Building Executive Function
Course Outline

Course Fee: $160
Course Numbers: EED x701 31203, SED x701 31218
Standard Course Time: 30 hours
Semester Credits: Two (2) academic credits at the post-baccalaureate level (available for an additional fee)
Credit Issued by: Humboldt State University (refer to our Graduate Credit page for credit pricing and details)
Subject Area: Special Topics

This course has been developed and optimized for online delivery using the licensed title Building Executive Function - The Missing Link to Student Achievement, published by Routledge and authored by Nancy Sulla.

Introduction/Course Description:

This course is designed to grow awareness about the importance of executive functioning. Educators can provide top-notch lessons and resources for students, but if students lack executive function, even the best materials won’t produce the desired results. If students haven’t developed the brain-based skills to focus, catch and correct errors, identify cause-and-effect relationships, and more, they can’t make sense of lessons. Executive function is the missing link to student achievement.

Course Objectives/Program Outline

Module One: The Power, Promise, and Pitfalls of Executive Function

Learning Objectives:

  • Gain an understanding of executive function and its role in student achievement.
  • Identify and redefine “the basics” of curricular content.
  • Explore cognitive access and the potential relationship to achievement gaps.
  • Become familiar with the physiology and development of the human brain.
  • Recognize typical brain development for executive function.
  • Describe the effect of stress on the prefrontal cortex.
  • Introduce ways to make a difference in the classroom.

Project 1: Putting the FUN back into FUN-ctioning
Quiz: Multiple-choice questions that pertain to objectives above.

Module Two: Attaining Conscious Control

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the relationship between the growth of the prefrontal cortex and conscious control.
  • List the executive function skills needed to exhibit conscious control.
  • Examine situations where lack of executive function may affect a student’s ability to learn.
  • Explore activities and structures to foster the executive function skills related to conscious control.

Project 2: Look - A Squirrel
Quiz: Multiple-choice questions that pertain to objectives above.

Module Three: Moving from Compliance to Engagement

Learning Objectives:

  • Illustrate examples of both compliance and engagement in the traditional classroom.
  • List the executive function skills related to engagement.
  • Explore specific activities and structures to build the executive function skills that support engagement.

Quiz: Multiple-choice questions that pertain to objectives above.

Module Four: Mastering the Art of Collaboration

Learning Objectives:

  • Define collaboration in relation to conventional school learning environments.
  • Recognize the executive function skills that are particularly critical to collaboration.
  • Explore collaborative activities and structures that build the executive function skills necessary for successful learning and application.

Quiz: Multiple-choice questions that pertain to objectives above.

Module Five: Embracing Empowerment

Learning Objectives:

  • Recognize empowerment as giving someone the power to take control of his/her life.
  • List the executive function skills that support empowerment.
  • Identify activities and structures that strengthen students’ executive function skills related to empowerment.

Project 3: Captain of Your Own Ship
Quiz: Multiple-choice questions that pertain to objectives above.

Module Six: Developing Efficacy

Learning Objectives:

  • Recognize that efficacy comes from within: it is your own ability to decide upon a desired outcome and make it happen.
  • Understand that a classroom culture of efficacy that embraces creativity and problem solving helps students achieve.
  • Identify ways to create a culture of creativity and problem solving toward building the executive function skills in students that will support efficacy.

Quiz: Multiple-choice questions that pertain to objectives above.

Module Seven: Demonstrating Leadership

Learning Objectives:

  • Define leadership as the ability to inspire and influence people.
  • Identify the super-skills of leadership: empathy, vision, confidence, courage, systems thinking, integrity and intuition.
  • Explore a variety of methods focused on building students’ leadership super-skills, which strengthens executive function.

Project 4: Lead Others to Lead Themselves
Quiz: Multiple-choice questions that pertain to objectives above.

Module Eight: Building Executive Function Through Teacher Facilitation

Learning Objectives:

  • Become familiar with teacher facilitation of learning as the most powerful way to attain strong academic achievement for students.
  • Identify ways to move out of the role of content presenter to facilitator.
  • Evaluate the facets of facilitation and their importance in assessing a learner’s needs.
  • Gain an understanding of the facilitation roadmap to ensure your actions meet their needs.
  • Explore a variety of methods to help “make your thinking transparent”.

Quiz: Multiple-choice questions that pertain to objectives above.

Final Exam

Multiple choice questions taken from each module

Final Learning Statement

Learning statements should be in a narrative format – as opposed to an outline format. Depending on individual writing styles Learning statements should be 2-3 pages. The learning statement can vary according to individual style. Your learning statement should answer the broad question of "what did you learn?". To help get you thinking, here are some suggested questions:

  • What are the major concepts of the course that you have learned?
  • What new professional language have you acquired relating to the topic?
  • What teaching techniques for implementing new strategies in the classroom did you come away with?
  • Thinking back to your project reflections, were you surprised at the outcomes?
  • What new resources did you find in the study of the content?
  • As an educator, what new concepts will you now integrate into your teaching?
  • Are there any ideas that presented themselves as enlightening and useful?

--- Sample Course Project ---

Project #1: Putting the FUN back into FUN-ctioning

In this module, we learned about the importance of executive function and the connection to student achievement.

For this project:

Revisit a lesson taught in your class and all the lessons leading up to it. Think of your students who attend class and have some background content knowledge. Consider how you teach the lesson in seemingly reasonable steps for one to learn the content.

Take a moment to reflect on the students who AREN'T achieving at the desired level.

  • Using the executive function skills list in section 2 of this module (a full list is also provided in the Additional Materials for this course), which skills are not fully developed?

Now, reflect on the students who ARE achieving at an optimal level.

  • Using the executive function skills list, how many skills are present?

Compare the executive function of these two skill levels.

  • Is there a difference?

For Your Written Project Reflection Submission

After completing Project #1, reflect on your process. You may wish to use the following bullet points as a guide:

  • What is a possible new awareness about students who are not achieving?
  • Reflecting on executive function skills, do you intentionally create opportunities to practice executive function skills in your classroom?
  • How will you apply this new learning into your classroom?

Visit the "Module Projects" section located within the Course Dashboard, and take a moment to share your findings by submitting your written project reflection.


Humboldt State University Credit Specifics

  • Academic Credit through Humboldt State University (HSU) is offered after successful completion of each course.
  • The 700 series semester credit is post-baccalaureate level appropriate for credentialed teachers which do not require admission to a graduate program.
  • Courses are letter graded on official transcripts from HSU.
  • HSU is the northernmost and westernmost institution in the 23-campus California State University (CSU) system.
  • HSU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), a regional accrediting agency serving a diverse membership of public and private higher education institutions.

Summer Option

If you are not currently teaching (ie. Summer break, you are a substitute teacher, etc.), each class offers you the ability to complete coursework independent of a classroom assignment.