As we settle back into our routine for the school year, many of us emphasize setting resolutions for the new year. These resolutions or intentions can help us accomplish goals when we identify tasks that are meaningful and realistic; how can we encourage our gifted students to set and work towards goals that are meaningful to them?
Executive Functioning and Giftedness
Executive functioning refers to a neurological set of skills that help individuals regulate their emotions, and thereby their actions. These skills are needed in order to plan, organize, and follow-through on activities, and we can think of the executive functioning center of our brain as the concert conductor or air traffic controller of our actions.
Due to the asynchronous development of the brain among the gifted population, we see an extreme range of executive functioning abilities both among and within our students, and many of our students need scaffolding to help build these skills, especially in relation to non-preferred tasks. Due to their cognitive abilities, students may not have had to outline larger projects or executive time management as their same-age peers during elementary school, and they are forced to learn these skills in middle school or high school.
Collaboration with Gifted Students
In order to increase a student’s buy-in to increase these skills, providing education about the gifted brain and fostering collaboration with students can increase the motivation and willingness to pursue goals that are either important to them while increasing their sense of self-efficacy.
A collaborative conversation should be had with the student about a goal, and the adult can then help the student identify the steps into a checklist that the student can visualize and use daily. After using a system, we should then work with the student to evaluate the process and identify which strategies worked, and which need to be tweaked in order to be successful. Eventually, these systems should be modified to reduce adult supervision and intervention, which increases a student’s sense of self-efficacy and reduces the risk of enabling.
Many times, our gifted students have an outstanding ability to focus and work on things that they find interesting or exciting. With larger or less-preferred tasks, we can help increase our student’s motivation by front-loading the work with enjoyable tasks, as well as setting a firm start time for the work. Short breaks can be interspersed with frequent acknowledgment of the student’s effort and progress. A solutions-focused approach can also be used to explore with the student about things they don’t procrastinate on, and what conditions allow for this increased sense of motivation and self-esteem. In a future blog post, we’ll explore how to help gifted students strengthen their time management skills in order to pursue these goals.
Where to begin? Start with an Executive Functioning Self-Assessment from Smart but Scattered HERE.
Image Source for EF graphic: Focus Therapy
Image Source for Homework Planner: Smart But Scattered