Las Virgenes Unified School District | | (818)-878-5219


Executive Functioning

At the highest level of the human capacity to act skillfully are the so-called “executive functions.”  Associated with networks that include the prefrontal cortex, these capabilities allow humans to overcome impulsive, short-term reactions to their environment and instead to set long-term goals, plan effective strategies for reaching those goals, monitor their progress, and modify strategies as needed. In short, they allow learners to take advantage of their environment. Of critical importance to educators is the fact that executive functions have very limited capacity due to working memory. This is true because executive capacity is sharply reduced when: 1) executive functioning capacity must be devoted to managing “lower level” skills and responses which are not automatic or fluent thus the capacity for “higher level” functions is taken; and 2) executive capacity itself is reduced due to some sort of higher level disability or to lack of fluency with executive strategies. The UDL framework typically involves efforts to expand executive capacity in two ways: 1) by scaffolding lower level skills so that they require less executive processing; and 2) by scaffolding higher level executive skills and strategies so that they are more effective and developed.  Previous guidelines have addressed lower level scaffolding, this guideline addresses ways to provide scaffolding for executive functions themselves.

How To:
  • Provide prompts and scaffolds to estimate effort, resources, and difficulty

  • Provide models or examples of the process and product of goal-setting

  • Provide guides and checklists for scaffolding goal-setting

  • Post goals, objectives, and schedules in an obvious place

  • Embed prompts to “stop and think” before acting as well as adequate space

  • Embed prompts to “show and explain your work” (e.g., portfolio review, art critiques)

  • Provide checklists and project planning templates for understanding the problem, setting up prioritization, sequences, and schedules of steps

  • Embed coaches or mentors that model think-alouds of the process

  • Provide guides for breaking long-term goals into reachable short-term objectives

  • Provide graphic organizers and templates for data collection and organizing information

  • Embed prompts for categorizing and systematizing

  • Provide checklists and guides for note-taking

  • Ask questions to guide self-monitoring and reflection

  • Show representations of progress (e.g., before and after photos, graphs and charts showing progress over time, process portfolios)

  • Prompt learners to identify the type of feedback or advice that they are seeking

  • Use templates that guide self-reflection on quality and completeness

  • Provide differentiated models of self-assessment strategies (e.g., role-playing, video reviews, peer feedback)

  • Use of assessment checklists, scoring rubrics, and multiple examples of annotated student work/performance examples

Academic Tier I