Executive Functioning Focus of Professional Development Day

Darnell Thigpen Williams

As part of a professional development day, our education staff had the privilege of meeting with Darnell Thigpen Williams, Associate Director of Professional Development at the Collaborative for Educational Services for the Massachusetts Department of Youth Service Educational Education Contract. He came to speak on the topic of executive function (EF) skills and their importance in a special education classroom. Executive function skills are tools everyone uses to organize and act on information. Students with weak EF skills often struggle with things like organization and impulse control.

Darnell identified the core EF skills – focus, cognitive flexibility, working memory and inhibitory control – and linked them to academic achievements in math, literacy and science. He also gave the teachers tools for recognizing executive functioning skills. According to Darnell, research says that EF skills are foundational to academic skills and are a better predictor of future success than academic success as they are necessary for sustaining lifelong fulfilling careers.

“Darnell created a tremendous learning environment for our team,” Director of Education Cindy Wing said. “We all left with a deeper understanding of EF and a wider array of supports to incorporate into our programming for students. It was a great afternoon.”

Darnell is a graduate of Harvard University and is an expert in creating educational opportunities for youth with multiple education deficits. He is uniquely qualified to address social and educational issues concerning populations of students who have been historically denied access to quality services, resources, and education. Our teachers were thrilled for the opportunity to garner information from such an expert.