Guideline 6: Provide options for student interaction and response for executive functions (e.g. planning, organization, and using working memory).

At the highest level of human capacity to act skillfully are the so-called "executive functions ." Associated with the prefrontal cortex in the brain, these capabilities allow humans to overcome impulsive, short-term reactions to their environment and to instead set long-term goals, plan effective strategies for reaching those goals, monitor their progress, and modify strategies as needed. Of critical importance to educators is the fact that executive functions have limited capacity and are especially vulnerable to disability. This is true because executive capacity is sharply reduced when (1) executive functioning capacity must be devoted to managing "lower-level" skills and responses that are not automatic or fluent (due to either disability or inexperience) and thus the capacity for "higher-level" functions is taken, and (2) executive capacity itself is reduced due to some sort of higher-level disability or to a lack of fluency with executive strategies. The UDL approach typically involves efforts to expand executive capacity in two ways: (1) by scaffolding lower-level skills so they require less executive processing, and (2) by scaffolding higher-level executive skills and strategies so they are more effective and better developed. Previous Guidelines have addressed lower-level scaffolding, and this Guideline addresses ways to provide scaffolding for executive functions themselves.

6.1 Options that guide effective goal-setting

When left on their own, most students—especially those who are immature or who have disabilities that affect executive function—set learning and performance goals for themselves that are inappropriate or unreachable. The most common remedy is to have adults set goals and objectives for them. That short-term remedy, however, does little to help any student develop new skills or strategies, and does even less to support students with executive function weaknesses. A UDL approach embeds graduated scaffolds for approaching assessment tasks in this situation, so that the learner may set personal goals that are both challenging and realistic to the assessment conditions.

6.2 Options that support planning and strategy development

Once a goal is set, effective learners and problem-solvers plan a strategy for reaching that goal. For a student with a disability that compromises executive functions, the strategic planning step is often omitted and impulsive trial and error takes its place. To help students become more plan-oriented and strategic particularly in an assessment situation, a variety of options—cognitive "speed bumps" that prompt them to stop and think, provide construct irrelevant graduated scaffolds to help them implement strategies, engagement in decision-making with competent mentors—are needed and easily applied in the assessment situation.

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6.3 Options that facilitate managing information and resources

Students may seem unresponsive to corrective feedback or knowledge of results. As a result, they seem "perseverative," careless, or unmotivated. For these students all of the time, and for most students some of the time, it is important to ensure that options can be customized to provide feedback that is explicit, timely, informative, and accessible (see representational Guidelines above and Guidelines for affective feedback). Regardless of assessment or instructional episodes, it is especially important to provide "formative" feedback that allows students to monitor their own progress effectively and to use that information to guide their own effort and practice.

6.4 Options that enhance capacity for monitoring progress

Students may seem unresponsive to corrective feedback or knowledge of results. As a result, they seem "perseverative," careless, or unmotivated. For these students all of the time, and for most students some of the time, it is important to ensure that options can be customized to provide feedback that is explicit, timely, informative, and accessible (see representational Guidelines above and Guidelines for affective feedback). Regardless of assessment or instructional episodes, it is especially important to provide "formative" feedback that allows students to monitor their own progress effectively and to use that information to guide their own effort and practice.