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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Efficacy of a Self-Monitoring Intervention for College Students with Attention Problems

  • Author(s): Gibson, Katharine Lee
  • Advisor(s): Christie, Christina A.
  • Durkin, Diane
  • et al.


Efficacy of a Self-Monitoring Intervention

for College Students with Attention Problems


Katharine Lee Gibson

Doctor of Education

University of California, Los Angeles, 2015

Professor Christina A. Christie, Co-Chair

Professor Diane Durkin, Co-Chair

College students with ADHD are a unique at-risk population. Though cognitively capable, many college students with ADHD fail to thrive academically and are at risk of academic underperformance, probation, and dropping out. Disability offices provide accommodations and assistance in many areas; however, even the most comprehensive services cannot assist students when they are required to regulate attention during independent academic tasks. Self-monitoring of attention (SMA) interventions have successfully improved attentive behaviors in secondary students but have not been widely used or developed for college students. This study evaluated the efficacy of a self-monitoring of attention intervention (Focus Check) delivered via smartphone app on the attention, effortful control, and academic self-efficacy of college students with self-defined attention difficulties.

This mixed-methods study used a randomized experimental design with experience sampling survey and social validity survey complements. Measures of the Barkley Adult ADHD Rating Scale (BAARS-IV), Mind-Wandering Scale, Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire, and Adult Temperament Questionnaire were taken at pre-test, after the initial two-week experimental period, and at the conclusion of the four-week experiment. The control group, (n = 21) and the experimental group, (n = 27) were comprised primarily of female undergraduate students. No statistically significant differences were found between groups on pre-test measures.

Results of multiple measure ANOVA’s found statistically significant results between the experimental and control groups on measures of BAARS-IV: Inattention subscale, and BAARS-IV: Sluggish Cognitive Tempo subscale suggesting that the SMA intervention contributed to reducing scores on these measures. Additional significant results were found for the smaller subsample of participants with likely ADHD (n = 15) on measures of Mind-Wandering and Academic Self-Efficacy. Furthermore, additional statistically significant findings from pre-test to post-test were found for both the experimental and control groups on measures of the BAARS-IV, Mind-Wandering, and Effortful Control: Effortful Attention, suggesting that participation in this study resulted in improved scores on these measures. Experience sampling and social validity survey results show that participants enjoyed using Focus Check and found it to be helpful in regulating attention during independent academic tasks.

Participation in the study involved strategy use and purposeful reflection on patterns of attention, as well as use of the Focus Check SMA Intervention. The significant findings for the group as a whole combined with the promising preliminary findings on the SMA intervention open the door for research on several self-regulation interventions for college students, particularly those with impairing levels of ADHD symptomology. Should future research confirm the exploratory findings found here, Focus Check, or similar SMA interventions, could provide college students with a reliable, cost-effective, and self-administered means of regulating variable attention during independent academic tasks.

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