Summer Blog Series Post #4: The Role of Attention and Temporal-Sequential Ordering in Time Management

When in school, students are expected to follow routines and complete assignments within certain time frames. Children must follow these same guidelines when continuing the learning process at home, managing their time and effort to complete homework assignments and projects on time.  

Time management is critical to many of the expectations placed on students, including initiating assignments, taking the appropriate amount of time to complete tasks, meeting deadlines, and maintaining a busy schedule. 

Neurodevelopmental factors: 

Time management involves several neurodevelopmental functions, including attention and temporal-sequential ordering.  

Getting started on assignments requires students to engage their attention. Students must be alert to the task at hand, possibly shifting focus to a new activity, and have the mental effort necessary to initiate the task.  The ability to preview, or think about the outcomes of a task before beginning, can help students conceptualize what a report will be like once a topic is selected, what materials will be necessary to do an assignment, etc.  Previewing is an aspect of attention. 

Taking the appropriate amount of time for a task involves both temporal-sequential ordering and attention.  Temporal-sequential abilities help us understand the order of steps, events, or other sequences; generate products in a meaningful order; and organize work, time, and schedules.  These skills are related to a student’s ability to appreciate time in general and estimate time appropriately. 

Tempo control, a facet of attention, helps students allocate the appropriate amount of time to the task at hand and predict the time required for an upcoming task. Tempo control also instills a sense of “step-wisdom,” the knowledge that it is more effective to undertake activities in a series of steps, rather than all at once. Tempo control allows a student to match his/her pace to the demands of a given task, e.g., to take the right amount of time to finish an essay test, to do a homework assignment thoroughly yet efficiently, etc. 

Here are some possible signs that a student is competent in time management:

 The student …

  • Is able to get started on homework assignments, reports, or projects on his own
  • Takes an appropriate amount of time to complete the task at hand, such as doing a homework assignment or studying for a test
  • Is able to meet deadlines related to schoolwork and follow established schedules
  • Comprehends time-related vocabulary (e.g., first, last, when, before, after, next)

Here are some possible signs that a student is struggling with time management: 

The student …

  • Either rushes through work, not taking the time necessary for a thorough job, or takes an excessive amount of time to complete a task/assignment
  • Has difficulty meeting deadlines and/or following an established schedule
  • Is often tardy, frequently not realizing when he or she is running behind
  • Has trouble with long-term assignments

Strategies to help students struggling with time management: 

  • To help students get started on an assignment, encourage them to start a homework session or study period by planning what will be accomplished during the session. If necessary, help students develop objectives that are clear, specific, and measurable (e.g., how long they will work, how long the report will be, how many problems they will do, etc.).
  • To help students understand the appropriate amount of time to allot to tasks, require students to plan for a designated number of minutes, work for a designated number of minutes, review for a designated number of minutes, etc.
  • Have students practice estimating and managing their time. For example, have students keep track of activities in a log, first recording the estimated time they think the activity will take, and then documenting the actual time it took to complete the activity.
  • Create a large classroom wall calendar that shows an outline of the stages and time frame for completing long-term projects. Note important steps and dates with color cues. Review the calendar regularly.
  • Allow students to practice managing time by being a “project manager” when working in cooperative groups, making sure activities lead to products on schedule.

We’d love to hear what strategies or activities you’ve used to help promote effective time management in your classroom or at home.  Leave a comment below with your ideas! 

Related links:

Learn more about our summer series

  1. More strategies on getting started on assignments
  2. More strategies on taking the appropriate amount of time for tasks
  3. More strategies on meeting deadlines and keeping schedules
  4. Related research on temporal organization

 

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Survey Reveals A New Achievement Gap

By Mary Jo Dunnington, Vice President, Strategic Partnerships, All Kinds of Minds

MetLife just published its annual survey, “The American Teacher.” Part 2, which synthesizes feedback from teachers, principals and students on student achievement, is chock-full of revealing data. For example:

  • Most teachers (84%) are very confident that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to enable all of their students to succeed academically.
  • Only 36% of teachers and 51% of principals believe that all of their students have the ability to succeed academically.

If this doesn’t scream “urgent problem,” I don’t know what does. MetLife’s analysis of this stunning disparity largely focuses on how expectations that teachers have of their students often are not uniformly high. Fair enough. But what causes a teacher to have lower expectations of a particular student – or group of students? To write students off as unmotivated, lazy, or simply unable to learn?

The answer seems to lie, at least in part, in other survey findings. The analysis restates the finding from last year’s survey that 43% of teachers report that their classes have become so mixed in terms of students’ learning abilities that they cannot teach them effectively. This hints that the confidence teachers expressed in their own knowledge and skills may only reflect their confidence in dealing with certain learners – not those who are wired to learn differently.

Another finding suggests that the problem goes beyond teacher expertise to how learning opportunities are structured in our schools:

“Teachers believe that addressing the individual needs of diverse learners has a major impact on improving student achievement. However, only one-third of students (32%) strongly agree that students in their school get to be creative and use their abilities at school.”

Research has shown that educators equipped to use a neurodevelopmental perspective on learning are better able to work effectively with a broad range of learners, and they better understand how to leverage student affinities and strengths to engage kids in learning. The challenge is to help educators understand that the knowledge and tools are out there – beyond what most of them have acquired in their preparation and experience to date – that could shift how they look at their students’ abilities – and give them a new perspective on their own.

View the MetLife 2009 survey

Sharing AKOM’s Research Base

I recently shared AKOM’s Research Base of the Schools Attuned Porgram, www.allkindsofminds.org/Research/Index.aspx, with colleagues. Several teachers asked for this information following our school wide Schools Attuned work. While we work exclusively with college bound students who have learning differences, prior to learning the neurodevelopmental constructs, our teachers possessed many varied understandings of the learning differences. These different interpretations were the cause of varied perceptions. A year following the program, evidence of our common understanding was abundant. Classroom teachers were more confident in working with struggling students. Instructional planning was more learner centered and student engagement increased. The research base includes studies that demonstrate these changes. We are presently using the research base to inform further implementation. I review educational research regularly and I was excited to learn that AKOM has a research team who actively studies advances in educational, psychological, medical and clinical research. This is translated into the further development of the program. The content of Schools Attuned has many authors from the field of learning. Our students benefit from this daily.