Cognitive Connections Blog

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Internally Sensing the Passage of TIme
We recently came across the fact that the most commonly used noun in American English is 'time.' Really? We would have guessed 'phone' or 'internet' and secretly wished it was 'chocolate'. Nope. 'Time'. This is the list of the other top used nouns: time, person, year, way, day, thing, man, world, life, hand, part, child, eye, woman, place, work, week.
We find this fascinating.
We need to perceive or sense time and while we have 5 senses how do we actually sense time? We can hear music. We can taste chocolate(Yum!). We can see a clock and feel a soft blanket. But how do we see and sense time? Our perception of time is how we distinguish between our external representation of time and our internal grasp of it.
The keys to helping students internally develop a sense of time and to MIME the future is to teach them the distinct experience of duration (to see how much time has elapsed between events and to see when the next event will take place), temporal order (the likely sequence in which events will occur) and temporal direction or tense to develop the subjective sense of moving through time (past, present and future) as opposed to being 'time blind' and only thinking of time in terms of 'now' and 'not now'. 
When coaching students to develop executive function skills we help them to go from intention to action by teaching them to perform a mental dress rehearsal or to do a "dry run" of the task in their mind before they begin to carry out the plan. In other words, we teach them to be a 'Mind MIME' and act out in their mind the intended action. 
We ask students imagine themselves across space and time. In fact, 90% of the time task planning happens in a different space from where you execute the plan! This imagery is a mental anchor that allows the student to better resist distraction and maintain a pace to a to reach a goal. When forethought guides an individual's actions, they can carry out tasks more successfully.
As an illustration, when children with weak executive function skills hear the instruction "get ready for school!", they hear the word, but do not pre-imagine the task or the steps to be ready. Even if they respond, "Okay!" they do not initiate any action to move toward the goal. When these children finally enter their room, because they have not pre-imagined the task, they are only starting to ask themselves, "Okay, what am I doing?" Without the vision of the outcome in mind, they are open to distraction. When these children go into their bedroom and see books, Legos, and a laptop, they easily disengage from the goal of getting ready. This Mind MIME imagery is a mental anchor that allows the child to better resist distraction and maintain a pace to a to reach a goal. Forethought is rooted in seeing oneself across space and time!
Back to the list of top used nouns in the English language!...Look at the number of nouns that relate to this executive function imagery of being a mind MIME: time (what time will it be?), person (what will I look like/what will others look like?), year (how far into the future can I see?), way (in what way am I moving to achieve this goal?), day (what do I need to do this day?), thing (what objects do I see I need to complete the task?), hand (gestures give life to my mental scratch pad so I can pre-experience the task and do a dry run before it happens), part (what are the parts of the task), eye (what do I see the future to look like), place (where will I be? What spaces am I moving across?), work (what work/steps do I need to take to do this task), week (when in the day/week will this task be complete?) and....every man, woman and child in the world carries these skills out in their everyday life!
 Time is the most used noun in the English language!
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Posted by on in Situational Awareness
What IQ scores do not answer:
How Does a Student go From Intention to Action?

Dismissed from class, John a 7th grader, leisurely walks towards his locker. At the same time, the peers around him are moving quickly towards their own lockers. He tries to catch the attention of his peers, but many just give a quick dismissive smile and hurry to gather their belongings before the bell rings. Once at his locker, John starts to talk eagerly to the boy next to him, but he does not initiate gathering his class materials. The boy is quickly exchanging one set of binders for another and gives John a few head nods that are clearly sending nonverbal signals that he does not want to talk right now because he is focused on arriving to class on time. Regardless, John keeps talking and then the bell rings. He seems almost startled by the bell and shoves one book in his locker before absentmindedly grabbing another book and spiral notebook. With an unhurried pace, he heads to his next class and is the last to arrive. Other students have out on their desks a textbook, pencil and composition notebook. John walks to the back of the class, flips through the newest science magazine on the teacher's desk, then sits down and drops his books on the floor. Upon being prompted by the teacher to take out his book, he suddenly realizes he does not have the right book with him.
He leaves class to get the correct book. Upon his return, the class has already begun to do a science experiment. Students are preparing slides and looking through microscopes. John sits at the science lab table and when cued hops up to retrieve a slide. He takes the long way around the classroom, finally grabs the slide and returns to his stool. The teacher reminds him he needs to get a water dropper and a coverslip. En route to get the materials he stops and socializes with a peer for a quick moment and then returns with the coverslip but not the dropper. By the time John has gathered all the supplies and prepared his slide, the other students in the class have already begun to sketch their observations into their lab notebooks.

