Newsweek has a fascinating article detailing psychologist Adele Diamond’s studies on focus in the classroom. Researchers are discovering that traditional measures of success such as IQ, are not nearly as critical as once believed, and the ability to control impulses (or resist distraction) and stay with the task at hand is far more essential.

The scientific name for this set of skills is “executive function,” or EF. It’s an emerging concept in student assessment and could eventually displace traditional measures of ability and achievement. EF comprises not only effortful control and cognitive focus but also working memory and mental flexibility—the ability to adjust to change, to think outside the box. These are the uniquely human skills that, taken together, allow us keep our more impulsive and distractible brain in check. New research shows that EF, more than IQ, leads to success in basic academics like arithmetic and grammar. It also suggests that we can pump up these EF skills with regular exercise, just as we do with muscles.

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