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Why Executive Function Skills Take So Long To Fully Develop

KQED News Mind/Shift – Jon Hamilton

“Impulsive children become thoughtful adults only after years of improvements to the brain’s information highways, a team reports in Current Biology. A study of nearly 900 young people ages 8 to 22 found that the ability to control impulses, stay on task and make good decisions increased steadily over that span as the brain remodeled its information pathways to become more efficient. The finding helps explain why these abilities, known collectively as executive function, take so long to develop fully, says Danielle Bassett, an author of the study and an associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania.”(more)

How to address executive function skills in the classroom—and why you should

E-School News – Malinda Mikesell

“No matter what subject or topic an educator is teaching, sometimes the best way we can approach an instructional challenge is by taking a step back to look at the big picture of learning. In order to learn skills such as sentence fluency or multiplication, students need to develop the brain functions that will first enable them to focus on tasks and retain information. For the past several years my district has emphasized the importance of helping students improve a set of thinking skills known as executive function skills. These functions are a set of cognitive processes, such as focus, memory and self-control, which enable us to manage information and complete tasks.”(more)

The benefits of bilingualism

The Daily – Anni Hong

“Being bilingual is great for your brain; there are major cognitive benefits to being able to speak two languages. For a long time it was believed that two languages would compete in a person’s brain and become confusing — this is why in the past many parents refused to have their child learn two languages. However, a study conducted by psychologists Michelle Martin-Rhee and Ellen Bialystok in 2004 proved the opposite to be true. In this study, children were asked to sort digital images of circles and squares into bins based on their color and then by their shape. Children who were bilingual were able to organize the images when their color opposed the color of the bin more quickly than children who only spoke one language. This study helped prove that bilinguals have a stronger executive functio than monolinguals. The executive function, a system that the brain uses to plan and solve problems, helps us keep our attention while distractions are present, and it also helps switch our attention back and forth. It is currently believed that bilingualism improves the executive function because bilingual people need to monitor their environment in order to choose a language to speak and be able to quickly switch between languages.”(more)

Education and the brain—what happens when children learn?

Medical Xpress – Staff Writer

“Tests carried out on toddlers reveal that something quite remarkable happens in child development between the ages of two and five – a stage identified by both educationalists and neuroscientists as critical to the capacity for learning. Dr Sara Baker is a researcher into early childhood at the Faculty of Education. She is interested in the role of the brain’s prefrontal lobe in how young children learn to adapt their understanding to an ever-shifting environment…Research by Baker and colleagues is contributing to an understanding of the acquisition of skills essential to learning. She explains: “The brain’s frontal lobe is one of the four major divisions of the cerebral cortex. It regulates decision-making, problem-solving and behaviour. We call these functions executive skills – they are at the root of the cognitive differences between humans and other animals.”(more)

The Science Of Getting Kids Organized

NPR – Karen Brown

“If you’ve ever gotten a glimpse inside a high schooler’s backpack or locker, you know organization doesn’t always come naturally to teens. Being scatterbrained in school can make make it tough to stay focused and do well. That was the case when Lilli Stordeur was about halfway through her freshman year of high school in Northampton, Mass. She felt totally overwhelmed. “I was being tutored for the classes I was having trouble in,” she says, “but I would be having a hard time organizing my binders, and notebooks and stuff, and knowing when to hand things in.” To help Lilli get stuff done, her parents hired Melissa Power-Greene, a former tutor and special-education teacher, to work with Lilli on something called executive function.”(more)

Why children who sleep more get better grades

The Conversation – Dagmara Dimitriou

“Sleep plays a fundamental role in the way we learn. Emerging evidence makes a compelling case for the importance of sleep for language learning, memory, executive function, problem solving and behaviour during childhood. A new study that my colleagues and I have worked on illustrated how an optimal quantity of sleep leads to more effective learning in terms of knowledge acquisition and memory consolidation. Poor quality of sleep – caused by lots of waking up during the night – has also been reported to be a strong predictor of lower academic performance, reduced capacity for attention, poor executive function and challenging behaviours during the day…All this shows how crucial it is for teenagers to get the right amount of sleep – otherwise it could have long-term impacts on their health and on their grades.”(more)