Executive Function and Self-Regulated Learning in At-Risk Students

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Executive functions are those processes which assist us in goal-directed behavior and self- regulation. Interestingly these functions which are associated with the pre-frontal lobe of the brain is the area of the brain which continues to develop
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  Executive Function and Self-Regulated Learning in At-Risk Students" What happens is that he isn't able to focus and write at the same time. When he doesn't write his attention is better and he listens."  Teacher comment on her Learning Disabled Student in the classroom EFL Teachers  can often identif students !ho are at-risk for academic failure due to language learning difficulties LD#$ %o!ever& !hen students are formall assessed for LD and given accommodations such as extra time& s'elling dis'ensations& read aloud tests# teachers ma still not full understand or be able to identif how  these students learn or why the fail$ Educational interventions as !ell as accommodations for LD students ma not al!as bring about the desired results$ Remediation ma fix u' the 'roblem in the s'ecific sub(ect domain& but the student ma not have learned to a''l the fix u' strateg to other domains of learning$ Furthermore& these measures do not address the reasons underling the 'oor 'rogress or !h the 'rogress onl occurs in certain academic sub(ects$Learning about the role of Executive Functions ) those mental 'rocesses re*uired to  'lan& organi+e& initiate and regulate student goal-directed behavior in the classroom ) can hel' us to understand the underling 'rocessing 'roblems of our students at-risk and to guide in develo'ing instructional a''roaches for them$ ,ong& .. in /utler& ..0#$Through the use of a self-*uestionnaire& students and teachers can determine together !hich Executive Functions are !eak and in need of strateg intervention at the EF level 1iao& 2s*uith& 1u& 3en!orth& 4550#$ 6etacognition is the forerunner to the stud of Executive Function76etacognition is essential to successful learning because it enables individuals to  better manage their cognitive skills8$9romoting metacognition begins !ith building an a!areness among learners that metacognition exists& differs from cognition and increases academic success$: Schra!& ..0#$  6etacognition is not to be confused !ith ;ritical or %igher <rder Thinking Skills$ 2t centers on the *uestion of "the ho! 2 learn" of learning$ Although educators agree on the im'ortance of metacognition as a goal for enhancing thinking skills 455.&=>?@ #& inclassrooms& metacognitive learning 'rocesses are not usuall taught ex'licitl$ $45&=?= B# Self-regulation is one of the ma(or constructs of metacognition$ Cimmerman .0# described self-regulation as the extent to !hich individuals are behaviorall& motivationall& and metacognitivel 'roactive in the 'rocess of their learning$2n self-regulated learning a student sets goals& uses strategies to achieve these goals& and monitors the 'rocess in !hich the goals must be achieved$ Cimmerman ..5# states that all learners regulate their learning 'rocess to some extent but self-regulated learners # are a!are of the link bet!een learning outcomes and regulator 'rocessesand 4# use regulator strategies to achieve academic goals Cimmerman& ..5#$ Cimmermans self-regulated learner is behaviorall and cognitivel advanced$ /ut !hat of our struggling students or ounger inex'erienced ones %o! can the  become metacognitive self-regulated learners A!areness and understanding of Executive Function skills is a 'ractical !a for students and teachers to understand learning 'rocesses ) both the strengths and !eaknesses$ Executive Function is the engine driving metacognition$The lea' in neuroscience research has brought metacognition into the brain stud arena$ Toda& metacognition is considered as 'art of a com'lex sstem of brain- 'rocesses called Executive Functions 1ioia& 2s*uith& 1u& Len!orth& 4550#$ /rain researchers started to look at brain areas related to Executive Function EF# and Executive Dsfunction EDF# as !ell as brain areas affected b Learning Disabilities such as reading and language disorders 9ennington& ..& in Denckla& 455G#$ The frontal lobe has been identified as the area controlling Executive Function$ 2t is im'ortant to note that this area of the brain does not reach its full develo'ment until around the age of 4G$ During the teen ears the develo'ment of the frontal lobe is at its 'eak$ Adolescents are not onl learning the "!hat" or content& but at the same time  develo'ing the executive function skills for self-regulated learning ) the "ho!" of learning$ This is 'aramount for teachers to understand$ Executive Functions EF# are the mental 'rocesses of 'lanning and organi+ing flexible strategic-a''ro'riate actions to carr out a task$ Executive Function is re*uired to regulate a 'ersons goal-directed behavior$ Executive Function uses 'ast kno!ledge and ex'erience in the context of the current situation$ 2t also summons u' ex'ectations of the future outcomes as !ell as 'ersonal relevant values and 'ur'oses$ Executive Function o'erates differentl