An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 1

Running Head: AN INVESITGATION OF STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS' EXECTUIVE FUNCTIONING SKILLS

Action Research and Case Study University of New England Module 9: Draft Action Plan December 8, 2013 Caitlin Piper French Teacher: Grades 9-12 Marshwood High School South Berwick, Maine

Statement of Academic Honesty: I have read and understand that plagiarism policy as outlined in the “Student Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct” document relating to the Honesty/Cheating Policy. By attaching this statement to the title page of my paper, I certify that the work submitted is my original work developed specifically for this course and to the MSED program. If it is found that cheating and/or plagiarism did take place in the writing of this paper, I acknowledge the possible consequences of the act/s, which could include expulsion from the University of New England.

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 2 Abstract Educators in the field of adolescent education aim to prepare students for life after school. Executive functioning skills play a major role in predicting students' success in their adult lives. Students often struggle with developing these skills and as a result, do not reach their full scholastic potential. Executive functioning can be summarized in five central criteria: organization, goal setting, time management and decision-making. The current ability of students' executive functioning skills is assessed and suggestions for effective teacher approaches to assisting students with these skills is developed through this study. Keywords: Teacher Approach, Student Strategies, Scholastic Success Executive Functioning Skills, Grades 9-12

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 3 Table of Contents Table of Contents………………………………………………………………………………….3 Abstract……………………………………………………………………………………………2 Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………4 Rationale for Study……………………………………………………………………….4 Statement of Problem …………………………………………………………………….4 Participants and Critical Factors Affecting Study………………………………………...5 Confidentiality & Student Risks…………………………………………………………..6 Primary Research Questions ………………………………………………………….......7 Hypotheses………………………………………………………………………………...7 Review of Literature……………………………………………………………………………..7 Introduction: Defining Executive Functioning……………………………………………7 Organization……………………………………………………………………………….8 Decision Making and Time Management…………………………………………………9 Goal Setting……………………………………………………………………...………10 Strategies for Improvement………………………………………………………………10 The Results of Executive Functioning…………………………………………...………10 Methodology…………………………………………………..……………………………...…11 Data Collection Plan……………………………………………………………………..11 Instruments………………………………………………………………………………13 Results…………………………………………………………………………………………...18 Data Presentation………………………………………………………………………..18 Discussion of Findings………………………………………………………………….31

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 4 Introduction Rationale for Study: "In the brain, this air traffic control mechanism is called executive functioning, a group of skills that helps us to focus on multiple streams of information at the same time, and revise plans as necessary" ("Inbrief: Executive function," 2013). In the scholastic setting, signs of poor executive functioning skills are apparent through students who struggle with completing homework on time, organizing school materials, and forgetting assignment or direction details. It is imperative for teachers to assist students in developing these skills. Through the collection of valuable data related to executive functioning in the high school setting, a clear and concise plan can be created for schools to foster stronger skills in this critical area of development. Statement of Problem Every year students enter the high school with a variety of different skills and abilities. Many students are bright and capable, but do not excel scholastically due to poor organizational, time management, and decision-making skills. In addition to educating students on specific concentrations, high school teachers must also prepare students for success in the adult world. This effort involves promoting strong executing functioning abilities for all students. Marshwood High School in Eliot, Maine has recognized the need for the school to develop and implement effective strategies to encourage these skills in students. Improvement in this area is one of the 2013-2014 building goals. To meet this need, the school has designed a special cross-curricular group dedicated to this topic. The group of high school teachers is lead by a member of the school’s leadership team. The group began to meet during the 2012-2013 school year to brainstorm ideas. The group will meet again in the 2013-2014 with the intent to develop school-wide programs and strategies to assist students in improving their executive

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 5 functioning skills. The intent of this study is to provide the group with a concrete understanding of executive functioning and strategies for promoting these skills in students to enhance students’ ability to reach college readiness by the end of their college graduation. Participants of the Study and Critical Factors Affecting Study The participants of the research are high school students ranging from grades 9 to 12. The study focuses upon freshmen students, as this is the most influential year to establish strong executive functioning skills for the remainder of high school. Others involved in this study include school administration and other teachers through collegial professional discussions of the project. Administration supports this project as it aligns with the school’s goals for the 20132014 school year. Discussions with colleagues regarding this project take place throughout the study through casual meetings. School formal common planning time will also align with this study as the cross-curricular group meets to discuss and design successful approaches to improving executive functioning skills among students. Parental permission and Institutional Review Board approval are not necessary for this project. There are no foreseen administrative or instructional roadblocks. The most difficult aspect of this project will be finding the time to educate and check in with students in addition to teaching course content. This study will overcome this obstacle by focusing on conducting the majority of the study with advisory students. This group is composed of 14 freshmen students who meet twice a week for fifteen-minute classes. Advisory does not follow a formal curriculum. Advisors are encouraged to review student’s grades and teach students about strategies for success in school. Teaching, measuring, and encouraging improvement with students’ executive functioning skills serves as an appropriate use of advisory time.

