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The Importance of Executive Functions for Students

Executive functions help us to work, learn, and live our lives. They allow students to follow directions and complete a given assignment. What happens when this mental process shuts down?

Without executive functions, students will drift aimlessly through their schoolwork. They will struggle to complete simple tasks. 

Knowing the signs of executive dysfunction will help you understand struggling students. There are steps you can take that will better the lives and increase the learning of these students. Learn how!

Understanding Executive Functions

The frontal lobe of the brain controls executive functions. For most students, this part of the brain helps them perform assignments quickly. The process is natural and subconscious. They don't have to think about it.

Executive functions continue to develop into our 20's. Some students may struggle through college without getting the help they need. 

However, students don't grow into executive functions. Part of it can be taught by parents and teachers. You are an important influence in the life of the student. Modeling functional behavior will give them guidance.


Students need executive function skills to complete a given task. It's difficult for those who don't struggle to understand what skills a student is missing. For you, these abilities come without even thinking.

  • Making an organized schedule
  • Planning for the future
  • Completing tasks
  • Problem-solving
  • Considering possible outcomes
  • Focusing
  • Taking action

Role of Executive Functions in Learning

There are many connections between executive functions and learning. In the classroom, students have to regulate their behavior. As they age, they have more responsibilities.

Younger students with executive dysfunction are harder to spot than their older counterparts. That's because teachers and parents handle most of the executive abilities for them.

Older students who struggle with executive functions will not be able to start tasks as easily as their peers. They won't manage their time because they won't think about how long an assignment will take.

A student will have difficulties communicating details. They will also find it difficult to plan and complete projects.

Improving Executive Functions

There are ways you can help a student overcome executive function issues. Providing them with educational material will help them to manage their schoolwork and improve other aspects of their life.

One way to get a student started is to make a schedule for them. Break down large goals into manageable tasks. When creating the schedule don't forget to add in breaks. This will help them focus.

For older students, make them part of the schedule-making process. This encourages them to engage and be more accountable. Something as simple as creating a stress-free morning routine can make a huge difference.

Encourage them. They don't have internal encouragement. By providing it externally they'll find it easier to stay on task.

Help Students Today

Executive dysfunction negatively impacts many students. They know when they're not doing well in school. Sometimes their symptoms are mistaken for laziness or apathy.

That misunderstanding makes them less likely to receive the help they need. That's why it's important to familiarize yourself with the signs. Once you recognize it, you can better help students. 

For material about executive functions development, visit our library!

Alice Kassotaki - Speech Language Pathologist MSc, BSc

copyright Upbility 2022

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