at different stages of life$ 2t is a cognitive  'rocess involved in controlling behavior and reading the 'erson for decision)makingand 'roblem-solving in real life 6oran H 1ardner& 455G in 6elt+er& 455G#$"8Executive Function EF# starts as much as infrastructure for other cognitive sstems as overseer thereofI EF develo's in a constant back and forth u'-and-do!n interactive loo'ing fashion involving other cognitive domains$" Denckla& 455G '$ G#$ Executive Function ;om'onentsResearchers ma differ regarding the various functions to include in defining Executive Function$ 6ost agree on those s'ecified b 1ioia& 2s*uith& 1u& 3en!orth& 4550#$ These neuro'schologists develo'ed the /R2EF ) /ehavioral Rating 2nventor of Executive Functions !ith *uestionnaires for 'arents& teachers andself-re'orting b students$ These *uestionnaires *uer the students 'ractices in the follo!ing areas both in classroom settings and at home$ J9lanningJ<rgani+ationJTime 6anagementJ,orking 6emorJRes'onse inhibitionJSelf-regulation of affectJRegulation of AttentionJTask 2nitiationJFlexibilitJ1oal Directed 9ersistence  9lanning and setting goals2n EFL classrooms toda the Literature Log and 9/L ) 9ro(ect /ased Learning are areas re*uiring advanced Executive Function skills$,ithout a goal and 'lan of action students ma not understand the task or the ob(ective$ 2f the lack the necessar skills to 'lan& organi+e time and recruit the resources re*uired for finishing the assignment the !ill not even be able to initiate$ Strategies for organi+ing and 'rioriti+ing information are im'ortant for all of these academic skills 6elt+er& 9ollica H /ar+illai& 455G& in 6elt+er& 455G#$ Self- 6onitoring and self-evaluationReflecting on ones o!n 'erformance during the task and after is also challenging for LD students$ The need to kno! !hat to check for and ho! to check$ The ma be anxiet- ridden about going back and tring to monitor and self- correct$ /eing instructed in looking for s'ecific errors and having a checklist !hich is individuall  'ersonali+ed can assist LD students from making careless mistakes and overlooking im'ortant notes or instructions 6elt+er& 9ollica H /ar+illai& 455G& in 6elt+er& 455G#$Shifting Shifting attention is the abilit to flexibl shift thinking from one mental model to another as !ell as kno!ing !hen and ho! to shift$ 2n reading& students must shift  bet!een the concrete and the abstract$ 2n !riting& shifting allo!s them to distinguish main ideas from details and their o!n ideas and their audience Roditi& H Steinberg& 455G in 6elt+er#$Shifting is needed in order to 'rocess and learn ne! information& to inter'ret information from different 'ers'ectives and to kno! !hen and ho! to change a''roaches !hen the learning strateg is not !orking 6elt+er& 9ollica H /ar+illa& 455G in 6elt+er& 455G#$ Teachers can begin to a''reciate the difficulties encountered b LD students !ith AD%D b understanding "shifting" as one of the executive function 'rocesses that  'resent great difficult for these students$ Russel /arkle ..G& in Denckla& 455G#  !as one of the first to look at deficient executive function as central to the understanding of AD%D$ Active ,orking 6emor,hen one or more of these EF com'onents break do!n& learning disorders and deficits !ill detrimentall affect school 'erformance$ The ma even overla' or have co-morbidit$ For exam'le& a learner !ith decoding deficits ma also have concentration 'roblems !hich !ill im'act on !orking memor$ ",hat is being  'rocessed in !orking memor at an given time is called the focus of attention " Dehn& 45K in 1oldstein H alieri#$ ,orking memor& sometimes referred to as the  brains deskto'& allo!s learners to hold information and mani'ulate it !hile continuing !ith another task$ Learners !ith deficits in !orking memor "exhibit greater difficulties on !orking memor tasks that re*uire them to hold onto !hat has alread been 'rocessed !hile simultaneousl integrating ne! incoming information !ith earlier information S!anson H /erninger& ..M in ,estb& 4555 '$K#$2n addition& the challenge of learning and using memor strategies also increase the "cognitive load" Dehn& 45K# 'laced on !orking memor$ 2n this instance teachers need to break do!n tasks to manageable 'arts for such a student$78As school!ork gets harder and students are asked to be more inde'endent learners& children !ith !eak executive skills fall further and further behind$ Feeling anxious about !hat to do and ho! !ell theNre doing es'eciall !hen theNre 7!inging it: !ithout a strateg or 'lan of attack# can easil lead to feeling overloadedand over!helmed$ This in turn leads to exhaustion& inattentiveness and a ccle of insecurit and feeling out of control$: 3usner H Stanberr 45O#$Executive control 'rocesses are 'art of natures biological sstem for survival$ / looking at EF ca'acities& !e can understand and assess the individual child$ /ut there are guiding 'rinci'les !hich should be follo!ed$ First& EF is not a set of modular functions$ 2t is affected b man conditions and circumstances and the same behavior can have different significance for different children %omes /ernstein H ,aber& 455G in 6elt+er 455G#$
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