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The Importance of Pausing after Instruction

Most conflict in the classroom or at home ensues because of a failure to follow instructions. Teachers and parents get angry when they give clear instructions, but the student fails to follow them. Before labeling the student as disobedient or difficult, we should look at the quality of the instructions. Communication is a two-way street, isn’t it? So, how can parents and educators deliver instructions in a way that they will actually be followed? That’s the goal of the blog post. Here’s a hint: it’s all about the pause.

As a teacher or parent of a high school student, it’s crucial to understand how critical it is to give students enough time to process instructions. Students with learning differences often require additional time to develop a plan for completing a task that accounts for their unique needs. They must use their executive function skills to understand the task at hand and develop a plan that accounts for their differences. Executive function skills are a cognitive ability set that allows individuals to plan, organize, prioritize, initiate, self-monitor, and control their behavior. These skills are essential for academic success.

Clear and concise instructions are essential for reducing cognitive load and allowing students to focus on the task. According to a study published in Learning and Instruction, providing clear and concise instructions can help students understand what is being asked of them and reduce the time needed for processing. It is essential to give instructions in a way that is easy to understand and accounts for students with other learning differences.

In addition to providing clear and concise instructions, students benefit significantly from having time to process the instructions. Research has shown that giving students sufficient time to process instructions is beneficial for their academic success. A study published in the journal Mind, Brain, and Education found that students who were given more time to process instructions performed better on academic tasks and were more engaged in the learning process. The study’s lead author notes, “When students have time to process instructions, they are better able to understand the task and feel more confident in their ability to complete it.”

Allowing students to self-monitor their progress can be beneficial for processing instructions. In a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, researchers found that students who were encouraged to monitor their progress were better able to identify areas where they needed more help. Students who were given tools to track their progress and manage their time were more successful in completing tasks and achieving their academic goals.

Processing instructions is a crucial component of executive function skills essential for academic success. Given the importance of processing instructions, there are several strategies that teachers and parents can use to ensure students have enough time to process instructions and understand the task at hand. One way to do this is to provide students with a checklist or a visual representation of the task to help them understand the steps required. Teachers and parents can also encourage students to ask questions if they do not understand the task or need clarification. Providing clear and concise instructions and sufficient time to process them, along with self-monitoring tools and support, can help students achieve their academic goals and reach their full potential.

For more ideas on learning or other key EF topics, please check out our blog. If your child could benefit from one-on-one academic coaching, please reach out today to learn more about our services.

Evan Weinberger


Staying Ahead of the Game offers unique academic coaching & tutoring services to help good students achieve greatness.

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