(SLEUTH™ Field 3: Managing Challenging Learner Behaviour, Section 4)
Executive function, defined by Blair as the ability to hold in mind information in working memory, to inhibit fast and unthinking responses to stimulation, and to flexibly shift the focus of one’s mental frame, is more or less the foundation for the intentional, volitional self-directed control of behaviour. We use executive function when we perform such activities as planning, organising, strategising and paying attention to and remembering details.
Organisation, one of 5 higher executive functions (the others being time management, planning & prioritising, task initiation and reasoning [sense-making, problem solving & judgement]), co-exists with 6 basic executive functions (working memory, attentional control, self-monitoring, cognitive flexibility, impulse inhibition, and emotional control).
As an adult many potential reasons exist for disorganisation – cultural beliefs, poor skills, indecision, mental health & brain related conditions, and perfectionism – but when it comes to young adults and young learners it is most likely due to executive function.
Being effective means being able to organise stimuli we are exposed to in our environment. Organising means creating a structure and importantly for learning, an inability to organise impacts on two other higher executive functions – planning & time management.
Visit SLEUTH to read more on how Executive Function and Organisation skills can help grow your pedagogy and your learners outcomes….
SLEUTH ‘Quick’ Solutions
Understanding – Talk as a class
Talk as a class about organisation so that learners who struggle with it, because their executive function inhibits their ability to do so, understand it applies to everyone and not just them.
Understanding – The difference between neat & messy
Ensure you and your learners (including those who struggle with their organisation because their executive function inhibits their ability to do so) have a shared of understanding of the difference between neat & messy (e.g. show images asking them to identify rooms which are clean & organised, some which are organised but cluttered and others requiring tidying up); keep focusing on establishing an agreed definition of what it means to be organised.
Understanding – Place a high value on time
Explicitly teach learners (who struggle with their organisation because their executive function inhibits their ability to do so) to place a high value on time by thinking about the economic term opportunity cost (i.e.. for every choice & decision made there is a lost opportunity – you can go to the beach but the lost opportunity is going to the movies); reinforce how being organised saves time and provides more opportunities to do things learners like.
Instructional strategy – Co-construct systems & routines
Negotiate with learners (who struggle with their organisation because their executive function inhibits their ability to do so) the development of organisation systems (e.g. checklists; cue cards; and planners) & routines (e.g. when working independently what to do when completing tasks; putting away resources before going home; and placing completed homework on desks prior to starting lessons for checking); if it’s going to work it has to be owned by the learner.
Instructional strategy – Suggestion box
Set up a suggestion box learners (including those who struggle with their organisation because their executive function inhibits their ability to do so) can use if they think of ideas around how to improve general classroom organisation and their own & others; use weekly.
Instructional strategy – Buddies
Once a shared understanding of organisation between everyone is achieved pair learners (including those who struggle with their organisation because their executive function inhibits their ability to do so) with buddies; each buddy holds the other accountable for being organised and developing their organisational skills.
These are 6 of 41 Quick Find Solutions available on SLEUTH™ in the area of Organisation.