Critical and creative thinking (executive functioning)

Executive functioning skills such as planning, task focus, creative problem-solving and time management help students get organized. These skills increase students' success with academic tasks and can also help them manage other complex challenges in their lives. You can model and teach these skills, and create opportunities for students to learn and practise the skills individually and together with their peers.

Decision making

The ability to make decisions effectively provides students with a sense of autonomy and control. Learning to balance the pros and cons within a situation to arrive at a good course of action can help students to avoid impulsive and risky choices.

Goal setting

Goals help students to understand expectations and plan where to focus their time and attention. Setting manageable goals creates an opportunity for achievement and can be used to break up a larger task.


Metacognition - thinking about our thinking - helps students develop an awareness of their unique ways of learning. Students who act upon this awareness tend to learn more effectively.


Developing a classroom culture that values and encourages organization can help to enhance individual students’ skills and success on academic tasks. Organizational skills help students shape positive learning habits.

Problem solving

Learning to problem solve helps students to take responsibility for their learning, deal with conflict, explore options, and develop action plans. Students can learn to identify, analyze and find solutions for obstacles.

Working memory

Working memory plays a significant role in supporting learning. It involves the ability to retain and manipulate distinct pieces of information over short periods.

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Frank J. Ninivaggi M.D., DLF-A.P.A.

Using the Mind’s “Executive Functions”

Psychological pandemic solutions are required for the entire population..

Posted  April 14, 2020 | Reviewed by Matt Huston

author, Frank John Ninivaggi

The current medical crisis is an unexpected global challenge, and people are in confusion mode. Pandemic solutions are required for the entire population, not only for hospitals. Basic human understanding demands a sharpening to become more agile and precise in meeting emerging needs.

Executive Functions and Critical Thinking

I distinguish between the process of critical thinking and executive function skills, a concept used in neuropsychology. Critical thinking is an ongoing activity; executive functioning is optimal, deep, and intermittent—focused precision at particular times. This sharpening includes self-monitoring and future anticipation. The two levels of thinking are not mutually exclusive. Overlap occurs, but viewing them as different adds clarity to their meaning.

Day-to-day reasoning ability is using critical thinking to identify and problem-solve. Within critical thinking, the executive functions (e.g., working memory , thinking abstractly, and complex decision-making ) are needed to manage the intricacies that novel, uncommon, or unprecedented dilemmas pose. These complex processes are frontline tools acting to name, organize, and plan problem-solving. The goal is adapting to unprecedented internal and external realities. This ability means managing oneself alone and with others by identifying current alternatives and future consequences.

Today more than ever, people feel “ stressed out,” irritable, and emotionally over-reactive. The good news is that brain-based executive abilities can meaningfully temper anxiety , stress, and mood. Stress increases excess cortisol that weakens immunity and lowers resistance to infection. Thus, stress reduction helps one’s “biomental” well-being.

A review of the executive functions—neuroanatomy—begins with their brain base in the cerebral cortex and limbic system. An outline of seven executive functions and how they operate follows. Last, applying them to life management skills—mindful critical thinking in the real world—in this era of COVID-19 ’s unexpected dilemmas complete this discussion.

The Brain Base of Logic and Reason

Executive abilities involve multiple brain areas, including:

With this base of reasoning is an underlying core of emotionality in the brain’s amygdala and limbic system. The synchrony of reason and emotion yields empathy , the essence of self-compassion and care for others.

Executive Functions

Although separated into several groups, the executive functions work in an “entourage” fashion—each supporting and enhancing one another.

Seven executive functions:

Self-awareness centers on self-directed action—an awareness of what you are doing.

Inhibition is impulse control and self-restraint. It acts to stop thinking and behavior and redirects not working successfully or acting harmfully.

Nonverbal working memory centers on self-directed sensing, mental imagery , and the awareness of time. It guides behavior by memory and anticipation—a map to orient thought and action toward future goals.

Verbal working memory allows for the preservation of a limited amount of speech-related information for use. It can show up as talking to oneself either out loud or silently.

Emotional regulation involves modulating feelings that arise when evoked by notable events.

