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Learning Styles
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Importance of Executive Functioning
Thursday evening, Proctor’s faculty and staff, along with a number of local elementary/middle school teachers, will gather in the Wilkins Meeting House to engage in a conversation around executive functioning skills with Ann Helmus, a licensed clinical neuropsychologist specializing in these areas. While Proctor’s Learning Skills Department has sponsored this workshop, the goal of the session is to enhance the educational experience of all Proctor’s students.

About one third of Proctor’s student body enrolls in the Learning Skills program each trimester, but the benefits of that program extend well beyond the walls of the third floor of the Fowler Learning Center. Teachers at Proctor are keenly aware of the importance of varied approaches to teaching as a way to best communicate content to diverse learning styles. To offer a one-size-fits-all course is simply unheard of at Proctor; whose learning skills curriculum is one of the oldest in the country.

The result of this philosophy is an academic curriculum that is as diverse as its student body. Classes are designed to capitalize on diverse learning styles where content is balanced with skill development, understanding that all students benefit from improved organizational skills and an intentional approach to teaching executive functioning skills.

Learning Skills Department Chair Jen Fletcher notes, “There is a need for all teens to better their executive functioning skills, particularly in the areas of planning, time management, modulating their emotions to overcome frustrations and achieve their goals, and harness their working memory abilities.”

Fletcher adds, “It is important to engage in these types of conversations to strengthen our understanding of executive functioning skills, which are a critical component of academic success, particularly in the boarding school setting. Having some strategies in our toolkit for teaching these skills and supporting our students effectively is also another goal of the presentation.”

Proctor has long subscribed to the notion that the work done in Learning Skills positively impacts the entire student body as faculty work to develop dynamic teaching styles. However, current research adds merit to our long-held beliefs. Especially in a world where technology permeates our very existence, the importance of managing our executive functioning skills is elevated.

Based on the model developed by Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Yale Clinic for Attention and Related Disorders, executive functioning includes:

1. Activation: Organizing, prioritizing, and activating to work.
2. Focus: Focusing, sustaining, and shifting attention to task.
3. Effort: Regulating alertness, sustaining effort, and processing speed.
4. Emotion: Managing frustration and modulating emotions.
5. Memory: Utilizing working memory and accessing recall.
6. Action: Monitoring and self-regulating action.

I recognize my own need to further refine my executive functioning skills, and I feel as though I am fairly organized person. But, as I work to write this blog with six windows open on my computer, music playing in the background, my iPhone vibrating with text messages periodically and a steady stream of new email *bings* in the background, I realize my own self-monitoring in this area has significant room for improvement, just as every one of our students does.

If you would like to join us for Thursday evening’s conversation, please contact Jen Fletcher in the Learning Skills Department. We know it will be a fruitful time spent learning, engaging, and implementing strategies that will augment the educational experiences of every single one of our students.
Professional development is key to faculty and staff continuing to broaden their skill set.
Thursday evening, faculty, staff and local elementary school teachers will join Ann Helmus for a conversation about executive functioning and nonverbal learning disabilities.
While Proctor's learning skills program attracts students from around the country, the real value of the program is its ability to enhance the educational experience of ALL students at Proctor.
Learning more about executive functioning skills will help teachers and students better navigate a world where distractions and technology are omnipresent.