves internally questions like:
I'm not sure how we build these skills in students so that they ask themselves the right internal questions when studying and learning to stay on track and make good use of their time, but I think it's probably critical to their success.
Comments? Thoughts? Questions?