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 6 Participants in this study will complete surveys, self-evaluations, and complete teacher check-ins. This information will likely prove the effectiveness of specific strategies intended to improve executive functioning among students. Population, Research Setting, and Subject Recruitment Procedures The research will take place in my French classroom at Marshwood High School in South Berwick Maine. The participants of the research are high school students ranging from grades 9 to 12. Two classes of French III students and one advisory class serve as the student respondent groups for this study. There are 21 students total the French III level. This group is composed of seven male students and fourteen female students. These students range from grades 10 to 11. The advisory class has 14 freshmen students. There are nine males and five females in this group. Confidentiality and Potential Risks Student names will not be revealed. They will be labeled as student A, B, C, etc., to protect their identity. There are no potential risks to students or teachers as the research aligns and is incorporated into instruction and school tasks. Primary Research Questions Through this empirical study, students will enhance their executive functioning skills through teacher guidance, which promotes improvement of their ability to manage time, make decisions, organize course materials, and set goals. Through additional teacher support and efforts to educate and implement strategies to improve executive functioning abilities, students will be able to reach higher scholastic achievement. Through the growth of these skills, students also increase their readiness for life after high school.

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 7 The research questions developed to improve students’ executive functioning skills include the following: 1. What are the reasons for students’ to struggle with the development of strong executive functioning skills? 2. What strategies can teachers utilize to promote strong executive functioning skills in students? 3. How can students be made cognizant that weak executive functioning skills will prevent students from reaching their full scholastic potential? 4. Which specific strategies and approaches to teaching executive functioning prove successful in promoting progress in this area and scholastic achievement? Hypothesis If teachers explore, develop, and implement successful strategies to promote growth in student executive functioning abilities, then students will enhance their overall scholastic performance and readiness for life after high school. Review of Literature Defining Executive Functioning All literature examined for this study defined executive functioning in similar ways. Cantin, Mann, and Hund state (2012), executive functioning skills are “...an umbrella term that incorporates a group of interrelated cognitive processes responsible for purposeful, goal-directed thinking and behavior (Best & Miller, 2010)”. Some break this topic down into categories that are more specific. According to Petersen, Lavelle, and Guarino, (2006), there are four major components to this executive functioning, “...executive functioning describes independent and purposive behavior as comprised of skills in goal setting, planning, organizing and executing

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 8 (Lezak, 1995)”. It is evident that executive functioning is an independent skill everyone must possess on some level to function in the real world. Many believe these skills are connected to one’s memory, “Executive functioning refers to a variety of related cognitive skills that involve the ability to maintain task-relevant information in short-term memory, as well as the ability to manipulate this information through the engagement of focused attention (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network [NICHD ECCRN], 2005; Wolfe & Bell, 2007)” (Blankson, O'Brien Leerkes, Marcovitch, & Calkins (2011). Both long term and shortterm memory play a large role in the development and success of executive functioning skills. It appears executive functioning skills are linked to memory through repetition, routine, and task structure. The reviewed studies agreed that executive functioning skills begin at the beginning one’s life, reach their height in one’s late 20s, and diminish as one ages (Cantin, Mann, & Hund, 2012). According to Kauffman (2010), executive functioning skills are an essential component to scholastic success that teachers are responsible to help strengthen in students grades K-12. The vast age range in student need for assistance with these skills emphasizes the importance of addressing, understanding, and promoting strong executive functioning abilities. Organization Organization is a major component of executive functioning skills and appears as a common theme among several of the literary sources. In the context of school, this often refers to school materials. The materials and methods students use to organize course papers, assignments, and assessments can affect their overall scholastic success. Some school materials prove more useful than others do. For example, Gambill, Moss, and Vescogni (2008) found, “Of

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 9 all tools, the binder was the most effective, probably because it accomplished such basic necessities for order: students had a place for homework, they could find returned assignments to review for tests, and they had paper with them for note taking”. Requiring the use of a binder can be an effective strategy schools can utilize to promote advancement in student organization and executive functioning skills. Decision Making and Time Management Effective executive functioning involves one's ability to make wise decisions. This may include decisions as to how to spend one’s time, where to place material, how to complete a task, etc. This often involves planning. Issues with execute functioning often interfere with student progress. Burrows and Lucas (2000) state, “When executive functions are impaired, a person is unable to plan, regulate, or monitor his or her behavior, or to make choices among the various options presented”. Therefore, it is understood that without the development of strong executive functioning skills, students are not prepared for the adult world after high school. Howell, Sulak, Bagby, Diaz, and Thompson (2013) believe, “Being able to plan, organize, and monitor one's time are crucial skills in today's world”. An essential aspect of executive functioning decision-making skills involves managing time appropriately. In a study conducted by Rideout, Foehr, and Robert (2010), the importance of time management and multitasking in today’s technological and media filled world is recognized. This 2004 study included more than 2,000 young Americans ages 8 to 18 and revealed the value in understanding the types and ways students are accessing media and technology (Rideout et al., 2010). Appealing to students’ inclined nature to embrace technology and media through appropriate use of these materials can greatly influence students in developing strong executive functioning skills and effective time management strategies (Rideout et al., 2010).

