By Emily Reynolds
Good performance in the educational environment can have huge benefits – better job prospects, higher wages, higher life satisfaction, and more. However, university performance doesn’t always depend on how hard you work or how smart you are. First generation students are at higher risk of developing cheating syndrome, e.g. B. by reducing their classroom engagement, attendance and overall performance.
And for those with additional needs, the university can offer all kinds of additional challenges, like a new study in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology makes clear. It shows that students with ADHD get significantly lower grades than students without a diagnosis, suggesting that academic and pastoral services do not go far enough to support neurodiverse students.
The team recruited 456 American students for a longitudinal study: for the first time, the students were in their freshman year and continued participating for four years each year. About half met the criteria for ADHD, the other half did not, and of those who met the ADHD criteria, half were on medication. Approximately 70% of students with ADHD and 85% of controls completed all four assessments.
To measure ADHD, participants were first asked to complete a self-report scale that listed inattentiveness and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms that are common in patients with a diagnosis. They then took part in a semi-structured interview with the team to examine the severity and occurrence of symptoms and an online test to measure other potentially significant symptoms such as anxiety or bad mood.
The students’ parents also filled out a scale indicating their child’s behavior between the ages of five and twelve and in the six months prior to the start of the study. Using all of this data, a group of psychologists with expertise in ADHD determined whether each student would be placed in the ADHD or non-ADHD group.
During the course of the study, the team tracked several factors including: grades (in the form of GPAs and either reported by students or extracted from university records); Progress towards graduation as assessed by the number of credits a student has earned; and whether a student was still enrolled at the university. The team also looked at learning skills: how well were the students engaged in learning strategies like goal tracking, self-tests, or managing their time efficiently?
The researchers found that those in the ADHD cohort had significantly lower overall GPAs than those in the control cohort. Students with symptoms of ADHD used the study skills less often than their peers, and those who did not take medication were also more likely to drop out of university.
Other factors also had an impact on academic success: those with higher levels of leadership who were more likely to be in the control group were more likely to have higher GPAs and remain in education. Interestingly, those involved in university support services were also more likely to achieve academic performance, suggesting that universities could do more to reach those in need.
Assisting students in the role of leaders – including organizational skills, time management, attention, and self-monitoring – could be one way to provide academic support to them. You could also benefit from more support with broader learning skills: for example, how to successfully plan, structure and complete a task.
The inclusion of strategies specifically designed to aid neurodiverse students could also be critical here. Students with depressive symptoms were also less likely to succeed. Mental health involvement and wider pastoral support are also likely to have a major impact on students with ADHD. However, the results of the study suggest that this is not always the case. The majority of students with ADHD received no assistance with academic skills, bespoke tutoring, or mentoring – only 19.7% received academic assistance and 34% with tutoring. Universities may have to spend time reaching out to neurodiverse students or those facing other obstacles, or risk creating an environment that makes it difficult for everyone to thrive.
– Academic Trajectories of College Students With and Without ADHD: Predictors for Four-Year Results
Emily Reynolds is an associate at BPS Biomedarticles