The Role of Executive Functioning Skills in Achieving Academic Success and Navigating Current Pandemic Uncertainties

Introducing ExS


  • Loraine Kavanagh Shannon College of Hotel Management, NUI Galway
  • Gwen Ryan Shannon College of Hotel Management, NUI Galway
  • Kristin Horan Shannon College of Hotel Management, NUI Galway


The ExS programme is a recently launched autonomous online learning tool designed to help students become more aware of their executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills are the set of cognitive processes required to enable higher order thinking and are associated with self-regulation and academic success. Based on the work of Dawson and Guare (2016), the ExS online programme helps students identify their executive functioning skill strengths and weaknesses through the completion of an online questionnaire which is then used to tailor a learning path specific to the students’ needs. The learning path consists of three or more tutorials relating to the skills that students have identified as their weakest areas. Each tutorial describes the executive skill in more detail and gives practical advice on how to improve or self-regulate these skills. It also provides strategies that can be used to compensate for weaker executive functioning skills that can contribute to a negative experience in higher education and consequently lead to poor academic success. The online programme also focuses on the importance of setting personal goals and encourages students to work towards them. In the current pandemic climate, stress can have a negative impact on executive functioning skills resulting in underperformance and the ExS online programme is one way to provide support to students who may be feeling overwhelmed by the changes to their learning environment as well as their social and personal lives

Author Biographies

Loraine Kavanagh, Shannon College of Hotel Management, NUI Galway

Loraine joined Shannon College of Hotel Management in November 2004 as an English language lecturer. Through teaching EAP and supervising final year projects, she developed an interest in academic writing and was part of a cohort which set-up academic writing workshops in the college. Over the last few years her position has evolved and she now teaches Business Skills Development.  In September 2020 she will be taking the position of Programme Leader of the MSc in Business and Hospitality. She is interested in student motivation at third level, academic writing skills, and the role of culture in language acquisition.

Gwen Ryan, Shannon College of Hotel Management, NUI Galway

Assistant Librarian and Disability Officer, Shannon College

Kristin Horan, Shannon College of Hotel Management, NUI Galway

Lecturer in English/Intercultural Communication/Public Speaking and project lead on the ExS project.