The first step a student must take before starting a task is to stop – and not to jump into the task. Students who produce high quality work rarely start working without thinking. Such students inhibit their first response, and instead, facilitate or choose strategies that will lead to better outcomes. For example, they are better able to preview their options or create a step by step plan before making a statement, writing a report, solving math problems, or doing other assignments.
The primary purpose of facilitation and inhibition control is to slow down or even stop the student from acting on his first impulse, action or statement. In addition, facilitation and inhibition play a strong role in motor movement. For example, when a student is dribbling a basketball or cutting out a design, he can choose motor movements that are efficient and effective, while inhibiting unnecessary movements.
Here are some strategies for enhancing a student’s facilitation and inhibition skills.
- Promote active planning, goal setting, and selection of best-bet strategies. Provide students with checklists, written reminders, verbal cues, etc. to facilitate their success in learning alternative strategies. It may be helpful for students to create their own ‘menu’ of strategies that they frequently use to keep on hand.
- Institute delays that require students to plan before starting a task, “You can start this task in 5 minutes, no sooner. Please spend the first 5 minutes planning.”
- Model planning techniques for students by “thinking aloud” while performing a task, e.g., “Now I’m drawing a picture of what’s going on in the math problem to help me see what to do before I choose the operation,” etc.
- Keep a file of work plans and social interaction plans that students can review at any time to see the potential benefits of inhibiting a first response, previewing options, and planning strategies.
- Teach problem-solving strategies that all have as the first step, “STOP-THINK-PLAN-START.” Have students model these strategies. Group planning, for example, allows students to vicariously observe other students thinking and planning.
- Have students use a word processing program on computer to develop templates, or plans for completing tasks, for later use, e.g., a template for getting my homework done, for solving a math word problem, for asking for help in class, etc.
- Review outcomes of tasks, having students brainstorm alternative strategies that answer the question, “What could I have done (or said) to change the outcome?” Outcome review can be incorporated into content areas as well. For example, students can evaluate the actions of historical figures, characters in a story, etc. and discuss how plans lead to successful or unsuccessful outcomes.
- Stress the importance of organizing materials for efficient working conditions. For example, have students preview an assignment and collect the materials that they will need before starting the assignment. Guide students in keeping their materials, notebooks, etc. organized and easily accessible.