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 10 Goal Setting All studies researched related to executive functioning recognized goal setting as a factor to successful executive functioning. It is evident, “...that the development of executive functioning skills utilized to reach academic achievement is equally important--skills such as prioritizing, planning, self-checking, and setting short-term and long-term goals” (Howell et al., 2013). High school students often lack the ability to see the greater life picture. Goal setting assigns purpose and meaning to their scholastic efforts. It also allows them to measure their success. Through goal setting, other elements of executive functioning must be improved to reach one's goal. Setting goals is the catalyst to skills such as organization and time management to high academic achievement. Strategies for Improvement There are structural elements that promote strong executive functioning, such as required organization and specific materials, (e.g., the organization of school materials in a binder). There are also specific learning activities which encourage strong executive functioning skills. A study conducted by Diamond and Lee (2011) found, “Diverse activities have been shown to improve children’s executive functions: computerized training, non computerized games, aerobics, martial arts, yoga, mindfulness, and school curricula”. The Results of Executive Functioning Students with strong executive functioning skills possess a stronger ability to reach success in multiple areas. For example, Blankson et al. (2011) state, “Results indicated that children with better executive functioning skills developed stronger vocabularies when reared in more, versus less, stimulating environments”.

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 11 Students’ executive functioning skills can accurately foresee the success in which he or she will experience in life after high school. Cantin, Mann, and Hund (2012) write, “ EF has been described as the single best predictor of school readiness (Blair & Razza, 2007)”. Tomlinson (2013) defines readiness as, “a student’s proximity to specified learning goals”. This indicates the importance of the effort made by high school teachers to foster growth in these skills, as high school is the final step before one enters the adult world. Past efforts to improve students’ executive functioning skills have rendered positive results. Gambill & et al. (2008) found, “Data collected from journals, surveys, and students' grades indicated that any increase in student organization benefits students. Students lost fewer assignments and were better prepared for class when they had a sense of order”. This data indicates the concrete value and purpose of investigating and developing executive functioning skills with students. Methodology Data Collection Plan Interventions Students demonstrating difficulty with their executive functioning skills will take part in informal discussions with the teacher related to why issues with these skills are present. The teacher will work with these students to strengthen their skills and to redirect their behavior. Respondent Groups Two classes of French III students and one advisory class serve as the student respondent groups for this study. There are 21 students total in the French III level. This group is composed of seven male students and fourteen female students. These students range from grades 10 to 11.

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 12 According to Mills (2014) "Making action research a natural part of the teaching process, in the classroom and the school is critical to success", therefore, faculty is included in the study. (p.82) Faculty members involved with this study are the high school's Executive Functioning Cross Curricular Group. This group is composed of a nine high school teachers from a variety of disciplines. Obtaining Data For this study, a data collection matrix (Table 1) is used. This graph is intended to identify strategies to measure students' progress in relation to the study's research questions. The data collection matrix assists in keeping track of student growth in their executive functioning skills. Data sources for this project include weekly grade update forms created through Infinite Campus, student agenda checks, pre-and post student surveys of executive functioning skills, discussions with school staff, discussions with students, and teacher evaluation surveys. Students' Infinite Campus grades are reviewed prior to the study and at the end of the study to evaluate the teacher's effectiveness in efforts to promote growth in academic success through the improvement of executive functioning skills.

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 13 Table 1 Data Collection Matrix for Student Executing Functioning Skills Data Source 2 Goal setting survey completion by students and teacher observations Goal setting survey completion by students and teacher observations Goal setting survey completion by students and teacher observations

Research Questions Strategies for teachers?

1 Teacher Reflection

3 Student agenda checks

4 Student reflection and teacher observation

Students' knowledge and appreciation of executive functioning skills? Scholastic Achievement?

Grade check through Infinite Campus

Student agenda checks

Student reflection and teacher observation

Grade check through Infinite Campus

Student agenda checks

Student reflection and teacher observation

Instruments This study uses a mixed-methods design of both qualitative data and quantitative sources (Mills, 2014). Qualitative data in this study is conducted through surveys for teachers and students, observation (anecdotal records), rating scales (rubrics), and interviews. The teacher acts as a participant observer of this data in the area of observation (Mills, 2014). Through anecdotal records of observations and discussions with students, qualitative data is taken. Table 2 demonstrates the form recorded by the participant observer regarding anecdotal observations. The following form is based on Mills (2014) suggested approach for taking anecdotal records:

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 14 Table 2 Student Anecdotal Record Form for Executive Functioning Skills Grade:_________________ Course:________________ Date:______________ Comments: ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________

French III students will complete a project pre assessment survey. This survey is shown in Table 4. Table 4: Project Preparation Survey
Français III Nom:__________________

Mlle Piper

Date:__________________

Ch 2: Projet - Pre Assessment Survey

Please respond to the following questions:

1. How does this project topic relate to you?

2. What do you know about this vocabulary and grammar associated with house and home?

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 15
3. What do you want to be able to achieve through this project?

