Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Engaging Parental Support for Smarter Thinking

Given that students spend much more time outside of school than in the classroom, partnering with parents can be an effective way to help children and youth enhance their executive function. Reinforcing messages and strategies related to taking charge of their thinking at home also illustrates how truly useful it can be to be the boss of your brain.

Many parents won't be familiar with the concept of executive function—or indeed the idea of guiding students to learn how to learn. In their own K-12 education, today's parents likely never encountered lessons about how the human brain learns and how people can become more effective learners. As a result, it will be helpful to share three key messages with parents:

1. The term executive function refers to the capacities of the human mind to develop and carry out plans, to get and stay organized, to make decisions, to hold information in working memory, and to focus attention on the task at hand. A helpful metaphor is to think of executive function as the brain's CEO directing other parts of the brain, such as those that control the senses and body movement, to take action to carry out plans and perform tasks.

2. Many people believe that these kinds of thinking skills are inherent (for example, you're either naturally organized or you're not), but researchers have established that it is possible to improve various aspects of executive function through conscious effort and practice. For instance, over time, you can improve your working memory, which makes it easier to solve problems and remember all the steps in a task.

3. There are simple strategies that you can use at home with your children to help them—and you—learn to think smarter. Enhancing executive function can make a difference in schoolwork, on the job, and in personal pursuits such as hobbies and other pastimes.

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