Quantifying the Effectiveness of Coaching for College Students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

The purpose of this study, funded by the Edge Foundation (Seattle, WA), was to assess the effectiveness of coaching on the success of college students with ADHD. The study demonstrated that coaching was highly effective in helping students improve their self-regulation, study skills and will.  It helped to build students' confidence and enhanced their organizational and time management skills. Participation in coaching services resulted in an improvement in students' approach to learning. It also enhanced their sense of well-being and resulted in more positive emotional states, which have been linked by research (Fredrickson & Branigan, 2005) to more effective learning.

This study demonstrated that coaching was highly effective in helping students improve executive functioning and related skills as measured by the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (LASSI; Weinstein & Palmer, 2002). The LASSI measures Executive Functioning Skills as they are applied in academic environments. The difference in gain on total LASSI scores between the Edge coaching group and the comparison group was statistically significant (p < .01).The coaching group had a mean gain of 182.67 points pre to post, whereas the comparison group's mean gain was only 64.05 points. The LASSI is comprised of three cluster scores: Self-regulation, Skill and Will.  There were also significant differences between the coaching group and the comparison group, in favor of the treatment group, on all three cluster scores. The differences between the treatment and comparison groups were significant (p < .05) for the Skill and Will clusters and the Self-Regulation (p < .01) cluster. Partial Eta2, is a measure of treatment impact that is useful for determining the practical significance following a statistically significant finding.  This analysis revealed that the Edge coaching intervention could be designated as a moderate treatment outcome for the Skills and Will clusters and as a large treatment outcome for the Self-Regulation cluster.

Qualitative analysis of interview findings corroborated the findings from the LASSI. Students' comments and artifacts indicated that Edge coaching services helped them establish more effective goals and pursue those goals in more efficient, less stressful ways.  Students attributed this outcome to their coaches' proficiency in helping them reflect on themselves and their goals more often, in more realistic and positive ways, and to regulate their feelings and behaviors more effectively while pursuing those goals.  Thematic analysis of interviews resulted in a major emphasis on self-regulated behavior with a focus within self-regulation on improved routines and structures and more effective self-talk. Results from this study also demonstrated that participation in coaching services enhanced students' sense of well-being and resulted in more positive emotional states.  Edge students' overall mean score on the College Well-being Survey (Field, Sawilowsky, Parker, & Roland, 2010) was statistically significantly higher than comparison students' mean Well Being score, when corrected for initial differences in executive functioning.  Again, qualitative analysis corroborated that Edge coaching services increased students' subjective well-being. Thematic analysis of interviews resulted in the designation of positive feelings as an area of major impact of the Edge coaching model. Major themes within the category of positive feelings were less stress, greater empowerment, increased confidence and more balanced lives.

The Caring for Kids Initiative

The Guidance Center, Southgate, MI and Wayne State University

The purpose of this project, which was made possible by funds provided by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), was to promote the social and emotional health of vulnerable infants, toddlers and preschoolers within community based childcare programs. This project encompassed three major activities;

  • Providing ongoing mental health consultation to area childcares,
  • Providing support for the self-determination of parents and adult caregivers and,
  • Developing an advanced training model to educate new professionals in the field.

The Initiative for Self-Determination and Transition, College of Education at Wayne State University was responsible for developing the self-determination components for the project and conducting program evaluation.

Promoting healthy early experiences for young children in child-care entails building a healthy foundation where life-long resiliency skills are strengthened. Building resiliency in young children should involve modeling and promotion of self-determined behavior. This project supported parents and caregivers in understanding, observing and valuing self-determined behavior in themselves. Short-term supports were designed specifically for parents and caregivers in early childhood settings. These supports were based on the Steps to Self-Determination curriculum (Field & Hoffman, 1996).

Research on Self-Determination for Children With Disabilities in Elementary Settings

Wayne State University and Royal Oak Schools

The purpose of this project was to:

  • Identify self-determination competencies appropriate for instruction at the elementary level,

  • Determine the effectiveness of an intervention to increase self-determination in children in elementary grades and,

  • Examine the relationship between self-determination and academic achievement.

The initial phase included a systematic effort to determine self-determination competencies appropriate to each grade level, k-5. After appropriate competencies were identified, self-determination assessment and instructional modules were developed to meet the needs of children in elementary grades. The instruments and modules were piloted and field-tested in inclusive, resource and specialized settings at the elementary level in Royal Oak (MI) school district.

Promoting Self-Determination for Students, Teachers & Administrators Through

Pre-Service & In-Service Preparation

In collaboration with Portland State University

The purpose of this project, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, was to develop, field-test and disseminate pre-service and in-service core courses and training modules that could be infused into existing teacher and administrator training programs. It was based on the premise that self-determination is important for educators because:

  • self-determination skills are essential to designing and implementing effective instruction,

  • self-determination skills are critical to effectively participate in the school improvement process,

  • to learn self-determination skills, students need self-determined role models,

  • students' self-determination is enhanced when educators share a strong, philosophical foundation about the need to promote self-determination throughout the culture of the school, and

  • self-determined teachers make a positive difference in the climate, morale and synergy within a school.

This project addressed the need to (a) increase the ability of teachers and administrators to promote student self-determination and (b) increase educators' own levels of self-determination. This project was based on the premise that self-determination is central to reflective practice and to increasing retention and decreasing burn-out among educators. A model to guide school based improvement efforts focused on self-determination titled "Teaching and Leading with Integrity, Reflection and Self-Determination" and several pre-service and in-service training modules were produced through this project.