4. What excites you about this project? Which aspects of the project do you think you will like the best? Why?

5. What are the parts of this project you are not looking forward to? Why?

Questions or Comments:

Activity from: Chapman, C., & King, R. (2012). Differentiated assessment strategies: One tool doesn't fit all. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA : Corwin: A SAGE Company.

After the project is complete, French III students will complete a project reflection survey shown in Table 4. Table 4: Project Reflection
Français III Mlle Piper Nom:___________ Date:____________

Dream House Project Reflection Please respond to the following questions based on your experience with the UNIT 2 Project. Project Grade: ___ 1. Review the goals you established for this project. Were you successful in meeting these goals? Why or why not?

2. Is your grade what you expected? Why or why not?

3. Based on the completion and feedback from this project, what do you need to improve on in the future?

4. Based on your grade and experience with this project, how will you approach French writing projects in the future?

5. What can your teacher do to help you in improving your writing in French?

6. What resources did you use to help you complete this task? What are some resources you intend to use on future assignments?

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 16

7. How does your project feedback compare to feedback you have received in the past about your writing (in French)?

8. What was your favorite part of this project? Explain.

9. What was your least favorite part of this project? Explain

10. What are three measurable goals you have for your next French writing piece?

1._____________________________________________ 2. _____________________________________________ 3._____________________________________________

Quantitative data is collected from students' grades through Infinite Campus. This information will be gathered at the beginning, midpoint, and end of the study. Students will also complete a Google Forms (2013) survey regarding their current executive functioning habits. Time Line This timeline outlines the proposed completion date of each component involved in this project created through tiki-toki.com (2013). Collection of Initial Grades 22 Oct 2013 - 26 Oct 2013 Initial data on student grades from advisory group is recorded. French III - Project Preparation Survey 22 Oct 2013 French III students complete a Project Preparation Survey French III - Project Reflection 22 Oct 2013 - 31 Oct 2013 French III students complete a post project reflection sheet.

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 17 Agenda Checks - Daily 29 Oct 2013 - 8 Nov 2013 Teacher checks students' agendas on a daily basis. Missing Assignments 29 Oct 2013 - 29 Nov 2013 Teacher monitors and records any missing assignments throughout the study. Anecdotal Observations - Form 29 Oct 2013 - 29 Nov 2013 The teacher completes anecdotal forms regarding students' progress with the study. Advisory Goal Check - Quarter 1 6 Nov 2013 - 7 Nov 2013 Students review and reflect upon their progress in meeting their yearly goals at the end of the first quarter. Students set new goals for the second quarter. Period 1, Period 3 and Advisory complete Google Forms Survey Agenda Checks - Weekly 12 Nov 2013 - 22 Nov 2013 Teacher checks students' agendas on a weekly basis. Advisory Goal Check - Quarter 2 27 Nov 2013 - 28 Nov 2013 Students share their progress with meeting their goals for the 2nd quarter. The study will be completed and submitted on December 15th 2013. Data Analysis Information gathered throughout the study was carefully examined. Information from the Google Form is shown through pie charts. Student grades were monitored throughout the study

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 18 and progress is shown by using charts. Improvement of grades suggests proof that the study's strategies for addressing executive functioning skills were successful. Results from the study prove the study's efforts to improve student executive functioning skills as somewhat inconclusive. Data was collected before and throughout the course of the study. The researcher sought out information from a variety of sources. To protect the anonymity of the student participants, they were assigned a letter and number to serve as a pseudonym instead of their real name. The students in the advisory group are referred to as single letters (e.g. Student A). Students in French III are identified by the number of their class period and a letter (e.g. Student 1A). Structuring the research, this way allows data from the study to be observed clearly by the reader. The data shows evidence of actual student executive functioning skills and some growth in these skills throughout the course of the study. Many anecdotal observations and comments are shared in the study. Collected data was analyzed through organizing the study from the beginning to end, and then major themes and patterns were noted (Mills, 2014, p. 129). Presentation of Results Planning: Agendas

Sample Student Agenda from Advisory

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 19 During the study, the teacher checked students' agenda books to see if they wrote down their assignment for the day. On October 21st, one student in period 1 did not have his agenda. This student also did not come prepared with additional course material for the day. In the same class on the same day, one student did not write down her assignment until the teacher came over to actually check the agendas. One student in this class on the same day stated that he never uses his agenda. There were two students absent this day. In checking agendas in French III, period 3 on the same day, one student was very reluctant to write down her assignment. Another student stated he did not have an agenda and that he lost it at the beginning of the school year. On October 22nd, the process continued. In period 1, two students were absent and two students needed reminders to post the entire homework task in their agendas. In period three, one student was absent. Throughout the research period, students did not appear to appreciate their teacher checking their agendas for work. Also, if students were given assignments that were not worksheets, such as studying, most students did not record this information in their agendas without reminders from the teacher. When students completed a Google form (2013) survey on November 15th, 50% of French III students stated they strongly agree that they write down assignments in their agendas every day. 25% of these students stated that they agree that they write their assignments down every day. Another 25% of this group stated they disagree, that they do not use their agenda to record assignments every day. Despite students struggling with writing their assignments in their agenda every day, the majority of students do not want their teachers checking their agendas. When students completed a Google form survey on November 15th students were asked to select one of the following