Class ends at 9:50. At 9:45, students are told they need to get ready to leave class. John stays focused looking through the microscope and does not notice his classmates getting up and moving about in the class. Peers start writing down their homework, putting away the microscopes in a cabinet and begin packing up their personal belongings. John did not appear to notice these subtle changes in the pace and movement of the class, and instead, stays focused on his lab notebook. The teacher then announces to the class, "2 minute warning to finish drawing your observations and store your materials. Then, take out your agenda book." John still does not respond. At this point, all the other students are packed up and ready to go and have agenda books out for the teacher to check off their homework as being recorded. The teacher cues John, "Pack up please." John still does not respond. The teacher approaches his lab table and says, "John you are running out of time." He replies, "UhHuh." However, he does not change his behavior and remains focused on the lab. All of the students have left the classroom. When John finally stops working, he leaves his microscope and lab notebook on the table and walks out of the classroom. 

While his overall grades are okay John struggles on almost a daily basis to be on time to class, to have the required materials, to initiate and complete in class work. This prompted a referral for an evaluation. Scores on standardized measures of intelligence were high to above average and John did not qualify for special education services. These high standardized scores demonstrated that when he was in a highly structured test setting with a limited number of factors to attend to, he could hold information in his working memory, process information, and execute effectively. However, when the situational factors, such as peers, environmental cues, materials, and directions, to attend to increased even slightly so he had to integrate and organize these factors as a means to regulate his behavior, his executive control processes dramatically declined. As if often the case, executive function challenges are often not a correlate of IQ.

More often executive function challenges are associated with SQ. SQ? You might have heard of EQ- Emotional Intelligence. But SQ? SQ is Situational Intelligence. There is a wealth of research on Situational Awareness (SA) as it pertains to military operatives, emergency response providers, and medical professionals in high attention demand situations. Yet, there is little research related to SA, task execution, and academic performance. A pioneer in in the field of military situational intelligence, John Boyd, developed the OODA loop to identify the core features of situational awareness: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. The OODA loop is a process that defines how we react to the stimuli we are bombarded with all day. In the first stage, we Observe or sense the key features in a situation to understand what is happening around us. These are not limited to visual stimuli, but also include kinesthetic (spatial/perceptual/temporal) and emotional information. In the Orient stage, an individual now focuses his or her attention to interpret what he or she has observed or sensed. The next step is to Decide and to determine a course of action based on what has been observed and focused upon. The last step is to Act upon that decision. The "loop" is considered to be what happens between the onset of the stimulus and one's reaction to that stimulus to regulate their behavior towards a future goal.
SA informally as "knowing what's going on" and, more formally, as "the perception of the elements in the environment within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning and the projection of their status in the near future." Situational awareness involves both a spatial and temporal component. Time is a critical concept, as SA is dynamic and changes at a speed imposed by the characteristics of the task, the actions of people, and the features of the surrounding environment. 

Situational Intelligence includes four specific elements:

1.  Extracts: the student observes the key information about space, time, objects, and people in the environment to orient themselves and "gets a sense" of what is happening in the specific moment in time to extract the most relevant information while ignoring nonrelevant information. They use this salient information to successfully integrate information with their internal knowledge to create a mental picture of the current situation.

2.  Determines Purpose: the student uses this mental picture to decide or determine his or her role (status) or purpose within that given volume of time and space of the situation.

3. Predicts: The student comprehends the meaning of the above to anticipate his or her expected behaviors in the near future and to predict the most efficient way to navigate space, sequence actions for goal attainment, gather necessary materials, and coordinate his or her actions with and in consideration of others.

4.  Shifts flexibly: In the OODA loop, once the person has observed and oriented to the environment, he or she decides a course of action and then acts. In the classroom "act" presents as the ability to stay on-task and to inhibit those behaviors which impede task completion. In other words to "not act" or exhibit impulse control. Given the ever changing demands of the classroom environment, the student must remain flexible to shift and change their actions to match the dynamic nature of the situation.

To help a student go from Intention to Action and Do the task it is imperative to strengthen their Situational Intelligence: to STOP, observe and read a room, orient to the expectation in a moment in time, decide what is required and then act within the allotted time frame. 
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