Executive functioning differs from self-regulation skills. When you think about self-regulation and executive functioning, how do you envision the difference? Read below to learn more about executive functioning.
McCloskey (2011) defines executive functioning as a diverse group of cognitive processes that contribute to the development of perception, emotion, thought and action. More specifically, “executive functioning [is] a set of multiple cognitive capabilities that act in a coordinated way” (McCloskey, 2011, p. 1) in order to achieve a goal. Children’s ability to engage in planning, being self-regulated to manage behaviours and exhibit goal-directed ideas are part of the executive functioning process. Self-regulation skills contribute to children’s perceiving, feeling, thinking and acting, whereas executive functioning demonstrates what has been learned, how to organize an experience and share learning with others.
Some educators suggest that executive functioning is an overarching term used to describe the neurologically-based skills needed for controlling emotions and self-regulation. Morin has identified eight key executive function skills and some of the characteristics that children exhibit if their executive skills are not fully developed.
|Skill||Behaviours that Suggest Executive Functioning Skills Require Further Development|
Supports children in thinking before acting.
|Children with limited skill may blurt out inappropriate things or engage in unsafe behaviours such as climbing too high for their skill set.|
Supports children in identifying and managing feelings.
|Children with limited emotional control may overreact to situations. They may become distraught when they are criticized or make mistakes.|
Supports children in adjusting to new situations or dealing with the unexpected.
|Children with more rigid behaviours may exhibit frustrations with sudden change or with different opinions.|
Supports children in maintaining key information needed for experiences or perspectives.
|Children’s underdeveloped memory skills lead to them having trouble remembering or following directions.|
Supports children in evaluating and making adjustments as required for thinking or activities.
|Children exhibit negative reactions to feedback or direction given to change behaviour.|
|Planning and prioritizing:
Supports children in planning and prioritizing their ideas, intended goals, and ways to execute their plans.
|Children with weak planning and prioritizing skills may feel challenged to identify how to sequence ideas and implement strategies.|
Supports children in initiating ideas and taking actions that support their plans.
|Children may become frustrated because they do not know where or how to start an idea or move from one phase of the idea to the next.|
Supports children in keeping track of ideas and materials.
|Children may have difficulty remembering their ideas, materials or schedules.|
When you examine these skills and behaviours, what types of experiences and opportunities in outdoor play environments would support children in advancing their executive functioning skills? What happens when early learning teachers do not take these areas of development into consideration in their outdoor play pedagogy?
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