5 essential skills to prepare students for adult life

Sep 2021

We all wish that children would become happier and more active adults? But the tree of personal success is planted in childhood, with the help of family members and school. This achievement is related to the so-called "Executive Functions", which form a set of cognitive abilities that help each person to organize his or her functioning in the world and his or her learning processes.

Executive functions begin to be developed in early childhood, from stimuli and interactions with the external world. Throughout school life and adulthood, it will prove essential for social life, task accomplishment, decision making, and relationship building.

And educators have an important role in this. So we have listed five skills that we can develop in students today.

Organization

Organization is a skill related to time and resource management. An important point is to consider that people have different degrees of control over this skill. The same happens with students: some are more organized and others less so. Tools such as lists, maps, and markers are directly associated with organizational ability.  Similarly, other variables such as a regular sleep schedule, good nutrition, and dedication to physical exercise also contribute to organization.

Tip: Adopt the “chunking,” method.  That is, break up tasks into manageable pieces in order to use your study time more effectively. 

Prioritization

Selecting and categorizing are among the actions of prioritization, which is the act of giving value to tasks, things, and events and thus defining what is most important. Students with difficulty setting priorities may face greater difficulty with simple tasks or the ordering of historical facts. Thus, it is necessary to exercise this skill in different contexts and fields of knowledge. Teachers can support the process with instructions that allow students to understand the best order of carrying out activities, which must have clear and achievable objectives. 

Reflection

Asking questions, analyzing, and comparing are ways of carrying out reflection, which allows students to think before answering a question. It is necessary that teachers create a safe and comfortable space for questions to arise so that  students can develop their reflective capacity.

 

Tip : Describe in your own words what is meant in a text, why it matters, and how it relates to other concepts. 

Motivation

Internal and external factors constitute intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, which have a direct influence on human behavior. Motivation is necessary for individuals to exercise other skills, such as organization. If well-developed, autonomy and self-efficacy (belief or confidence in one’s own capacity), lead to a more motivated and engaged student as it gives them confidence in their own potential. 

Emotional Regulation

Identifying what is happening in a given situation and exercising control over strong emotions are signs of good emotional regulation. Like other skills, this one is developed throughout life with the help of family and close friends. Therefore, it is closely related to emotional health and social connection. 

Understanding and naming emotions is an important process, as it allows one to reflect on situations that trigger particular emotions. 

Executive function and school subjects

Studies show that there is a correlation between planning and academic performance for disciplines such as Mathematics, Arts, and Literature. Additionally, cognitive flexibility is positively and significantly correlated with almost all disciplines.

Why Planning is important?

Planning involves the ability to trace a goal from its start, to define the best ways to achieve it, and to organize the steps necessary for goal achievement. It includes sequencing steps correctly, analyzing the effectiveness of actions and, if necessary, changing how actions are executed. To reach the correct solution, it is necessary to mentally visualize solutions and the steps to reach the objective proposed in the tasks.

How Math are concerned by planning ?

The problem-solving process involved in the area of ​​mathematics involves several executive function skills:

  • planning through the raising of hypotheses
  • use of strategies
  • control of own performance
  • verification of the obtained result

Planning is the main facilitator and predictor of mathematical performance capability because Math involves problem-solving that is closely linked to executive function skills from a cognitive point of view.

How arts and literature are concerned by planning ?

In regards to planning, learning arts and literature involves: 

  • reading and interpretation of texts
  • reading and interpretation of symbols and visual materials (requires organization)
  • mental checks that elicit planning

It is believed that planning skills are related to the sequence of ideas and facts and to the mental organization required to perform well in several disciplines. The ability to adequately plan a sequence of actions towards the achievement of a goal is important for many behaviors in an individual's daily life.

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