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Demystifying executive function

Gillie, Sarah


Sarah Gillie


Executive function (EF) is an umbrella term for a set of complex and nuanced cognitive processes believed to be uniquely human. EF allows for planning, adaptation and self-regulation to meet personal or imposed goals. It develops from early childhood and is recognised as a key predictor of academic outcome and life chances. Related difficulties affect many people across the lifespan, yet current UK government education guidance focuses on early years. Information freely available to parents and educators tends to present a deficit model that offers an understanding of potential difficulties without providing practicable cohort-level or individual support strategies. This article aims to contextualise current understandings of EF. It outlines the gradual development and factors that can impact development as well as conditions commonly co-occurring with EF delay or dysfunction. Strategies are presented that the author tested as part of master’s research conducted in school and reported on elsewhere. Techniques for scaffolding and direct instruction in metacognitive strategies can be adapted, for many teaching and learning scenarios, to support development of academic skills and greater independence for learning. Supportive strategies are discussed in the context of universal design for learning, an inclusive framework for planning and teaching, that classroom practitioners, specialist teachers and others working in education might consider for their future practice.


Gillie, S. (2024). Demystifying executive function. Patoss Bulletin, 37(1), 2-13

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 4, 2024
Online Publication Date Jun 3, 2024
Publication Date Jun 3, 2024
Deposit Date Jun 25, 2024
Journal The Journal of the Professional Association of Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 37
Issue 1
Pages 2-13
Keywords executive function, metacognitive strategies, universal design for learning, techniques for scaffolding, inclusive frameworks, working memory, assessment of EF
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