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 20 choices: strongly agree, agree, unsure, disagree, or strongly disagree based on the following statement: "I appreciate/need my teacher to check my agenda daily". 0% of students chose "Strongly agree", 6% of the students chose "Agree", 6% of students chose "Unsure", 31% of students chose "Disagree", and 56% of students chose "Strongly Disagree". Students in advisory had mixed results regarding their use of the school provided agenda. This group seems to vary between two extremes in this subject. Figure 1: Student Agenda Use ("Google forms," 2013)

Advisory

I use my agenda every day to record assignments.

strongly agree agree unsure disagree strongly disagree

2 6 2 0 2

17% 50% 17% 0% 17%

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 21

A Second Agenda Example from Advisory Organization Organization is a major component to executive functioning skills. Evaluating students in this area is an important starting point to develop strategies for assisting students. Information for this portion of the study was collected through computer administered Google form (2013) evaluations created by the researcher. According to Table 2, both advisory and French III students prefer to organize their course materials in a binder. Regardless of grade, all students claimed to have some sort of system established to organize their materials for school. When students were asked to evaluate their ability to access course material, their responses were more varied. 100% of the students from French III (composed of sophomores, juniors and seniors) claimed they know how to and can access their course materials when needed. The advisory class (composed of all freshmen) demonstrated more variation in their responses to this question ("Google forms," 2013). 8% stated that they felt they did not know where or how to access materials to complete assignments and another 8% stated they were unsure as to where or how they can access these items ("Google forms," 2013). Both French III and advisory students admitted that although they believe they have some sort of system for organizing their materials, their system may be ineffective. The younger freshmen students felt more confident in organization skills. This may be due to the fact that these students are required by the school to organize all course materials in one 3 inch binder. Students in 10th and 11th grade typically have more options for organizing their materials

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 22
Figure 2: Organizational Patterns of Students ("Google forms," 2013)

Advisory Students
How do you organize your course materials?

French III Students
How do you organize your French III materials?

in a binder in a binder in a folder in a notebook with folders I don't have a designated area for my materials 11 1 0 0 92% 8% 0% 0% in a folder in a notebook with folders I don't have a designated area for my French materials Other

8 2 5 0 2

47% 12% 29% 0% 12%

I know where to access materials to help me complete an assignment.

Time Management The study focused on

I know where to access materials to help me complete an assignment.

strongly agree agree unsure disagree strongly disagree

4 6 1 1 0

33% 50% 8% 8% 0%

strongly agree agree unsure disagree strongly disagree

13 4 0 0 0

76% 24% 0% 0% 0%

My course materials are organized in a way that is III. Time Management easily accessible.

My course materials are organized in a way that is easily accessible.

strongly agree agree unsure disagree strongly disagree

3 7 1 1 0

25% 58% 8% 8% 0%

strongly agree agree unsure disagree strongly disagree

6 6 4 1 0

35% 35% 24% 6% 0%

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 23 The study focused on understanding the ways students prepare for assessments and the time they assign to studying. Figure 3 reveals that most students in French III period 1 study for about 30 minutes by using their handouts to prepare for a quiz. Understanding the ways students prepare for assessments and the time they assign to studying. Figure 3: French III Study Preparation Evaluation for Quiz 2-3 – Period 1
1. How long did you study for this assessment?
I did not study. 1 8% 15 minutes 5 42% 30 minutes 6 50% 1 hour + 0 0%

Number of Students Total Number of Students = 12

2. What materials did you use to study for this quiz?
Number times a source is used. Textbook 5 23% Notes 7 32% Handouts 10 45% Course Website 0 0%

3. How do you feel you did on this assessment? Poorly 3 25% Satisfactory 4 33% Fairly High 3 25% 100% 1 8%

Number of Students Total Number of Students = 12

Both sections of French III students describe a similar approach to planning for tests. French III, period 3 students planned to study for an average of 24 minutes each night before a test using their books (see Figure 4). In preparing for the same assessment, French 3 Period 1 planned to study an average of 29 minutes each night before the test. While French 3 period 1 planned for this amount of time, the students in this class reported to have actually studied for an average of 34 minutes total for the exam (see Figure 5).

