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Modeling Executive Function Skills


Educators aspire to guide their students toward becoming responsible, kind, and successful individuals. Teachers impart knowledge, share valuable life lessons, and encourage students to pursue their aspirations. One of the most impactful ways to influence students’ behavior is by modeling the actions you want to see from your students. Modeling behavior is a powerful tool in shaping student development and promoting a positive classroom environment.

Why Modeling Works in Education 

Students are highly observant and tend to mimic the attitudes and actions they observe in their environment, particularly from adults in authoritative roles. They often learn more from our actions than just our words. Research has shown that individuals, including young adults, imitate role models’ behaviors, even if those actions appear meaningless or unnecessary. This aspect of behavior is helpful when promoting positive habits such as diligence, healthy communication, accountability, organization, and effective study routines. That being said, we must be mindful of our actions and attitudes to ensure we model constructive behaviors.

Tips for Modeling Behavior for Students: 

Be Mindful of Your Actions: Students are watching and learning from you. Ensure your actions, words, and tone of voice align with the values and behaviors you wish to instill in your students.

Practice What You Preach: If you expect your students to exhibit certain behaviors or attitudes, ensure you exemplify those behaviors yourself. For instance, if promoting a collaborative classroom, collaborate with colleagues and students. For example, if you are trying to support a student with building organizational skills, you can do so by modeling your own organization system within the classroom.

Explain the ‘”Why” and Encourage Open Discussions: Take the time to explain why specific behaviors are important. For example, demonstrating respect and understanding in conflict situations shows the value of empathy and effective communication. Create a safe space for students to share their thoughts and emotions, fostering open communication and positive behaviors.

Practice Thinking Out Loud: Thinking out loud is a way to show students ways of thinking through different problems and is a clear model of effective (or ineffective) thought patterns. Take for example, a desire to model for students ways of breaking down a large project into smaller steps to assist planning. This may look like talking through how you might break it down yourself. By making your thinking visible to students, you allow them insight into how to incorporate that skill independently.

Avoid Punishing Students for Mimicking Negative Behaviors: Recognize that students might naturally imitate the behaviors they observe. Instead of resorting to punishment for negative behaviors that they might have observed from adults, work together to understand the underlying causes and develop better habits collaboratively.

Surround Students with Positive Role Models: In addition to your influence, expose students to other positive influences within the school and the broader community. Encourage relationships with mentors, coaches, and other educators who embody the behaviors and attitudes beneficial to their development. These individuals can reinforce the messages and values you’re trying to instill.

To effectively influence student behavior, educators must reflect on and model the behaviors they wish to see in their students. Engaging in meaningful discussions about the significance of these behaviors, including perspectives and experiences, is essential. This approach helps improve decision-making skills and reinforces constructive behaviors that support students in becoming the best they can be. As educators lead by example, they lay the foundation for students to adopt and emulate positive behaviors and attitudes throughout their lives.

For More:

Role Models and Children 

Model the behavior you want to see 

See and do model behavior

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