Motivational regulation involves self-directed motivation . Internal stimulation, not needing constant guidance from others, is the driving force.

Planning and problem-solving : This executive function innovates a plan that can be refined, reformulated, and updated, so that trial and error sharpen it toward efficacy.S

Full cognitive, emotional, and impulse control development is neurologically complete by 25 to 30 years old. The precision of each function and their impact varies among people and context.

Applying Executive Functions and Mindfulness to Manage COVID-19

Self-sequester demands to distance from another. This contextual reality emphasizes that mindfulness and work on executive functions are mostly individual rather than social. Individual leadership and personal accountability remain foremost. Individual actions have a collective impact.

Western health care systems have been built on the concept of patient-centered care, but an epidemic requires a changed perspective—community-centered care. This shift occurs both by direct modeling and more effective interpersonal functioning. Social distancing is needed, but socializing from a distance calls for innovative tactics.

Creative paths, for example, include distance and online learning, webinars, telehealth , emails, or video chats with significant others. Thus, quality time replaces the “empty calories” of excessive social media and gaming. Beginning a brief autobiography is a fantastic exercise in mindfulness. Starting with “Who am I?” churns self-reflection.

Important matters to consider are the stressors of newfound interpersonal closeness and the “cabin fever” of being sequestered in place. Defusing the strain of prolonged tight living conditions is countered by open communication, intentional cooperativeness, and humor .

The combination of proactive coping (executive skill planning) and mindful, present-moment awareness helps settle one’s mindset and reduce stress.

The following interventions support internalizing effective cognitive skills. Executive reasoning , grounded in cognitive functions, has a base in stable emotionality. This emotional even-handedness is not perfect tranquility, but a paused state used as the platform for enhancing, if not amplifying, focus, problem-solving, and planning.

Therefore, slowing down by intentionally pausing in thought and behavior best prepares the ground for thought refinement.

Mindfulness is one of the best tools to use. To engage in effective mindfulness: pause, breathe slowly, pay attention , in the present moment, on purpose, and non-judgmentally. Amid this, maintaining an underlying curiosity amplifies one’s receptivity to learning. Curiosity characterizes the prepared mind, ready to take chances when opportunities appear. Preparation underlies the robust resilience of those exposed to stress and trauma .

The following lists 12 self-directed guidelines to organize and orient thinking toward effective goal accomplishment.

1.) scheduling short- and long-term tasks and assignments

2.) an abundance of cues such as signs (e.g., face masks), notes, lists, timers, and so forth

3.) outlining daily routines

4.) fluidly updating these sequences as circumstances change

5.) continuously reinforcing on-task behaviors

6.) using positive reinforcements rather than overemphasizing negative reprimands

7.) estimating timelines required to complete tasks

8.) breaking down larger tasks into smaller steps

9.) constructing daily, weekly, and monthly schedules

10.) prioritizing schedule sequencing from critical to urgent to important

11.) refining the routine as needed with time

12.) improving general problem-solving skills by remembering to pause and use mindfulness throughout the day.

Incorporating the pandemic solutions above is a resilience strategy. Enhancing executive capacities refines reasoning and successful adaption to unexpected events. What works for you is key. Mindfully applying these cognitive enhancers is active coping. The stress and anxiety of uncertainties become less overwhelming. Resiliencies to the challenging onslaughts from COVID-19 expand if viewed as opportunities—however unwelcome—for renewing your mind.

Ninivaggi, F. J. (2020). Learned Mindfulness: Physician Engagement and MD Wellness . New York: Elsevier Academic Press.

Barkley, R. A. (2012). Executive Functions: What They are, How they Work, and Why They Evolved . New York: Guilford Press.

Frank J. Ninivaggi M.D., DLF-A.P.A.

