SDIs in Virtual Learning Environments: Executive Functioning and Series Wrap-Up (Post #6)

By Cassie Brusch – Project Consultant


As educators, we are aware of the need to support students with their executive functioning skills and self-efficacy. These skills are often left out of traditional curricula, yet they are crucial to a student’s long-term success. 

Executive functioning is the set of mental skills that we use every day to learn, work, and manage daily life; these skills include working memory, flexible thinking, organization, and self-control. When executive functioning skills are lacking, they can make it hard for students to focus, follow directions, remember tasks/assignments, control their emotions, and more. Ways that teachers can support executive functioning are posting schedules, use of agenda books, consistent routines, providing (and teaching) organizational systems, and overall consistency, to name a few. 

With all the digital tools at our fingertips, we can foster students’ executive functioning skills through the use of these tools. Many of these tools will continue to be at their disposal post-K-12 education. Many people use their email calendar to track and schedule events; this is something teachers can model for their students. Instead of traditional agenda books, teachers can use the assignment features built-in in their LMS (learning management system) to list and remind students of their assignments and due dates; this also will automatically update as adjustments are made. Using the LMS can inform parents of upcoming assignments and assessments without the need to send additional paperwork home. 

According to psychologist Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance realization. Self-efficacy reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over a student’s motivation, behavior, and social environment. Ways we support that in the classroom include: using moderately difficult tasks, using peer models, using students’ interests, allowing student choice, giving frequent specific feedback, to name a few. 

In virtual environments, teachers can have daily check-ins with the student(s) to build those self-efficacy skills, using their online meeting platform (Zoom, Google Meet, etc.). Additionally, given students frequent specific feedback when they are (or could be) using those self-efficacy skills. Using a Chrome extension like, Mote, can allow teachers to leave audio feedback on students’ Google Docs or Slides.

Full PaTTAN Guide

PaTTAN has developed this resource, which includes information about SDIs (specially designed instruction) and how to implement SDIs in virtual environments. In virtual environments these accommodations and modifications are implemented with digital tools and resources and IEP team members must be aware of how they are implemented. 

As this series continues, we will continue to look at how SDIs can be implemented in virtual environments. These virtual tools can be used in traditional classrooms as well. 


This concludes our 6-part series on SDIs in virtual environments. For additional information and resources on these tools and resources, refer to PaTTAN’s SSDVE Technology Resources Hub. This curated hub was created for educators and related services providers to support students with disabilities in virtual environments.  This is just a snippet of the examples provided by PaTTAN. For more information, see the full SDI resource here.

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