In recent years, we can see a growing need to become more aware of social systems that perpetuate bias and inequality and observe how those systems interact with our ongoing efforts to improve executive function skills. In a summary of previously existing research, we take a deep dive into how equity influences executive function and present this work in our new professional development course, EF305: Equity and Executive Function.
Executive function (EF) skills develop early in life and are important for academic and social success. Children develop their EF skills across different contexts – and some students may encounter biases and stereotypes in contexts important for EF development, like within school or during daily activities. Today, we are proud to announce this new professional development course, EF 305. This course will help you better understand how EF skills develop and what the effects biased policies and stereotypes can have on them.
Bias and executive function skills are developed in our brains. While EF skills are elastic and can be improved through conscious and effortful actions, biases are systems that act upon our thoughts and actions without our conscious awareness. However, both frame the ways in which we approach the situations we encounter. It is critical to raise our awareness of internalized processes like EF, which starts at a personal and interpersonal level. But it is also important to recognize that there are larger systems, like housing policies, that can have hidden or indirect impacts on EF and cultivate bias. We can alter both bias and EF with intentional practice, and consciously change the expression of our bias. Consequently, educating ourselves on our subconscious cognitive functions is the first step in unwinding heavy implicit biases.
To understand our brains in context with social training, we can turn our focus to a point of solution: in this case, equity. One of the goals of this course is to draw attention to the systemic influences of bias on EF and provide ways to address it interpersonally. We can train ourselves to view situations through a different lens by studying the way that our brains process bias.
In EF 305, we concentrate on the relationship between bias, equity, and EF. Additionally, in the course overview, we outline five big learning goals. By the end of the course, every learner should be able to:
- Define equity, bias, and socioeconomic status (SES)
- Review the basics of executive function
- Explore how bias may be implicit or explicit and how it may be expressed by individuals
- Understand the effects of bias and SES on academic achievement and how EF can counteract those effects
- Explore ways to address equity in the classroom
This course is beneficial for educators, especially in a classroom setting, but it is also designed for anyone who works with children and is interested in learning more about bias. We explain the different ways that bias can impact teaching and discuss strategies to overcome these challenges. At the end of every module, there are discussion questions to prompt reflection.
How does the matter of equity appear in your classroom? How can we teach EF skills that we have not fully developed in ourselves? Have you devoted appropriate attention and effort to developing your own EF skills as they relate to bias?
These questions (and more!) will be answered in our newest course, EF 305!
Meet the Course Author:
Dr. Andrei Semenov is a developmental psychologist and currently a NIMH post-doctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development. He received his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 2021. Andrei received his B.A. from the University of Colorado in 2013.
Reflection Sciences also wants to thank Professors Luis Rivera and Miriam Rosenberg-Lee of Rutgers University for their early contributions to this course.