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 24 Figure 4: Assessment Planning - French III Period 3 Study Plan for Chapter 2 Test Response - November 12, 2013
Students

I will study for… minutes

Study Guide

Book

Notes

Course Website

Other

If I need help I can…

3A 3B

15 5

✔ ✔ ✔

“work”

- “email teacher” - “ask a friend” “use email” “come in during study hall/after school”
“look at study tips on French website” “study with another French student”

“previous assignments ”

3C 3D 3E 3F 3G 3H
Totals

30 20 20 30 60 15
Average 24 mins

✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ 4/8 = 50% ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔

“Quia” “flashcards ” “past quizzes” “handouts”

“ask a peer” “email Miss Piper” “email my teacher” “go online to look stuff up” “stay after” “email Ms. Piper”

“Quizlet”

“get help from (student)” “ask Ms. Piper for help” “come in for help” “go online website”

“handouts”

⅞= ⅝= 88% 63%

⅛= 13%

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 25 Figure 5: Assessment Planning - French III Period 1 Study Plan for Chapter 2 Test

Response - November 15, 2013
___ minutes
I will use my... I can... How long did When did you you study? study?

Students

Where did you study?

Materials easy to find?

What did you use?

Did you follow your plan?

Techniques successful?

1A 45

textbook, my notes, and old homework/ handouts

visit the website and come for extra help

Yes! The study guide was really direct towards telling us exactly at my house 60 mostly the night what things we textbook, handouts, and at school in Yes minutes before needed to study notes, and quizzes the library and the activites wei've been doing in class were helpful tools as well

Yes. Going to the library was helpful for a quiet place to study

1B 30

handouts, get help from 10 the night before book, and in my bedroom my teacher minutes the test course website

Yes because there I used my book and No because I was a lot of ways to a handout didn't have time help me study

I think they were successful because I didn't need to study that much

1C 25

my past quizzes, book, and handouts

course website, come in for help

35 mostly the night at home mintues before

Yes because we had everything before the test

some of it, I did my book and a few not look over my handouts past quizzes

I think they were because I felt pretty good about the test after taking it

1D 20

my textbook, notes, and the study guide

I studied some in study hall, some befoer I in the library, in come in 25 went to bed the my room, and before school minutes night before the on the bus test, and some this morning

Yes, I had easy access to both the my textbook and book and the study study guide guide

I mostly followed it, but I never looked over the notes from class.

I feel they worked.

1E 30

my textbook, notes, and flashcards

review notes I studied 15 30 and ask help minutes each minutes from teacher night.

at my house

memory jogger, Yes, the memory notes, flashcards, jogger activity had and used my everything I needed textbook you always email the materials yes I had my French textbook and folder to study with my textbook and notes

Yes

Yes because I feel I did well on my test

1F 20

textbook, ask a friend, course website, email Mlle and notes Piper the course textbook, g et v, website and notes ask for help

40 the 3 days minutes before the test

my bedroom

Yes

Yes

1G 30

over the 40 weekend and at my house minutes the night before the test

notes handouts homewokr

Yes

Yes because I feel I did well on my test

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 26 Figure 6: Example Assessment Planning and Reflection Response

The majority of advisory students stated that on average they study fairly close to the same amount the night before a test or quiz. 50% claimed they study for about 30 minutes before a test or quiz ("Google forms," 2013). Figure 7: Study Time of Advisory Students ("Google forms," 2013)

I typically spend ___ minutes studying the night before a quiz or test. 3 1 hour 30 minutes 20 minutes 15 minutes I usually don't study. Other 6 0 1 1 1 50% 0% 8% 8% 8% 25%

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 27 Goal Setting and Grades Advisory Quarter 1 Grades (Infinite Campus, 2013) Table 8: Advisory Grades Quarter 1 and Evaluation Responses
Student A B. C. D. E. F. G. H. I J. Math 70% 91% 90% 83% 93% 89% 68% 76% N/A 100% English 82% 91% 67% 91% 96% 96% 76% 76% 83% 97% Science 79% 96% 66% 86% 97% 96% 78% 82% 92% 97% History 72% 90% 77% 87% 96% 93% 73% 71% 86% 98% Elective 85% 91% 74% 91% 95% 92% 88% 97% 70% 99% Wellness 94% 98% 90% 100% 99% 98% 78% 89% 98% 100% Average 80% 93% 77% 90% 96% 94% 77% 82% 86% 99%

Advisory Self Evaluation Activity – Sample Responses

Question 1: Are you on track with meeting your goals for the school year?
Student A: "No, Slowly going down and not getting As, Bs, or Cs". Student B: "I am on track for meeting my goals for making honor roll." Student C: "Yes". Student D: "Yes, I’m happy with my grades and I’m achieving my goals". Student E: "I am on track with meeting my goals this year". Student J: Yes because I have all As.

Question 2 : Are you happy with your grades for Quarter 1?
Student A: " No, I am slumping and have to do better". Student B:" I am happy with my grades for Quarter 1 because I made honor roll". Student C: "not a lot of them" Student C: "I’m happy with my grades, they’re all As and Bs and that’s okay with me" Student D: (no response) Student E: " I am happy with my grades because they are good". Student J. "Yes, I'm happy with my grades because I have all As".

