Focused Interventions to Improve Executive Function Skills

(Grades K-12) / Semester Course

PDI Course Number: 127BXX / UCSD Course Number: EDUC42260


Course Description

Have you ever worked with a student who just can’t seem to grasp a certain concept, no matter how hard either of you tries? Or perhaps you may have encountered a student whose desk is such a mess that s/he can never seem to remember where s/he put things? Or a student who, having just listened to you explain directions, has no idea where to start? While frustrating, these scenarios (and others like them) can be explained by a deficit in a student’s executive function (EF) skills. Executive functioning involves the neurological processes used by students to consciously control their thoughts, emotions, and actions so that goals can be set and achieved. This online course begins by explaining what executive functioning is and how critical it is to the learning process. Teachers will take a deep dive into eight core EFs that control not only students’ ability to think metacognitively, but their ability to respond appropriately using their social-emotional skills. The role of working memory is explored first, as it is an essential element in the processing, storing, and retrieval of information. Teachers will learn how this critical executive function interacts with seven additional EFs — task initiation, planning and prioritizing, organization, self-monitoring, impulse control, shift (a/k/a cognitive flexibility), and emotional control. Teachers will be provided with thorough background information on each executive skill, as well as the implications for teaching and learning. Within each executive function, the course takes a deep dive into strategic focused interventions that help students who have these executive deficits. By the end of this course, teachers will feel more confident and successful in their quest to incorporate explicit, direct, and strategic instruction within reading, writing, and mathematics so their students with EF deficits can succeed academically and achieve a growth mindset. This course is worth 3 ⅓ semester units/5 quarter units (50 hours of training) from UC San Diego Extension. For detailed information on university credit, click here.

Enrollment Options

Course Only

Only $170 with the discount

Course with Credit from UCSD Extension

Only $366 with the discount

This course is worth 3 ⅓ semester units or 5 quarter units of graduate-level credit from UC San Diego.

Fall semester online courses must be completed by December 16th.


Print our customized course approval form to share with your school district.



Required Resource Book

This course has a modestly-priced required resource book (available in both new and used versions) that can be purchased through Amazon using the following link. Note that you can begin and participate in your course before the book arrives.

If you are registering for multiple courses, use the following link to access the book list for all PDI courses with direct purchase links through Amazon. PDI Course Resource Book List



UCSD Course Number: EDUC42260
Unit One
  • Understanding Executive Function
  • The Brain’s Role in Executive Function
  • An Introduction to Executive Function Skills
  • Assignment #1: Write an autobiography/Write an article reflection
Unit Two
  • Assessing Students’ Executive Function Skills
  • Metacognition and Executive Function: A Dynamic Relationship
  • Growth Mindset and Learning Profiles
  • Assignment #2: Create an activity to spark a growth mindset
Unit Three
  • The Role of Working Memory
  • Focused Interventions for Initiation Deficits
  • Focused Interventions for Planning and Prioritizing Deficits
  • Assignment #3: Design a lesson plan that teaches content integrated with a specific focused intervention
Unit Four
  • Focused Interventions for Organization Deficits
  • Focused Interventions for Self-Monitoring Deficits
  • Meeting Students’ EF Needs with Universal Design for Learning
  • Assignment #4: Create a UDL lesson plan
Unit Five
  • Focused Interventions for Inhibition/Impulse Control Deficits
  • Focused Interventions for Shift Deficits
  • Focused Interventions for Emotional Control Deficits
  • Assignment #5: Design an activity using Plutchik’s Theory of Emotions
Unit Six
  • The Impact of Executive Function on Reading
  • The Impact of Executive Function on Writing
  • The Impact of Executive Function on Mathematics
  • Assignment #6: Write a reflection
  • Assignment #7: Reading/Learning Log (Based on required resource book)


Click here to request a copy of the detailed syllabus

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