Connections in Mind

Nurturing Executive Functioning: An Educator’s Guide to Facilitating Effective Revision

Ever since we started Connections in Mind, revision and “study skills” have been a key focus for our community members – so what is it about revision that makes it so difficult for people with executive function challenges?
As educators, we understand the crucial role that revision and studying play in preparing students for exams. However, it’s essential to recognise that a student’s ability to engage in effective revision is closely tied to their executive functioning skills. Executive functioning involves a set of mental processes that help individuals plan, organise, initiate, and complete tasks. For students facing challenges in this area, navigating the demands of exam preparation can be particularly daunting. So what steps can we take to support these students? Let’s start by unpacking the link between executive functioning and effective revision.


Understanding the link:

Executive functioning is like the conductor of the brain’s orchestra, coordinating various cognitive processes to achieve a goal. When it comes to revision and studying, these skills become paramount. Students with executive function challenges may struggle with organising their study materials, managing time effectively, and sustaining attention during prolonged study sessions. Recognising this link is the first step towards creating a supportive learning environment.

The core principle supporting executive function development: Connect, Collaborate, Support:

Students with executive function challenges are often resistant to being told what to do, so skilled support must follow our three step process:

Connect – take time to understand the challenge from the student’s perspective.

Collaborate – co-design the strategies to try with the student.

Support – be there to continue to support the student to implement the strategies long after the shine has worn off.

Five Strategies for Supporting Students’ Revision: (Remember to collaborate with the student)
1. Explicit Instruction on Study Strategies: Begin by explicitly teaching effective study strategies. Break down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Provide clear instructions on note-taking methods, summarisation techniques, and creating visual aids like mind maps. These explicit instructions can serve as scaffolding for students with executive function challenges, helping them navigate the revision process more effectively.
2. Structured Routines and Timetables: Implement structured routines and time tables to help students organise their revision sessions. Clearly outline what topics should be covered during each session and allocate specific time slots for breaks. Consistent routines provide a sense of predictability, aiding students in managing their time and energy more efficiently.

3. Visual Supports and Organisational Tools: Introduce visual supports and organisational tools to enhance executive functioning skills. Encourage the use of planners, calendars, and apps to help students track assignments, deadlines, and study schedules. Visual aids such as colour-coded notes or checklists can assist in organising information and reinforcing the sequential nature of the study process.

4. Flexible Assessments: Recognise that traditional assessment methods may not accurately reflect the knowledge and abilities of students with executive function challenges. Provide alternative assessment options, such as project-based assessments, oral presentations, or open-book exams. This flexibility accommodates different learning styles and allows students to showcase their understanding in ways that align with their strengths.

5. Regular Check-Ins and Feedback: Establish a system of regular check-ins to monitor students’ progress and offer constructive feedback. This proactive approach allows teachers to identify challenges early on and provide additional support as needed. Encourage open communication, allowing students to express their concerns and collaborate on strategies for improvement.

By understanding the intricate connection between revision and executive functioning, educators can play a pivotal role in supporting students facing challenges in this area. Implementing these strategies not only helps create an inclusive learning environment but also empowers students to develop essential executive function skills that extend beyond exam preparation and into lifelong learning. As we tailor our teaching practices to meet the diverse needs of our students, we contribute to a more equitable and enriching educational experience for all.

Join me on 5 March at 4.30 GMT for my CPD accredited webinar, “Why is revision planning so hard? Executive function perspectives and solutions”, where I’ll be diving into this topic and offering practical solutions and support for educators and students alike.

Limited space available. Click here to reserve your spot!

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