Question 3: Review your teacher comments. Are your comments what you expected? Why or why not? What were some themes found in your comments?
Student A: "No some of them are better. most of them are good effort" Student B: "Yes, the comments are what I expected they were going to be. Because I feel as though I participate and I am respectful in class." Student C: "Yes "

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 28
Student D: "Yes, the comments are what I expected. The themes in my comments say good/great effort and participation in class" Student E: "Most of my comments are "Excellent" or "Good" effort, so yeah, I'm happy with them." Student J: "Yes except for history because I know I can improve it. I mostly have excellent effort"

Question 4: What will you do to be successful in Quarter 2?
Student A: "I need to work harder and do my homework" Student B: "Stay on track and to not get behind." Student C:" Do my homework at home." Student D. "I will try harder in quarter 2 because I want to see improvement." Student E: "To be successful I will keep doing what I'm doing." Student J: "To be successful for Quarter 2, I will keep doing what I'm doing."

Question 5: What are three measurable goals you have for Quarter 2?
Student A:" 1. Get As Bs and a C 2. Participate in class 3. Receive good comments" Student B: "One goal is to get more As than Bs. Another goal is to get a SAC pass. And the last goal of mine for Quarter 2 is to get good comments." Student C: (did not set goals) Student D:" 1. stay after more 2. more participation in class c. ask more questions" Student E: "1. good comments 2. good grades 3. SAC pass" Student J: "1. Keep my grades where they are or improve them. 2. Get excellent effort in all of my classes 3. Get all As again." Sample Reflection from Advisory Student

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 29 Goal setting and self-reflection are critical skills associated with strong exectuive functioning abilities. The information above is from a reflection exercise conducted with the advsiroy class after Quarter 1. While student grades are solid, for the most part these students lacked the ability to set measurable goals despite reminders from the teacher. Students that were able to set measurable goals held higher Quarter 1 averages compared to those who did not set measurable goals. Table 9 provides a sample of some advisory students overall averages compared to their ability to set measurable goals. The goal setting was determined by the following scoring system: 100= exceed, 75 = meets, 50 = partially meets, 25= does not meet. Figure 9: Advisory – Quarter 1 Grades and Goal Setting Ability

There was also a concrete relationship between students checking their grades and receivging high grades. Table 10 demonstrates the number of times both parents and students access Infinite Campus to access student grades. The numbers from Quarter 1 were collected October 12, 2013 and the numbers from Quarter 2 were collected on November 22, 2013. When the study began in the beginning of November, students were encouraged by their advisor to

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 30 check their grades on Infinite Campus. Students were also given two opportunities to check their grades during advisory class. Based on this information, it is evident that students who check Infinite Campus more frequently have higher averages. However, students' who have parents who check Infinite Campus frequently do not necessarily have high-grade averages. This information portrays students' desire for autonomy. Tomlinson (2006) states, “When students are developing their independence, it is necessary to build students’ skills in being able to make simple choices, follow-through with short-term tasks, and use directions appropriately” (p.48). Assigning the task of reviewing one's grades and checking in with students with this task proved successful. Without these specific directions, students would be less inclined to review their grades. This data reinforces the importance of seeking out information regarding their academic performance. Understanding one's grades also allows students to set measureable and reachable goals. Figure 10: INFINITE CAMPUS ACCESS TO GRADES QUARTER 1 AND QUARTER 2

("Infinite campus," 2013)

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 31 Discussion of Findings Due to the restrictions of the timeframe given to collect the data, there were some obvious limitations that arose with the data results. Students were often absent from class, some students did not take the reflection and evaluations serious, and others did not complete these tasks within the given timeframe. Since students knew their responses were not worth a grade, some may have not taken the task seriously. As a result of the insight revealed through this study, the following information will be shared with colleagues to improve their practices in aiding students in improving and developing their executive functioning skills. The cross-curricular group for executive functioning skills will meet in the spring of 2014 to analyze the results of this study and collaborate to develop effective teacher approaches to enhance students' executive functioning skills. Upon conducting action research on the topic of executive functioning, interesting information about today's high school students is revealed. The research found that solid executive functioning skills align with a strong motivation to learn. Without this motivation, students often fail to manage their time wisely. When the course topic is a priority, the organization of their materials, studying for assessments, and planning major projects into manageable chunks generally occurs. To enhance motivation to learning and to strengthen executive functioning skills, students need assistance from teachers to understand the relevance of course content and lesson activities. A common theme found from the research is that students need to participate in "…authentic, personally meaningful activities" (Willis, 2011). Students that reported finding personal purpose in lesson activities had stronger executive functioning skills. Willis (2011) encourages teachers to, "Provide opportunities to apply learning". When students can find real-life value, interest, and