Steps to Self-Determination Outreach

Outreach Projects to Support Schools in
Steps to Self-Determination Implementation

Implementation of the Steps to Self-Determination in Michigan and Washington

The College of Education at Wayne State University, in collaboration with the Center for Change in Transition Services, North Central Educational Service District, Oakland Intermediate School District, Puget Sound Educational Service District, and Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency, implemented the Steps to Self-Determination model and curriculum in eight school districts in Michigan and Washington. The schools that participated in the project represented culturally and demographically diverse student populations. They received extensive in-service training and technical assistance support from project staff who included Dr. Sharon Field, Dr. Alan Hoffman and Intermediate School District (ISD) curriculum consultants.

Promoting self-determination was an integral theme in curriculum development through

  • the process used to plan for implementation of the curriculum, which included involvement and input by students,

  • the strategies used to implement the curriculum, and

  • additional modifications that were made in classroom instruction and structure to support curriculum efforts.

The process used to implement the curriculum in each local district included collaboration between school district staff, students, parents and adult service providers.

The project was also involved in state-wide dissemination of the model, and curriculum and assessment instruments in each state. This was coordinated with the state education agencies and the state transition systems change initiatives.

Funding for this project was made available by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services and by the contributions of the project partners.

Promoting Self-Determination in Transition Planning: Implementation of the Steps to Self-determination Curriculum

Outreach Project

 (Massachusetts, Illinois and Utah)


The College of Education at Wayne State University in collaboration with school districts and state departments of education in Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan and Utah completed a three year project to train and support special education teachers to implement the Steps to Self-Determination curriculum in their classrooms. Steps to Self-Determination  is an 18-week instructional program developed for students with and without disabilities at the secondary level. It is based on the self-determination model that includes the following components: Know Yourself, Value Yourself, Plan, Act, Experience Outcomes and Learn (Field & Hoffman, 1994).

This project accomplished five major goals:

  • Involvement of students, parents, staff and adult service agency representatives in the model implementation and planning process

  • Provision of trainings on the self-determination model to relevant groups

  • Provision of technical assistance and support throughout the implementation process

  • Evaluation of all aspects of the project including the determination of

    • Accomplishment of project objectives

    • Effectiveness of training and technical assistance efforts and

    • Impact of the curriculum implementation on student outcomes

Promoting Successful Outcomes Through Self-Determination: Demonstration of a Model for Youth with Disabilities Who Have Dropped Out of School or Are at Risk of Dropping Out of School

A Collaborative Project of the College of Education, Wayne State University and River Rouge Public Schools.

The purpose of this project was to further develop, implement, evaluate and disseminate a model to serve youth with disabilities who have dropped out of school or who were at risk of dropping out of school. The project focused on serving minority youth from an urban area with a high dropout rate. The model included the following key elements:

  • a collaborative school improvement process rooted in principles of self-determination that involves students, parents, educators and community agency staff;
  • curriculum and instructional strategies that promote self-determination;
  • an emphasis on employment and the development of occupational skills;
  • a functional life skills focus based on the Life Centered Career Education (LCCE) curriculum (Brolin, 1991);
  • an emphasis on functional literacy skills;
  • strong community linkages and involvement, including the use of community-based instruction.

The concept of self-determination is evident throughout each aspect of the model. It provided the foundation for both the program planning and the curriculum content.

Educational programs were individualized for students using an individualized transition planning process. Parents were integrally involved in the program, both in overall program planning and in the development and support of individualized education plans for their sons and daughters. This project was conducted with partial support from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

Research in Self-Determination

The Research in Self-determination project used the Field and Hoffman model of self-determination to develop an assessment approach to measure cognitive, affective and behavioral factors related to self-determination. These factors were assessed from the perspectives of students, teachers, and parents. This assessment approach provided the basis for developing the following battery of instruments:

  • Self-Determination Observation Checklist (SDOC). This is a 28 item behavioral checklist designed to be administered by classroom teachers or other appropriate personnel in a school environment.
  • Self-determination Knowledge Scale Pretest & Posttest (SDKS). Designed around the Field and Hoffman (1996) Steps to Self-Determination Curriculum, the SDKS are 37-item structured response instruments designed to assess the student's cognitive knowledge of self-determination skills as taught in the curriculum. The reading level of these instruments is approximately fifth grade.
  • Self-Determination Student Scale (SDSS). This is a 92-item self-report instrument that measures both affective (feelings, emotions) and cognitive (beliefs) aspects of self-determination.
  • Parent Perception Scale (PPS) and Teacher Perception Scale (TPS). These two instruments are 30 item questionnaires that provide an opportunity for parents or teachers to rate the child/student on a five-point Likert scale (0=low, 4=high) on a variety of components related to the self-determination model.

These instruments have been used to evaluate outcomes in self-determination programs and in numerous doctoral dissertations.

Skills and Knowledge for Self-Determination

The purpose of the Skills and Knowledge for Self-determination project, funded by U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services,  was to (a) investigate the skills that promote self-determination and (b) develop and evaluate strategies that help individuals acquire these skills.

The methods used to gather data for the project included:

  • A review of the literature on self-determination and related concepts such as assertiveness, creativity, advocacy, and empowerment.
  • Structured interviews with adults, with and without disabilities, in order to determine the factors that facilitate or inhibit self-determination.
  • Structured observations in a variety of school settings.

The information that was gathered by means of the literature review, the interviews and the observations was used to develop a model of self-determination and an instructional program, Steps to Self-Determination, to teach self-determination skills to youth with and without disabilities in integrated environments.

Steps to Self-Determination was piloted and field tested through this project. Field test results indicated, "a significant positive difference of pre-test to post-test gain of cognitive knowledge and observed behavior associated with self-determination as compared to a control group." (Field & Hoffman, 1994)