Frank John Ninivaggi, M.D., F.A.P.A., is an associate attending physician at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, an assistant clinical professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine.

executive function critical thinking and creative thinking

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executive function critical thinking and creative thinking

Executive Functioning: Creating Critical Thinkers and Creative Problem Solvers

By Michelle Salcedo, M.Ed., author of Uncover the Roots of Challenging Behavior: Create Responsive Environments Where Young Children Thrive

Executive Functioning: Creating Critical Thinkers and Creative Problem Solvers

We don’t know the world for which we are educating our children. When I was a child, I was promised flying cars. And while that has not yet happened, I do walk around with an incredibly powerful computer in my pocket—a device that has rendered meaningless all the hours I spent memorizing discrete facts (except for an occasional victory at trivia night). Most of us can neither imagine the future nor predict the skills and knowledge children will need to successfully navigate the workforce they will enter. However, we know that if children are able to analyze a problem, approach it with critical and creative thinking, and prioritize and implement a solution, they will probably be okay—no matter what the future holds.

Executive functioning is the umbrella term we use in education for the assortment of skills that go into creating thinkers, innovators, and problem solvers. The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University compares executive functioning to the air traffic control system at a busy airport. The brain of a child is constantly being inundated with messages from her environment. Executive functioning allows children to prioritize these messages and focus on those that are more important and relevant at a particular moment in time. It also includes the ability to plan an approach to an issue and to persist in implementing and the capability to shift gears based on new information. Finally, executive functioning helps children control impulses that might get in the way of focused work. People who have these skills are better equipped to think through and navigate whatever situations they may encounter.

As early childhood professionals, we support the development of these skills when we provide children with the following:

When we give children the space, materials, and time for play, we are not only making the present better for them, we are giving all people a gift for the future: a workforce that can create a world we all want to live in.

Check out the report Building the Brain’s “Air Traffic Control” System from the Center on the Developing Child to learn more about executive functioning and how to support development of these skills in early childhood.

Michelle Salcedo

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Thinking Skills and Creativity

Research note critical thinking, executive functions and their potential relationship.

The central issue of this paper is to review the possible relationships between the constructs of critical thinking and executive functions. To do this, we first analyse the essential components of critical thinking from a psychological and neurological point of view. Second, we examine the scope of the cognitive and neurological nature of executive functions. Third, we propose a model for comparing or mapping between the most important processes of both constructs. Fourth, we offer some conclusions on the relational path between the two concepts based on the studies reviewed and suggest possible lines of investigation that will undoubtedly facilitate the understanding of shared features and key differences between critical thinking and executive functions.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking, which some authors call reflective thinking, is characterised as directed, reasoned and purposeful. The adjective “critical” denotes its evaluative possibility; it does not have a pejorative meaning because, since it refers to a meaningful and constructive interpretation of the information. Critical thinkers are well-researched, rely on their reason and their open-mindedness, are fair when evaluating, honest when confronting personal biases y persistent in the pursuit of

Executive functions

Executive functions are being studied from an interdisciplinary perspective because they are analysed by both cognitive and clinical psychology, neuropsychology and neurology. They constitute a set of managerial processes involved in programming, implementation, supervision, regulation, generation and adjustment of thoughts, memories, emotions and behaviour to achieve complex goals in dynamic environments, most notably when it comes to situations that require an unfamiliar, novel or ambiguous

Interaction and overlap of constructs

Based on the concepts presented, we propose below some connections that may exist between critical thinking and executive functions. We have seen that both constructs are umbrella terms, meaning that they unite and organise other cognitive processes, thereby allowing for comparison both in a general way and when considering their specific components and neural structures.

The cognitive components of critical thinking and executive functions mostly belong to higher cognition, and their activation

Conclusions, limitations and future research

The main goal of this review was to give the reader a basic understanding of critical thinking and executive functions and to establish a way of exploring the possible relationships that might exist between these two constructs. The results are shown in some conclusions, limitations and suggestions for future research.