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 32 purpose to learning, their ability to remember content (an important aspect of executive functioning) is improved (Willis, 2011). In planning future activities, teachers must first connect with their students to understand their interest and goals. Then, teachers must brainstorm to develop ways to present course material in the most relevant context to the specific group of learners. Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001) state, “The purpose of homework should be identified and articulated” (p. 63). This indicates the necessity for teachers to develop and implement meaningful learning opportunities to gain student focus, motivation, and attention to executive functions in the classroom. Educators must develop an unyielding desire and effort to deepen students’ knowledge of course topics through the extension of learning opportunities, such as meaningful homework assignments or authentic educational activities, outside of the classroom (Marzano, et al., 2001). The students that generally try their best every day and possess a desire to do well show a general respect for the course and its materials and assignments. Effort and motivation seem to go hand in hand. When these attributes are present, students are prepared to improve their executive functioning skills. Without these factors, students often fail to develop a deep understanding of strategies to form effective executive functioning skills. A lack of effort and motivation deprives students of the ability to recognize the importance of planning, goal setting and staying organized. Data from this study recognizes that students are aware of and note their teachers' executive functioning skills. Students view their teachers as important role models for illustrating these skills. According to Anderman and Anderman's (2010) "Social Cognitive Theory" plays a large role on student motivation (p. 5). Anderman and Anderman (2010) explain social cognitive

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 33 theory as the absorption of learned behaviors observed from others. This theory addresses the importance and impact of students' exposure through surrounding adults' attitudes, messages, and actions and its impact on students' desire to learn. Based on this theory and the findings of the study, teachers must model effective strategies for managing executive functioning skills. Teachers must also show a sincere value of these skills and communicate them to students. Instructional changes needed to improve student executive functioning skills are on-going and should be addressed through a patient approach. Marzano et al., (2001) state, “Mastering a skill requires a fair amount of focused practice” (p. 67). Teachers need to provide students with opportunities to practice these executive functioning skills. Teachers must accept that teaching successful approaches to effective executive functioning is a continuous component to one's role as an instructor. While progress may be minimal or slow, teachers must intervene with students struggling with these skills. Students with poor executive functioning skills are often able to improve through teacher recognition of the student's positive behavior and through the teacher fostering positive learning environment (Anderman & Anderman, 2010). The study proved that students struggle with setting measurable goals. To assist students with setting meaningful goals, teachers can educate students through the concept of S.M.A.R.T. goals ("Creating S.M. A.R.T. goals," 2013). S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for specific, manageable, attainable, relevant and timely; this idea is used to ensure an effective baseline for goal setting ("Creating S.M. A.R.T. goals," 2013). A simple acronym such as S.M.A.R.T. can help students improve their executive functioning skills through setting meaningful goals. Further research of executive functioning skills must occur to develop a truly accurate picture of students' currents abilities and needs in this area. As the study of executive functioning skills amongst students continues, the research will show a deeper understanding of how the

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 34 skills relate to students achievements in the classroom. Sharing the results of the study with colleagues will help other improve the way they present information to students and work with them to create meaningful goals. Teacher attention, awareness, appreciation and student support regarding executive functioning skills will assist in maximizing learning for all students and will also help to prepare students for life after high school.

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 35 References Anderman, E. M., & Anderman L. H. (2010). Classroom motivation. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. Blankson, A. N., O'Brien, M., Leerkes, E. M., Marcovitch, S., & Calkins, S. D. (2011). Shyness and vocabulary: The roles of executive functioning and home environmental stimulation. Merrill - Palmer Quarterly, 57(2), 105-128. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/864294031?accountid=12756 Burrows, S., & Lucas, M. D. (2000). Comparison of two tests of executive functioning. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 161(2), 253-5. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/228472240?accountid=12756 Cantin, R., Mann, T., & Hund, A. (2012, December) Executive Functioning Predicts School Readiness and Success: Implications for Assessment and Intervention National Association of School Psychologists. Communique 41 (4), 1,20-21. Chapman, C., & King, R. (2012). Differentiated assessment strategies: One tool doesn't fit all. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA : Corwin: A SAGE Company. Creating S.M.A.R.T. goals. (2013). Retrieved from http://topachievement.com/smart.html

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Diamond, A., & Lee, K. (2011, August) Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4 to 12 years old Science 333 (6045), 959-964. Gambill, J. M., Moss, L. A., & Vescogni, C. D. (2008, May 1). The Impact of Study Skills and Organizational Methods on Student Achievement. Online Submission,

An Investigation of Strategies to Improve Student Executive Functioning Skills 36 http://search.ebscohost.com.une.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED5 01312&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Google forms. (2013). Retrieved from www.google.com Google forms. (2013). Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/a/rsu35.org/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AnEJVQz7yCUfdDQt NWVsVFUtdXhvUGRkU0RXazAyX1E&usp=drive_web
Howell, L., Sulak, T. N., Bagby, J., Diaz, C., & Thompson, L. W. (2013). Preparation for Life: How the Montessori Classroom Facilitates the Development of Executive Function Skills. Montessori Life: A Publication Of The American Montessori Society,25(1), 14-18.

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