Wayne State researcher heads $1 million study on effectiveness of personal coaching for college students with ADHD

February 2, 2009


DETROIT- Sharon Field, EdD, professor of administrative and organizational studies and co-director of the Center for Self-Determination and Transition in Wayne State University's College of Education, is leading a $1 million study announced today by the Edge Foundation, a national Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) nonprofit organization. The foundation's aim is to determine the effectiveness of personal coaching on the academic and social performance of college students with ADHD.

Field is a resident of Birmingham, Mich.

The study will use strategies developed by the Edge Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of children and young adults with ADHD by providing them with personal coaching. The goal of the research is to determine the effectiveness of coaching on several academic and social factors, including its impact on student retention rates; the number of withdrawals from classes; grade-point average; organizational and study skills; and students' perceived sense of well-being, social adjustment and adaptation to college life.

Although much anecdotal evidence speaks to the benefits of personal coaching for students with ADHD, this is the first rigorous scientific study conducted on a national scale that will assess the effectiveness of such programs. "Before adopting new programs, educators insist on seeing sufficient evidence that justifies putting resources in that direction," Field said. "While anecdotal evidence indicates personal coaching strategies have positive benefits for students, that alone isn't enough to determine if widespread implementation of these programs is appropriate."

ADHD is characterized by chronic and severe issues with attention, focus, organization, short-term memory, impulsivity, patience and time management. In addition to higher college dropout rates when compared to other students, reported academic difficulties for students with ADHD include problems with time management, memory tasks, organizing and persisting at long-term projects, sustaining attention, locating salient information in texts, taking notes, organizing and editing research papers, and lower grade-point averages, as well as greater instances of academic probation compared to students without disabilities.

"The U.S. government estimates that approximately 10 percent of our children - nearly 8 million - have ADHD, but that half of them remain undiagnosed and untreated," said Patricia Quinn, a developmental pediatrician with a 30-year career in ADHD and an Edge Foundation board member. "This research has the potential to make a major difference in the life of every child with ADHD."

As the study's principal investigator, Field will coordinate and oversee the research, which is in its pilot phase at Washington University in St. Louis. The full-scale, national study will be conducted at several two- and four-year colleges and universities across the country during the 2009/2010 academic year. It will examine the effects of coaching on 250 randomly selected students with ADHD. The outcomes for these students will be compared to those of similar students who do not receive coaching services. The results of the study will be available by August 2010.

To view the full press release from the Edge Foundation, visit .

Wayne State University is one of the nation's pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting, ranking in the top 50 in R & D expenditures of all public universities by the National Science Foundation. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world.