Can We Afford To Wait?
There is a deep chasm between what is known, and still being discovered, in psychology, neurology, and psychiatry, and the people who can most benefit from this important information: those who care deeply for the healthy development of children. Unfortunately, there may be a 10-20 year lag time between research discoveries and the practical application of this knowledge in the classroom or clinic.
Yet recently, there have been remarkable discoveries in neuroscience that we need to understand now. Most particularly, we now have access to a far more sophisticated understanding of child and adolescent brain development. Not only does this have broad implications for how we assess and teach children, this information—occasionally surprising, sometimes counterintuitive, and always exciting— illuminates how to build effective instructional strategies. We simply can’t afford to wait an entire generation until these new helping strategies are universally known and accessible. The nature of children’s minds is evolving too rapidly to be complacent; we need new tools now!
The Executive Teacher program bridges several disciplines to achieve universal goals: helping students be better learners, more skilled peers, and more involved community members. This is accomplished by learning how to help students access their executive thinking kills – the key to individual capability.
Who are Executive Teachers?
The Executive Teacher is an initiative to build a constituency of highly informed, professional leaders to bring the science of the mind into the 21st century classroom. Participants are generally selected by school administration, peers, or parent groups. While demonstrated classroom skills are important, key attributes of successful participants are intellectual curiosity, creativity, and a willingness to share their learning with colleagues, peers, and parents.
Once you have identified a core group of “executive teachers,” they will learn how to use the eight pillars model as a framework for strategic classroom management and teaching. These faculty members can then serve as on-site advisors and mentors to other staff. Some benefits of the program are:
- Your faculty has an opportunity to increase the depth and breadth of their professional skills, and this knowledge “stays with the school.”
- Learning occurs over time. Teachers can practice techniques in the classroom and then get feedback and follow-up.
- An advanced workshop moves ideas into action, and promotes accountability. As you know, the excitement and good intentions of a professional development day can diminish under the press of everyday responsibilities unless there is ongoing support.
Which Schools Benefit From This Program?
Understanding how executive control works reframes our concept of student achievement. As you review the Eight Pillars of Executive control, it will be apparent that various students have different executive control profiles. Still, most students can improve aspects of their learning, behavior, and social development with the consistent, strategic support. While we are naturally quicker to recognize executive control deficits at the far ends of the spectrum—children with special needs, or those underachieving despite high level abilities—the majority of students in the middle ranges of achievement have untapped reserves of talent and capability.
The eight pillars of executive control have been learned in a wide range of school settings, from schools working with intensively learning disabled students to some of North America’s most selective private institutions.
What is a Capable Brain?
There is an emerging dimension to the purpose of education that deserves our full attention. If being a great teacher has always meant nurturing an insightful mind, then it’s time to acknowledge that the job description includes being the architect of the physical mind as well. Indeed, these two minds are inextricably related. Actually, educators have always contributed to the development of the physical mind. It’s just that until recently, science couldn’t clearly explain how this happens. Now, however, medical technology literally allows us to watch how words and experiences spur the brain to productive action. We’ll examine the micro-skills that allow children and adolescents to express their innate talents and intelligence.
–And, speaking of intelligence, we’ll learn why high “IQ” doesn’t always translate into success, review current thinking on intelligence, and consider alternative models for shaping young minds – even when we can’t see it happening.
The Executive Teacher program provides a valid framework through which to approach learning and behavior challenges in a systematic, pragmatic way.
At the end of the program, executive teachers will have a comprehensive understanding of:
- each of the eight essential brain skills (working memory, initiation, attention, flexibility, self-monitoring, emotional control, organization, and planning.)
- how the development of meta-cognitive skills directly relates to achievement
- specific, classroom-ready strategies to implement to develop and support each executive skill
- common executive control skill deficits in children and/or adolescents
- the neurobiology of prefrontal cortex skills as it relates to student/teacher interaction
- tools to help unmotivated, disorganized, emotionally labile, inattentive, or inflexible students become better learners, peers, and community members
- instructional methods that help a wide range of learning styles and challenges
- how to identify and reduce systems that take valuable time and resources away from creative and effective teaching
- how to implement and assess executive teaching interventions
- In-depth analysis of the Eight Pillars of Executive Control, including specific examples of student behavior and misbehavior, targeted for particular age groups and/or student populations.
(As you review the eight pillars of executive control, please note that our efforts are not intended to create super-human children solely dedicated to efficiency and organization! We are interested in helping children with challenges in these areas avoid the effects of underachievement and frustration.)
Pillar 1: Working Memory
- How memory works, and the role of working memory in learning
- Building processing speed, enabling fluency of thought and communication
- Why working memory is the most important executive control skill
Pillar 2: Initiation
- Motivation to begin tasks and activities
- Challenges such as poor follow-through on homework, procrastination, and related problems with time management
Pillar 3: Sustained Attention
- Executive control deficit associated with ADHD
- Explanation of how attention is related to brain’s ability to inhibit distraction, and what psychostimulant medication does and does not do to enhance attentional capability.
