Study: Can self-monitoring help promote academic success, and reduce ADHD symptoms, in college students with ADHD

Posted on January 13, 2015

Photo: flickr

A study pub­lished online recently in the Jour­nal of Atten­tion Dis­or­ders reports encour­ag­ing results of an inter­ven­tion based on teach­ing col­lege stu­dents with ADHD to mon­i­tor their aca­d­e­mic behav­ior and goals. As you will see below, this is a rel­a­tively sim­ple inter­ven­tion and one that could be read­ily imple­mented by many students.

It is strik­ing that such a rel­a­tively sim­ple inter­ven­tion would lead to the robust effects reported here. Sim­ply by hav­ing stu­dents iden­tify spe­cific aca­d­e­mic behav­iors that they were to reg­u­larly engage in, and mon­i­tor each day whether they had, sig­nif­i­cant gains were reported in mul­ti­ple areas where stu­dents with ADHD tend to strug­gle. Pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion and instruc­tion on effec­tive study skills in the absence of teach­ing this self-monitoring approach, had no com­pa­ra­ble effect.

The rea­son for the pos­i­tive impact of self-monitoring is not clear. It may be that the sim­ple act of hav­ing to decide each day whether one has attained a par­tic­u­lar goal, e.g., com­pleted all assigned read­ing, attended all classes, moti­vates indi­vid­u­als to attain those goals. Cer­tainly, review­ing a sheet each night where spe­cific goals and behav­iors related to aca­d­e­mic suc­cess are listed pro­vides a reg­u­lar reminder of what one needs to do. It would also make it more dif­fi­cult to ‘deceive’ one­self about whether one is act­ing in ways that are likely to pro­mote suc­cess­ful aca­d­e­mic outcomes.

There are, of course, lim­i­ta­tions to this study that are impor­tant to note. First, stu­dents were fol­lowed for only about 3–4 weeks — whether they would con­tinue to engage in self-monitoring over a longer period, say an entire semes­ter, is unclear. Even if they did, whether the pos­i­tive effects would per­sist is also unknown. Thus, there
is a need for a follow-up study that pro­vided a longer test of this intervention.

It is also the case that all mea­sures col­lected in this study were self-report mea­sures. Thus, stu­dents indi­cated them­selves whether they were meet­ing their aca­d­e­mic goals and these self-reports may not have been entirely accu­rate. In a sub­se­quent study, it would be help­ful to obtain other out­come mea­sures as well, e.g., actual class atten­dance as reported by instruc­tors, actual GPA for the semes­ter, etc.

While addi­tional research on the use and impact of self-monitoring on the aca­d­e­mic suc­cess of col­lege stu­dents with ADHD needs to be con­ducted, results of this ini­tial study are encour­ag­ing. This is a low-cost, low-risk inter­ven­tion that stu­dents and clin­i­cians could read­ily imple­ment. It sim­ply requires devel­op­ing a core set of aca­d­e­mic goals/behaviors that the stu­dent com­mits to pur­su­ing each day, devel­op­ing a sim­ple sheet to track this, and check­ing each day whether one has com­pleted the behavior.

With pro­grams like google docs, these track­ing sheets can be shared between a stu­dents, clin­i­cians, and par­ents. Thus, clin­i­cians or par­ents could mon­i­tor whether the stu­dent is reg­u­larly com­plet­ing the form and send email reminders to do so, just as was done in this study. Ide­ally, of course, stu­dents would take respon­si­bil­ity to han­dling this them­selves and doing so would rep­re­sent an impor­tant move towards greater self-regulation for many students.

Category(s):Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Source material from SharpBrains