Executive Function/Study Skills

Resources & Links

Executive skills are brain based skills that are required to execute or perform tasks. All humans need these skills in order to move successfully through a day, whether they are at home, work, or school.

Humans are born with the capacity to develop executive skills and as children become older, it is expected that they will develop executive skills that are independent from parents and teachers.

What are these skills?

  • Planning/Priorization—The ability to create a roadmap to reach a goal or to complete a task. It also involves being able to make decisions about what is important to focus on and what’s not important.
  • Organization—The ability to design and maintain systems for keeping track of information or materials.
  • Time Management—The capacity to estimate how much time one has, how to allocate it, and how to stay within time limits and deadlines. It also involves a sense that time is important.
  • Response Inhibition—The capacity to think before acting; the ability to resist the urge to say or do something so there is time to evaluate a situation and how behavior will impact it.
  • Working Memory—The ability to hold information in memory while performing complex tasks. It is also the ability to draw on past learning or experience to apply to the situation at hand or to project into the future.
  • Metacognition—The ability to stand back and take a bird’s-eye view of oneself in a situation. It is also an ability to observe how a student problem solves and self-monitors him or herself while working.
  • Emotional Control—The ability to manage emotions to achieve goals, complete tasks, or control and direct behavior.
  • Sustained Emotion—The capacity to keep paying attention even when you are distracted, tired, or bored. This behavior skill is critical during middle and high school as students complete longer and longer projects, increase the amount of required homework, and study for tests.
  • Task Initiation—The ability to begin projects without undue procrastination, in an efficient or timely fashion.
  • Sustained Attention—The capacity to attend to a situation or task in spite of distractibility, fatigue, or boredom.
  • Flexibility—The ability to revise plans in the face of obstacles, setbacks, new information, or mistakes. It involves adaptability to changing conditions.
  • Goal-directed persistence—The capacity or drive to follow through to the completion of a goal and not be put off by other demands or competing interests.

Adapted from Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents
by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare