Awareness: How This Executive Function Skill Marks the Beginning of Learning

Self Monitoring is the ability to observe and evaluate one’s behavior.  It includes being aware of how one is acting, perceived, sounds like, looks like, impacts other people.  It can include being aware of how we feel at any given moment, how we relate to or engage with our responsibilities, taking care of ourselves or interacting with people and the world around us.  

What is self monitoring?

One characteristic of an individual who struggles with executive functioning is the lack of self monitoring or even being aware of what he/he is doing or in many cases, not doing.  If we ask a student to change before they are even aware that a change is needed, obtaining buy-in becomes difficult.  Often students and even parents, are not aware of what they are doing, how they are being perceived (perspective taking) and whether what they are doing is helping (or harming) them reach their goals.  So how do we build the skill of self-monitoring? 

Before we can ask someone to self monitor – it helps to know if they are self-aware.  At Effective Students, that begins by asking the student what he/she thinks of themselves and their skills.  In a recent workshop of twelve students, when surveyed only 15% had ever been asked their opinions of themselves as students.  When given the opportunity, students can usually identify what is hard for them, what they need to do but don’t want to do and their opinions of what works and doesn’t work for them and why.  If they can’t immediately, by asking the question, they have an opportunity to reflect and begin building self-awareness

With intentional questions and time and space for consideration, students reflect on their feelings and abilities to begin self-awareness and self-management.  With instruction and consistency, self awareness leads to self-monitoring – generalized to new situations over a period of time so students can identify for themselves when they may be off track and make the adjustments necessary for improved effectiveness.  

Self monitoring applies to 

  • Work habits
  • Tone of voice
  • Personal care
  • Emotional awareness & regulation
  • Group engagement
  • Interpersonal skills


It’s easier to see how others are doing at those versus accurately seeing ourselves but with practice, this improves.  

In some organizations, this is called Mindfulness – 




  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
    “their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

It has been said, we can’t take data on ourselves because we can’t accurately see ourselves from another’s perspective.  However, pausing to reflect builds that self awareness and ultimately, the self management muscle.  The good news is that over time and with practice, self-monitoring is a skill that can be developed.  

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© 2023 Effective Students by W3 Connections Inc.