Foundations of Practice in Executive Function

The educator develops an understanding of what executive function is and how it affects student learning and identifies strategies to support and develop executive function skills in the classroom.
Made by Friday Institute @ NC State

About this Micro-credential

Key Method

Educator recognizes the impact of executive functioning skills on student learning and can identify strategies that help or hinder executive functions in students.

Method Components

Demonstrate Understanding of Executive Function is the second micro-credential in the Learning Differences stack.

The full Learning Differences stack includes six micro-credentials:

  1. Demonstrate Understanding
    • Of Working Memory
    • Of Executive Function
    • Of Learner Motivation
  2. Build a Student-Centered Plan
  3. Apply Student-Centered Strategies
  4. Engage Your Peers in Supporting Students’ Learning Differences

What is executive function?

There are many components to executive function: impulse control, emotional control, planning/prioritizing, flexibility, working memory, self-monitoring, task initiation, and organization. In sum, executive functioning skills are the skills that enable you to take information, make a plan, and follow through with that plan – even in the face of distractions. While all students are born with the capacity to develop strong executive functioning skills, differences of experience or educational opportunities impact how executive function develops. For teachers who work with younger students, this means that it is imperative for them to work with all students to practice and develop executive functioning skills. For teachers of older students, this may mean that they have to explicitly teach and exercise executive functioning skills with students who have a gap in this area.

Example instructional strategies for developing executive functioning skills in students:

  • Previewing is one of the simplest and most flexible strategies. If a student has trouble staying organized, a few minutes prior to when you will collect materials, give that student a heads-up to allow time to gather appropriately.
  • If a student struggles with impulse control and shouts out during lessons, let him/her know that you will call on him/her third before the lesson starts.
  • Does your student struggle with changes in the schedule? At the start of the day pull him or her aside and say, “I know today is normally library day but the library was booked. We will go later this week.” Students may still struggle, but having the opportunity to process and prepare ahead of time can go a long way toward reducing expressions of frustration in the classroom.
  • Preferential seating should be employed with students who have trouble hearing, seeing, focusing on, or paying attention to instruction happening. This does not necessarily mean front-row seating.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

  • Anderson, Peter. “Assessment and Development of Executive Function (EF) During Childhood.” Child Neuropsychology 8.2 (2002): 71-82. Journal Article.


  • Understanding Executive Function
    This article answers common questions about executive function. It was written for parents by a parent but is useful for educators as well.
  • Executive Function 101
    Executive Function 101 is a free e-book from founding partner the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
  • Building Brain Power
    Executive Function and Young Children (Audience: Elementary). This article provides explicit strategies for teachers of young students to develop executive functioning skills.
  • Adolescents and Executive Function Skills (Audience: Middle and High)
    This resource explains how executive functions change for adolescents and what parents and teachers can do to support teenaged learners.

Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

Following are the items you must submit to earn this micro-credential and the criteria by which they will be evaluated. To earn the micro-credential, you must receive a “Yes” for Parts 1 and 2. Through any of a variety of methods (written, scanned, audio, video, and/or multimedia), educator demonstrates an understanding of what executive function is and how it influences learning. You must also effectively reflect on how executive function applies to your instruction.

Part 1. Overview questions

(200-word limit for each response)

  • What is executive function?
  • What resources were most helpful in developing your understanding of executive functioning skills, and why?

Part 2. Reflection evidence/artifacts

Please provide an insightful reflection that demonstrates your understanding of both the impacts of executive functions on learning and the teaching strategies that may support or hinder learners with various executive functioning skills. Please submit one or more artifacts (such as links to writing, scanned documents, images, video, audio, or other media) as your reflection.

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Download to access the requirements and scoring guide for this micro-credential.
How to prepare for and earn this micro-credential - in a downloadable PDF document

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