Executive Functioning

What is Executive Functioning?

Executive Functioning is a term used to refer to the processes in the brain that enable people to coordinate and utilize resources in order to achieve a goal. It is a set of skills that allows people to function efficiently and effectively. Although they can contribute greatly to a person’s ability to learn, executive functioning skills are only moderately correlated with intelligence. As a result, it is possible to be highly intelligent and have significant deficits in executive functioning.

Executive Functioning Skills develop, like other skills, as a person’s brain matures. Located predominately in the frontal lobes of the brain, which continue to develop well into a person’s mid 20s, these skills take time and experience to fully master and utilize.

Joyce Cooper-Kahn, PhD and Laurie Dietzel, PhD provide the following formal definition of Executive Functioning in their book Late, Lost and Unprepared.

“The executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation”

The executive functions include:

  • Inhibition
  • Initiation
  • Planning
  • Organization
  • Working Memory
  • Emotional control
  • Self-monitoring
  • Cognitive flexibility

Problems with executive functioning are commonly found in individuals diagnosed with ADHD; however, it is possible to have problems with executive functioning and not have ADHD. Coaching is an effective method for dealing with executive functioning issues.

A study conducted during the 2009-2010 school year of students at 10 postsecondary institutions across the United States showed significant benefits for students with ADHD from coaching conducted with the Edge model (the model for which I have received training). “This study demonstrated that coaching services provided according to the Edge model were highly effective in helping students improve their self-regulation, study skills and will. It helped to build students’ confidence and enhanced their organizational and time management skills. Participation in Edge coaching services resulted in improvement in students’ approach to learning. It also enhanced their sense of well-being and resulted in more positive emotional states, which have been linked by research (Fredrickson & Branigan, 2005) to more effective learning.

This study demonstrated that the coaching services provided according to the Edge model were a highly effective intervention to help students improve executive functioning and related skills as measured by the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (LASSI; Weinstein & Palmer, 2002).” (page 3)