Research Conversations: Bridging Academics with Executive Function (Key Takeaways)

Author: Whitney Ashby
April 15, 2024


In this episode of Change Starts Here: Research Conversations, cognitive neuroscientist Eve Miller, Ph.D, and former educators Jennifer Chevalier, Ed.D. and Kim Yaris, M.Ed. reflect on this season’s overarching theme: the relationship between executive functions and academics. They recount the ideas that have had the greatest impact on their own thinking about how best to improve student achievement outcomes.



Adaptability is the capacity to adjust and respond to new situations or challenges with creativity and flexibility, embracing change by learning new strategies and finding innovative solutions. It involves the ability to navigate social contexts, adapt to diverse roles and responsibilities, and effectively handle both expected and unexpected changes.


Self-awareness is the capacity to acknowledge, comprehend, and articulate one’s own emotions, thoughts, and sentiments while also recognizing personal strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and values. This essential skill enables individuals to make informed decisions, cultivate meaningful relationships, and navigate diverse life circumstances. Self-awareness is the foundation of executive functions such as metacognition, self-reflection, and goal-directed persistence–skills essential for academic success.  

Goal Setting

A goal is a desired outcome or target that motivates individuals to take focused actions. Goal setting is an executive function that involves the ability to prioritize objectives, engage in disciplined execution, and hold oneself accountable for results.  

Try This!

This season we have discussed the following executive functions and competencies: self-awareness, initiative, emotion regulation, values clarification, goal setting, planning ahead, discipline, time management, adaptability, critical thinking, metacognition, and problem solving. Can you identify a situation where developing one or more of these helped overcome a challenge or improve a result? 

More Information

The Practice Base for How We Learn

In this article, a diverse coalition of scientists and scholars advocates for the integration of emotional and social competencies with academic instruction. They argue that this approach leads to improved achievement and equity in educational outcomes.

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