Pillar 4: Flexibility
- Helping students shift focus as needed
- Understanding “rule” changes such as applying different work habits, communication styles, etc., according to specific situations
Pillar 5: Self-Monitoring
- Self-assessment with an adequate degree of objectivity and analysis
- Adapting behavior in accordance with social cues
- Facilitating social connection and meaningful self-awareness
Pillar 6: Emotional Control
- Keeping emotional reactions in proportion to events
- Self-regulation and transitioning in school
- Coping with frustration and stress
Pillar 7: Organization
- Avoiding wasted time and effort
- Keeping up with the presentation of new information
- Management of personal space and belongings
Pillar 8: Planning
- Assisting goal-directed thinking
- Sequencing for results
- Time awareness
- Surrogate Executive Control How teachers can support executive thinking skills; including specific strategies to assist with each executive function. Implications for classroom organization and interaction.
- The Common Denominator of Common Syndromes
Executive control capabilities and challenges are at the core of learning and social development. This portion of the program defines and clarifies the relationship of executive control to many syndromes, including ADHD, Asperger’s disorder, non-verbal learning disabilities, problems with social perception and behavior, as well as a range of learning disabilities. We will also look at how lack of executive control skills translates to common problems with study habits and attitudes toward learning. Participants learn techniques to bolster short term skills such as focus, and long term skills such as auditory awareness.
- Brain Science 101
What every teacher needs to know about the neurobiology of learning. A short tour of the developing brain, with particular attention to the biology of learning and the key role of the pre-frontal cortex.
- Executive Teacher Job Description
- Elements of executive leadership in classroom
- What and when to model executive management skills
- Helping students to understand what they are observing
- Helping students to assimilate and experiment with newly acquired skills
- Building Modules of Collaborative Learning
- Making accomplishment everyone’s responsibility
- Visual schematics
- Kinesthetic rehearsal
- Accountability systems
- Rethinking What it Means to be an Outcome-Focused School
- How to practically emphasize and reinforce immediate benchmarks for retention and achievement.
- School-family partnerships
- Strategies and scripts for school-based meetings
- How to write a contract or achievable action plan for family involvement
- A Basic Ecology of Attention
- New definitions of attention
- The “bored” student– balancing the need for stimulation with space for reflection
- How to visually assess a student’s attention
- Attention density – facilitating deep attention
- Four Essential Keys to Executive Instruction
- Two-Tier Thinking
- Structuring Time and Space
- Repetition and Rehearsal
- Coordinated Accountability
- How to respond to the persistently inattentive student
- Adjusting the classroom “thermostat”
- An unconventional method of converting disrupters into leaders
- How to identify signs of immediate improvement
- Review of Case Scenarios (interactive)
We will review case studies that are relevant to many of the current teaching challenges that educators face today. Using the knowledge we have gained, participants will be able to practice and use their new skills.
Is the Executive Teacher Program only for teachers?
While the program focuses on practical application of neuroscience to teaching and classroom management skills, this series is also of value to those who would like to develop a deeper understanding of child and adolescent development. Such professionals include those who work with and support teachers, such as school principals, psychologists, guidance counselors, and learning center staff.
Can our entire faculty attend?
Ideally, every teacher will have access to this information. For logistical purposes, we limit participation so that the program can be highly interactive. We can work with your organization to schedule a series of workshops to accommodate your entire staff.
Must we have already participated in the “Building the Eight Pillars of Capable Young Minds” workshop to enroll?
The Executive Teacher program was developed in response to schools that implemented the coaching skills presented in this workshop, and were excited by the results. Due to the time limitations of a single workshop, a follow-up program was requested. “Building the Eight Pillars of Capable Young Minds” is an ideal introduction to executive control and provides participants a common understanding of important concepts and teaching skills. Your school can elect to use the “Building the Eight Pillars of Capable Young Minds” presentation as a stand-alone professional development program, or offer both programs, “Building the Eight Pillars of Capable Young Minds” and “The Executive Teacher.”
Do you travel outside the U.S.?
Yes. Because of the travel time involved, please contact us at your earliest convenience regarding preferred dates.
Does Dr. Cox teach every workshop himself?
Yes. The success of this program stems from years of clinical practice and consultation with schools. Every school visit is customized for the designated audience by Dr. Cox.
Can we make this a district-wide program?
Yes. I will work with the school district to develop a program that will address the goals and challenges of individual schools, while keeping the core program consistent. In addition, I am happy to consult regarding the participant selection process.
What teaching grades or levels are optimal for this program?
Executive skills develop through late adolescence (and beyond). We can begin developing these skills in pre-school, and continue through college. Most requests come from teachers of preschool and kindergarten, grades 5 through 7 (when both classroom assignments and students become more “independent”), and grades 10 to 12, when the high stakes of graduation and college planning become apparent. All teachers depend on the skills of their predecessors. In addition, we have many requests for the series from those working with those who learn differently.
How is the Program Scheduled?
The program can be scheduled as a one or two-day workshop. Ideally, teachers will have time to apply skills during the course of the program, and then bring their experiences back to the group for discussion. Due to the variable nature of school schedules and calendars, the program almost always has to be customized for a particular school or school district.
I suggest separate tracks for teachers of elementary, middle/junior, and high school students, so that the interventions can be specifically targeted to the correct developmental level. You may choose to select representatives from each school in your district, who can then serve as mentors to their home school colleagues.
Ongoing consultation is available. We will develop a program to meet the needs of your school, district, and whenever possible, your continuing professional education credit requirements.
For more information about the Executive Teacher workshop, please contact us.