In conclusion, critical thinking and executive functions can be considered multifaceted phenomena, and as such, the scientific community does not manage to attribute new

Ecological assessment of executive functions in substance dependent individuals

Drug and alcohol dependence, a survey of attitudes towards critical thinking among hong kong secondary school teachers: implications for policy change, neurocognitive mechanisms of cognitive control: the role of prefrontal cortex in action selection, response inhibition, performance monitoring, and reward-based learning, brain and cognition, children's development of analogical reasoning: insights from scene analogy problems, journal of experimental child psychology, a comparison of a subject-specific and a general measure of critical thinking, the unity and diversity of executive functions and their contributions to complex frontal lobe tasks: a latent variable analysis, cognitive psychology, hemispheric specialization and creative thinking: a meta-analytic review of lateralization of creativity, feeling of knowing in episodic memory: an event-related fmri study, what has fmri told us about the development of cognitive control through adolescence, assessing studentś critical thinking performance: urging for measurements using multi-response format, an information theoretical approach to prefrontal executive function, trends in cognitive sciences, functional neuroanatomy of three-term relational reasoning, neuropsychology, executive function, current biology, upper processing stages of the perception–action cycle, the role of emotion in decision-making: evidence from neurological patients with orbitofrontal damage, dissociable contributions of the human amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex to incentive motivation and goal selection, journal of neuroscience, desarrollo histórico de las funciones ejecutivas, revista de neuropsicología, neuropsiquiatría y neurociencias, executive functions in multiple sclerosis: an analysis of temporal ordering, semantic encoding and planning abilities, the problem with percy: understanding and critical thinking, informal logic, emotion, decision making and the orbitofrontal cortex, cerebral cortex, a new neurocognitive model for assessing divergent thinking: applicability, evidence of reliability, and implications for educational theory and practice, creativity research journal, functional neuroimaging of executive functions, strategy application disorder: the role of the frontal lobes in human multitasking, psychological research, effects of solution elicitation aid and need for cognition on the generation of solutions to ill-structured problems, time monitoring and executive functioning in children and adults, child neuropsychology, differential effects of insular and ventromedial prefrontal cortex lesions on risky decision-making, executive functions in decision making: an individual differences approach, thinking & reasoning, normal development of prefrontal cortex from birth to young adulthood: cognitive functions, anatomy, and biochemistry, the cognitive neuroscience of creativity, psychonomic bulletin and review, a taxonomy of critical thinking dispositions and abilities, dual-processing accounts of reasoning, judgment and social cognition, annual review of psychology, critical thinking assessment in nursing education programs: an aggregate data analysis, critical thinking: a statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction. the delphi report, critical thinking: what it is and why it counts, think critically, the disposition toward critical thinking: its character, measurement, and relationship to critical thinking, greater attention problems during childhood predict poorer executive functioning in late adolescence, psychological science, individual differences in executive functions are almost entirely genetic in origin, journal of experimental psychology general, frontal lobe and cognitive development, journal of neurocytology, revenge of the neurds: characterizing creative thought in terms of the structure and dynamics of memory, thinking outside the executive functions box: theory of mind and pragmatic abilities in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, european journal of developmental psychology, frontal syndrome and disorders of executive functions, anatomical segregation of component processes in an inductive inference task, journal of cognitive neuroscience, explaining modulation of reasoning by belief, developmental trends of different creative potentials in relation to adolescents’ critical thinking abilities.

Although creativity and critical thinking are two of the 4C skills for 21st-century students, little is known about their relationship from a developmental perspective. It is also suggested that different creativity measures should be distinguished and compared. Based on cognitive theoretical views, this study predicts and investigates the different developmental trends of open-ended versus closed-ended creative potentials in relation to adolescents’ critical thinking abilities. We recruited 312 junior high and high school students from Grade 7 to Grade 11 for testing on open-ended creativity, closed-ended creativity, and critical thinking. After we controlled for the socioeconomic status variable, the results showed that open-ended creativity indices revealed a mostly steady trajectory across grades, while closed-ended creativity and critical thinking performances both exhibited a prominent ascending trend. The path analysis results further demonstrated a significant 39.2% variance of closed-ended creativity performances for which critical thinking accounted, but only 3% for open-ended creativity. These empirical results support the theoretical predictions, suggest future studies that may arise, and can help design appropriate training projects to enhance adolescents’ different creativities and critical thinking.

