I wrote the book Attack of the Teenage Brain! Understanding and Supporting the Weird and Wonderful Adolescent Learner, because of an advocacy bias: as a neuroscientist, I felt educators should have detailed knowledge about a cognitive gadget called executive function (EF). The reason? The power it holds over the academic lives of teenagers. It’s like cognitive Red Bull. What EF is, and how to boost it, is the fleshing-out of this bias and the subject of this blog post.
What Is Executive Function?
Executive function is defined in different ways by different researchers. It goes by many names, from attention-shifting to self-control. Most researchers agree on two defining components to the gadget: cognitive control, which really does involve attentional states, and emotional regulation, which include behaviors like impulse control.
What does Executive Function Have To Do With Educating Teenagers?
It’s becoming increasingly clear that EF plays an outsize role in their academic performance. It’s also outsized in shaping socializing behavior — and EF dysfunction may mediate many adolescent psychopathologies. That’s the reason for my advocacy. Here’s how researcher Roy Baumeister describes the impact of EF (which he calls self-control) on student performance:
“When researchers compared students’ grades with nearly three dozen personality traits, self-control turned out to be the only trait that predicted a college student’s grade-point average better than chance. Self-control also proved to be a better predictor of college grades than the student’s IQ or SAT score.”
That’s quite a thing to say. Given its academic effervescence, a logical question bubbles up: What activities improve Executive Function?
It’s that most wonderful time of the year. Well, sort of.
Teaching in December can be tricky and sometimes downright difficult. You may find yourself digging deeper and deeper into your bag of tricks. You may need something fresh to keep you and your students on track. You may simply need a break.
You can survive and even thrive in December! Here are four tips to get you through the holiday season.
As teachers, we’ve all dealt with days that are particularly tough in the classroom. Unfortunately, we seem to be increasingly faced with teaching in the days and weeks that follow a local or a collective tragedy. For nearly two weeks, Northern California has been ravaged by devastating wildfires — the deadliest in California history. For many at Teaching Channel, the Bay Area is home, and we’ve been thinking a lot about how we can help our friends and neighbors. From making a donation to volunteering your time, if you’re looking for a way to help, you can find a number of great ideas here and here.
Whether local, national, or international in scope, times of crisis can have a significant impact on our students and our classrooms. While the impact is more obvious when students are in direct proximity to the event or personally involved, large-scale national crises, often accompanied by heavy media coverage, can be equally difficult to navigate. The resulting stress and anxiety students — and teachers — bring into the classroom in response to a crisis can affect teaching and learning.
Does social-emotional learning really make a difference for at-risk students? In Part Three of our series on Social and Emotional Learning, Daniel McCutchen, a recently graduated student from Austin High School in Austin, Texas, joins Tch Talks to discuss his experiences in an intentional SEL-dedicated course. Daniel is not only a former learner, but also attends national conferences and presents on the topic with his teacher. Learn how SEL helped Daniel adjust to the demands and expectations of high school, to prioritize the most important things in his life, and to develop life skills that he is able to apply in a variety of circumstances.
For me, it all started with a simple chime. That’s how I first implemented the core practice of breathing — on purpose — into my classroom’s daily routine. The chime was a simple, calming sound to alert the students it was time to breathe. Sure, I felt a bit silly asking kids to bow their heads and mindfully breathe, but I did it anyway and, with each passing day, the chime and breathing practice were just part of our classroom culture — a routine I looked forward to throughout the day.
You can use a chime or any sound effect that unites the group for its mindful breathing moment — a quiet, peaceful, mini-break that brings calm to the classroom. Bonus: You may find, as I did, that it allows you to achieve a focused state of mind for your own thinking. Breathing practice has become a routine in my personal life as well.