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Taking Executive Functions to School

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Recent studies have suggested that students with better executive functioning abilities have higher academic achievement. Generally, executive functions include the processes involved in goal-directed behaviors across a variety of cognitively challenging situations. Executive functions undergo various developmental changes throughout the lifespan and appear to be related to the development of the frontal lobes, hinting to a link between academic performance and biological constraints. During this seminar, I will focus on the development of executive functions and whether the links between educational achievement and executive functions might be constrained by educational materials (and not biology alone). Further, I will present evidence regarding the potential impact of regular use of executive functions in the classroom and how this practice might relate to improved classroom learning and achievement test performance.

Biography:

Michelle is a university lecturer in the PNE group. She has scientific interests in cognition, neuroscience, child development, and education, integrating them into a multi-disciplinary research programme aimed at improving math and science education. Using an iterative process, she pairs laboratory based research with classroom learning and curriculum development in order to better understand mechanisms responsible for cognitive development and to leverage that understanding to improve educational practice. Her current projects focus on the role of executive functions in school achievement and how children’s reasoning about causes and effects impacts how they think about scientific phenomena. In addition, she is applying cognitive principles to classroom learning, including simplicity and desirable difficulties. Initially trained in developmental cognitive neuroscience, her interests in improving cognitive outcomes for children have inspired her to reach beyond this initial training to develop her integrative, multi-disciplinary approach that informs both school practice and theoretical accounts of cognitive development.

This talk is part of the Psychology & Education series.

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