The Effect of Critical Thinking Embedded English Course Design to The Improvement of Critical Thinking Skills of Secondary School Learners<sup>✰</sup>

Evolving trends of 21st century require the continuous development of individuals to become competent in using the skills of era effectively. Critical thinking (CT) is one of the basic skills of the century for the intellectual development of individuals to sustain global welfare. Infusion of CT into the subject matter content is one of many efforts for the training of individuals to think critically. Thus the derive for this study was the possibility of CT training in a secondary school context with elementary level of EFL learners. Having concurrent embedded mixed method research design; this study used various data collection methods. Quantitative data was gathered through a CT skills scale conducted as pretest and posttest. The structured interview was the qualitative tool to gather the opinions of the participants about the CT embedded English learning process. The results showed that the treatment group statistically outperformed the control group in the development of CT skills. Qualitative data indicated that the treatment was effective for the improvement of both language and CT skills. Moreover, the instruction process was motivating for the learners due to its meaningful, fun, authentic and supportive nature. The results have implications for EFL teachers that the full integration of CT to the English course objectives, language learning activities, assignments, assessment and teacher attitude is possible and supportive for the improvement of low-proficiency secondary school EFL learners as qualified thinkers in the target language.

A model of flexible thinking in contemporary education

Accordingly, cognitive flexibility can be perceived as the ability to shift one’s direction of thinking as a function of changing tasks (Ionescu, 2012). This ‘set-shifting’ approach views cognitive flexibility as part of executive functions − a general term for mental abilities that are necessary for formulating goals, planning how to achieve them, and carrying out the plans effectively (Ionescu, 2012; Sanz de Acedo Lizarraga, Sanz de Acedo Baquedano, & Villanueva, 2012). Set-shifting reflects the ability to flexibly switch between different responses, perspectives, and mental setts (Diamond, 2006; Ionescu, 2012).

Rapid global changes and fast advancements in technological innovations highlight the need for flexible thinking among learners of all ages. Flexible thinking has many definitions, but it is yet lacking reference to contemporary technology-enhanced education. Guided by the grounded theory approach, this study was set to generate a model of ‘flexibility’ by linking past definitions to present conceptions. The study was conducted through three phases of data collection, via an online survey and semi-structured interviews, among one-hundred thirty-three educational instructors, university lecturers, and student teachers. Findings indicated three main themes that underline the conceptualization of flexible thinking in contemporary education: Open-mindedness to others’ ideas – the ability to learn from others, manage teamwork, listen to multiple perspectives, and handle conflicts; Adapting to changes in learning situations – the ability to find multiple solutions, solve unfamiliar problems, and transfer knowledge to new situations; and Accepting new or changing learning technologies – the ability to adjust to advanced technologies and effectively use them for meaningful learning. Our qualitative data indicated links between the three themes; identifying ‘open-mindedness to others’ ideas’ as fundamental for contemporary flexible thinking. This study presents a unified theoretical model that may assist educators and learners to self-evaluate flexibility. It may also assist in promoting ideas for pedagogical interventions that enhance this important thinking skill.

Maternal emotion and cognitive control capacities and parenting: A conceptual framework

Emotion and cognitive control capacities are a form of fluid intelligence, but they may actually predict parenting behavior more than general intelligence can because they support parents' ability to use what they know rather than simply reflecting one's knowledge (Galinsky, 2010). While cognitive control capacities appear to be related to general measures of intelligence (Engle & Kane, 2004; Sanz de Acedo Lizarraga, Sanz de Acedo Baquedano, & Villanueva, 2012), they are not the same – individuals may score high on intelligence tests and low on executive functioning tasks (Cornoldi, Giofrè, Calgaro, & Stupiggia, 2013). However, in order to isolate the effects on parenting of emotion and cognitive control capacities from those of general intelligence, it is important to estimate effects that overlap with and are independent from variance in fluid intelligence.1

Emerging evidence suggests that maternal emotion and cognitive control capacities are critical to the development and maintenance of parenting practices and may be related to parents' ability to seek and use parenting help. The purpose of this paper is to present a cohesive conceptual framework on the intersection of maternal emotion and cognitive control capacities and parenting based on a review of literature.

We conducted a comprehensive literature review of articles published between 2000 and February 2014 that addressed maternal emotion and cognitive control and parenting. The 35 articles identified were assigned a methodological quality score.

