Building Better Programs

EF Listserve Newsletter #1 – March 21, 2014

What is Executive Function?
It is very difficult to find materials on executive function that focus directly on adults so, for now, we have to rely on articles that focus on kids.  Here are links to two resources that provide a good introduction for those who are just starting to explore executive function and how our understanding of executive function skills might be used to produce better outcomes for individuals and families.

Online course on Executive Function
This is an online “course” on Executive Function used by The Washington State Department of Early Learning to introduce staff to the concept of Executive Function.  The focus is on kids, but provides a very good introduction to Executive Function.

I’d be interested in whether people would find something similar that focuses on Executive Function and adults useful for introducing their staff to the concept of Executive Function and the implications for their work.  It should take a half hour or less to go through the whole course.

Executive Function in the Context of Problem-Solving
Phil Zelazo, a neuroscientist at the University of Minnesota and one of the leading experts on Executive Function, conceptualizes Executive Function as a set of processes that are used in problem-solving.  I think this framework is very useful for thinking about how to use Executive Function principles in the design and delivery of human service programs.  This series was written for a non-technical audience so it is very readable.  The problem-solving description is in part one of the series.

Practical Application of Executive Function and Related Principles to Program Design and Delivery
Using Brain Science to Design New Pathways Out of Poverty
Elisabeth D. Babcock, MCRP, PhD
Crittenton Women’s Union
This report undertakes the heroic task of taking what we have learned from brain science and considering its application to programs than aim to move families out of poverty.  The Appendix is filled with practical applications that can be incorporated into existing programs.  This brief builds on work the Crittenton Women’s Union is doing to use brain science in their work with poor families in the Boston area.

In Pursuit of New Knowledge and New Ways of Doing Our Work
The Pursuit of Ignorance (TED Talk)
Stuart Firestein, Nueroscientist, Columbia University
I think of our endeavor as a pursuit of new ideas – new ways of thinking, new ways of understanding how to help set and achieve goals and new ways of designing and implementing programs.  In this TED talk, Stuart Firestein, a neuroscientist at Columbia University, suggests that we should stop thinking about science as what we know and start thinking about science as helping us to generate new questions about what we don’t know.  The talk lasts about 15 minutes and is funny as well as informative!