South Africa currently has many learners commencing formal schooling without the necessary cognitive or behavioural skills. Research attributes this to weak executive functions, which can be understood as cognitive and behavioural skills that enable the ability to plan, pay attention, follow instructions and handle multiple tasks. Furthermore, executive functions consist of self-regulation, working memory and cognitive flexibility that permit people to work towards their goals. The development of these functions is necessary for reasoning, problem solving and planning as they encompass higher cognitive skills needed for schooling adjustment and academic success.
Hence, the focus of this study is centred on exploring teachers’ understanding and implementation of executive functions in Grade R. The study consisted of eight Grade R teachers from different schools who shared their meanings and interpretations of this term. Furthermore, the study employed a case study design to explain the teachers’ understanding of the concept and illuminate how executive functions are implemented within lessons. Lastly, I gathered my data from different sources, which included semi-structured interviews and observations of teachers.
Taken together, the findings of this study indicate that teachers’ perceptions of executive functions are detailed according to cognitive and behavioural skills. Furthermore, the study also identifies challenges that Grade R teachers experience when they develop executive functions and the positive attributes that enhance this skill during lessons; these are all discussed under the themes and categories detailed in the analysis and findings of this work.