Low maternal emotion and cognitive control capacity is associated with increased risk of engaging in child maltreatment, whereas higher maternal emotion and cognitive regulation is associated with sensitive, involved parenting. Contextual factors, such as SES and household organization, play a complex and not clearly understood role on the association between maternal cognitive control and parenting. A conceptual framework was developed based on the results of the literature review.

The conceptual framework developed can be used to inform future research and practice. Longitudinal studies that assess the temporal relationship of maternal emotion and cognitive control and parenting are necessary to establish causality. Research that addresses how maternal emotion regulation and cognitive control capacities are related to mothers' enrollment and participation in parenting and early intervention programs is an important next step to strengthening policy and intervention work.

Reasoning and learning with board game-based learning: A case study

Scholarships versus training for happiness gained from an education in creativity: a dynamic analytical model, regional mrna expression of gabaergic receptor subunits in brains of c57bl/6j and 129p3/j mice: strain and heroin effects.

C57BL/6J and 129 substrains of mice are known to differ in their basal levels of anxiety and behavioral response to drugs of abuse. We have previously shown strain differences in heroin-induced conditioned place preference (CPP) between C57BL/6J (C57) and 129P3/J (129) mice, and in the regional expression of several receptor and peptide mRNAs. In this study, we examined the contribution of the GABAergic system in the cortex, nucleus accumbens (NAc), caudate putamen (CPu) and the region containing the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA) to heroin reward by measuring mRNA levels of 7 of the most commonly expressed GABA-A receptor subunits, and both GABA-B receptor subunits, in these same mice following saline (control) or heroin administration in a CPP design. Using real-time PCR, we studied the effects of strain and heroin administration on GABA-A α1, α2, α3, β2, and γ2 subunits, which typically constitute synaptic GABA-A receptors, GABA-A α4 and δ subunits, which typically constitute extrasynaptic GABA-A receptors, and GABA-B R1 and R2 subunits. In saline-treated animals, we found an experiment-wise significant strain difference in GABA-A α2 mRNA expression in the SN/VTA. Point-wise significant strain differences were also observed in GABA-A α2 , GABA-A α3 , and GABA-A α4 mRNA expression in the NAc, as well as GABA-B R2 mRNA expression in the NAc and CPu, and GABA-B R1 mRNA expression in the cortex. For all differences, 129 mice had higher mRNA expression compared to C57 animals, with the exception of GABA-B R1 mRNA in the cortex where we observed lower levels in 129 mice. Therefore, it may be possible that known behavioral differences between these two strains are, in part, due to differences in their GABAergic systems. While we did not find heroin dose-related changes in mRNA expression levels in C57 mice, we did observe dose-related differences in 129 mice. These results may relate to our earlier behavioral finding that 129 mice are hyporesponsive to the rewarding effects of heroin.

Four Factor Psychologies as Executive Function to Increase Interest of Learning

A long period of learning in the school will challenges for teachers. Because a bad situation of learning will make problem psychology such depression until learning disability case. That's way the teacher must to arrange method of learning that involved four factors psychology in learning situation. The four factor psychology such as clearness, specific, involvement, and easiness. The result to show that method have four factor psychology more effective than traditional method to increase interest of student. This condition describe effective control on executive function. Executive function is self regulation control that maintain of attention. Executive function control will make arrange self regulation. This study experiment examine method based on Multiple Intelligence that involves four factors psychology in elementary school.

Critical Thinking in Elementary School Children

Our study aimed to identify which are the most appropriate methods and procedures to develop critical thinking in young schoolchildren. In the organization of teaching, we identified two contexts of analysis: static context and a dynamic context (procedural). Static context we localized to the teaching-learning for critical thinking. Here we aimed to identify the methods of developing the critical thinking framework specific to each stage of the development of critical thinking. Dynamic or procedural context is identifiable by methods that can be activated with specific tasks at all stages of teaching and learning.

Creativity training enhances goal-directed attention and information processing

Studies suggest that individuals with greater creative potential have enhanced executive function. Here we tested the hypothesis that a creativity training intervention would increase both low and high-level executive functions. Fifteen participants completed a 5-week creative capacity building program (CCBP) and 15 participants completed a control intervention consisting of a parallel 5-week language capacity building training program (LCBP). Goal-directed attention and processing speed were measured with the Delis–Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS) color–word interference test. Results revealed higher scores post-training associated with CCBP compared to LCBP on the primary D-KEFS measure of combined completion time for color-naming and word-reading conditions, and the primary contrast measure of combined completion time for color-naming and word-reading compared to completion time for inhibition switching. Relative to LCBP, CCBP leads to improvement performance on measures reflecting lower-level executive functions (goal-directed attention and information processing) as opposed to higher-level executive functions, which showed no between-group differences.

The effects of argument mapping-infused critical thinking instruction on reflective judgement performance

The current study compared the immediate (post-intervention) and long-term (6-months later) effects on reflective judgement (RJ) of an argument mapping-infused Critical Thinking (CT) training course versus CT training using hierarchical outlines (HO) and a no-CT training control condition in students scoring high and low on baseline CT dispositions. While previous studies have demonstrated effects of argument mapping (AM) training on CT outcomes, no AM study to date has focused on RJ outcomes and no study has examined if CT dispositions moderate the effect of AM training on RJ outcomes. AM is a method of diagrammatically representing arguments, designed to simplify the assimilation of an argument structure and facilitate analysis and evaluation of propositions and relations. Eighty-one undergraduate students scoring high and low on CT dispositions were randomly allocated to either an AM-infused CT training group, a HO CT training group or a no-CT training control group and were tested on RJ ability using the Lectical Reflective Judgement Assessment before, immediately after and 6-months after a 6-week intervention period. Results revealed a main effect of CT disposition, with higher CT disposition associated with higher RJ scores at all testing times. Students scoring low on CT dispositions, trained through AM, showed a significant increase in RJ performance from pre-to-post-testing. Conversely, students scoring high on CT dispositions, trained through AM, showed a decrease in RJ performance from pre-to-post-testing; whereas both the HO and control groups showed a significant increase in RJ performance from pre-to-post-testing. Findings are discussed in light of research and theory on RJ development and the best practices for CT instruction through AM.

Improving critical thinking skills and metacognitive monitoring through direct infusion

To test the effectiveness of the direct infusion, instructional approach on the acquisition of argument analysis, critical reading, and metacognitive monitoring skills, we compared three similar groups of college students receiving different instruction of the same course material. The group receiving direct infusion of critical thinking (CT) was explicitly taught application of rules for analyzing psychological arguments and critical reading infused into their course work and given practice with assessments and feedback to guide skill acquisition. Compared to a second group receiving direct infusion of principles of memory improvement and a third focusing on content knowledge acquisition, the CT group showed significantly greater gains on tests of argument analysis and critical reading skills. Students in the CT group also showed significantly greater gains on the ability to accurately postdict their CT test scores. The results suggest that direct infusion can improve both CT skills and metacognitive monitoring with implications for how they are related.


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Executive Function Skills: What Are They and Why Do They Matter For My Child?

Executive Function Skills for Kids Infographic

Our survey also revealed the following:

These findings may seem a little scary, especially when research shows that 90 percent of employers worldwide believe skills like self-control and teamwork will only become increasingly important in the future.

But there’s good news for parents – executive function skills are rooted in early childhood. There is mounting evidence that parents, grandparents, early education providers and other caregivers have the opportunity to help children develop these skills. By intentionally nurturing executive function skills during children’s first few years ( find out how here ), parents and caregivers can help set them up for success that will last a lifetime.

To learn more about how these skills are embedded into our Balanced Learning® approach or to find ways to nurture them at home, check out our tips and resources .

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Key Concepts

Executive Function & Self-Regulation

Content in this guide, step 1: executive function 101.

Step 2: The Science of Executive Function

Step 3: Building Executive Function Skills

Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.

When children have opportunities to develop executive function and self-regulation skills, individuals and society experience lifelong benefits. These skills are crucial for learning and development. They also enable positive behavior and allow us to make healthy choices for ourselves and our families.

Executive function and self-regulation skills depend on three types of brain function: working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control. These functions are highly interrelated, and the successful application of executive function skills requires them to operate in coordination with each other.

The successful application of executive function skills requires them to operate in coordination with each other.

Children aren’t born with these skills—they are born with the potential to develop them. Some children may need more support than others to develop these skills. In other situations, if children do not get what they need from their relationships with adults and the conditions in their environments—or (worse) if those influences are sources of toxic stress —their skill development can be seriously delayed or impaired. Adverse environments resulting from neglect , abuse, and/or violence may expose children to toxic stress, which can disrupt brain architecture and impair the development of executive function.


Providing the support that children need to build these skills at home, in early care and education programs, and in other settings they experience regularly is one of society’s most important responsibilities. Growth-promoting environments provide children with “scaffolding” that helps them practice necessary skills before they must perform them alone. Adults can facilitate the development of a child’s executive function skills by establishing routines, modeling social behavior, and creating and maintaining supportive, reliable relationships. It is also important for children to exercise their developing skills through activities that foster creative play and social connection, teach them how to cope with stress, involve vigorous exercise, and over time, provide opportunities for directing their own actions with decreasing adult supervision.

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Tools & Guides : Building the Skills Adults Need for Life: A Guide for Practitioners

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Infographics : What Is Executive Function? And How Does It Relate to Child Development?

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  1. Critical Thinking

    executive function critical thinking and creative thinking

  2. What is the difference between creative thinking and critical thinking?

    executive function critical thinking and creative thinking

  3. 49 best images about Executive Function on Pinterest

    executive function critical thinking and creative thinking

  4. PPT

    executive function critical thinking and creative thinking

  5. Integrate Critical Thinking Skills and Executive Functioning

    executive function critical thinking and creative thinking

  6. Metacognition

    executive function critical thinking and creative thinking


  1. Critical Thinking Final Project

  2. Critical thinking with a plan


  4. StatMod2Lec2

  5. Critical thinking explaining

  6. Foundations of Critical Thinking


  1. What Is a Sales Executive?

    A sales executive is an employee of a company who is responsible for selling the company’s goods and services to customers. Customers are not limited to individual people, but can also be other businesses and even government organizations.

  2. How Long Does an Executor Have to Execute a Will?

    Generally, an executor has 12 months to realize assets and distribute them to the designated beneficiaries. The execution time depends on other factors, however, such as the time taken before a grant of probate is issued, any contention on ...

  3. What Are the Qualifications for Becoming a CEO?

    The position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) typically requires a degree in business or a related field and substantial work experience. In cases where the candidate has substantial relevant work experience, degrees in fields other than bu...

  4. Critical and creative thinking (executive functioning)

    Executive functioning skills such as planning, task focus, creative problem-solving and time management help students get organized.

  5. Critical and creative thinking (executive functioning)

    Executive functioning skills such as planning, task focus, creative problem-solving and time management

  6. Using the Mind's “Executive Functions”

    Critical thinking is an ongoing activity; executive functioning is optimal, deep, and intermittent—focused precision at particular times. This

  7. Executive Functioning: Creating Critical Thinkers and Creative

    Executive functioning allows children to prioritize these messages and focus on those that are more important and relevant at a particular

  8. Critical thinking, executive functions and their potential relationship

    The central issue of this paper is to review the possible relationships between the constructs of critical thinking and executive functions.

  9. Critical thinking, executive functions and their potential relationship

    The cognitive components of critical thinking and executive functions mostly belong to higher cognition, and their activation requires the participation of both

  10. Critical thinking, executive functions and their potential relationship

    Abstract · Section snippets · Critical thinking · Executive functions · Interaction and overlap of constructs · Conclusions, limitations and future research.

  11. Creative thinking and executive functions: Associations and training

    Previous research on the association between executive functions and creativity has revealed mixed results. Here, we examined which of three

  12. Executive Function Skills: What Are They and Why Do They Matter

    The survey revealed that critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, self-control, adaptability and memory – often collectively referred to as executive

  13. Executive Function & Self-Regulation

    Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember, and juggle multiple tasks.

  14. Understanding How the Brain Thinks

    Executive Function = Critical Thinking ... What my field of neurology has called "executive functions" for over 100 years are these highest