GSE Alumni, Ph.D. Student, and Professor Present their ADHD Research at National Conference

Approximately 10.2% of all school-aged youth are diagnosed with ADHD. “Whether students have a formal diagnosis or exhibit symptoms of ADHD, educators are bound to experience students with difficulties with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity in their classroom,” says GSE Ph.D. student, Colleen Belmonte. Students who exhibit symptoms or are diagnosed with ADHD struggle with note-taking completion and accuracy, organization, engagement, and motivation. Although students struggle in these areas, there are strategies educators can teach students in order to overcome these challenges.


GSE alumni, Alyssa Baran, Sean Brown, Ph.D. student, Colleen Belmonte, and GSE professor, Judith Harrison, presented their research on ADHD at the Teacher Educators of Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders national conference this past October. The conference allows educators to discuss topics relating to educating students with behavioral challenges and explore cutting-edge research strategies. Sean Brown expresses his fondness of the conference, “Being around some big names in the behavior disabilities world and learning from such experienced and seasoned people really helped focus my interest in supporting the needs of my students. I learned plenty of valuable tools and knowledge I took back with me to my classroom. I love that this conference has a strong research-based foundation, so it is an awesome place to learn about all of the new ideas, techniques, and knowledge in one place.”

As for Baran, Brown, Belmonte, and Dr. Harrison’s research, the academics looked at a group of student’s own perceptions on how well they performed compared to the student’s actual performance. The students they studied reported themselves in the average range on the School Motivation and Learning Strategies Inventory (SMALSI) in the areas of organization, note-taking, and self-management skills. However, looking at the result, there was no correlation between the students’ self-reports and their actual baseline performance. Many students with ADHD struggle in these areas, yet, the students did not report these areas as difficult. Dr. Harrison discusses the result of the group’s work, “This finding draws attention to the lack of awareness that students have of their own behavior. Because they lack this awareness, it is sometimes difficult to teach them the skills, as they are frequently reluctant to engage in the interventions.”

Many current educational strategies for students with ADHD are designed to reduce barriers to learning by removing expectations; however, by leveling the playing field, we are doing these students a disservice. Students need interventions to teach them skills needed to be successful in life rather than only giving them accommodations, such as extra time on tests, organization support, or giving students a copy of the teacher notes. Colleen Belmonte explains, “If our goal in school is to build life-long learners who contribute to our world in their future careers, we need to teach students the skills needed to attain their goals instead of avoiding it altogether.”

There are three recommended strategies Baran, Brown, Belmonte, and Dr. Harrison discuss in their research to help improve students with ADHD learn in the classroom. First, is the Organization Assistance Sheet (Evans et al., 2009), which is “a yes or no checklist that teachers use with students to organize their binders. Teachers do this with the students and eventually, the student will take over the responsibility” says Alyssa Baran. Next, a note-taking instruction modified from Cornell Notes is recommended, which is focused on allowing students to take notes independently. Finally, a modified version of the Epic Win technique (Fung, 2015) is used to improve self-management. Every five minutes students must mark if they are on task after their teacher defines what it means to be on task. The more times they are on task, the students are closer to winning a prize, “It’s important to individualize the prize so students are motivated to be on task,” Baran explains.

Baran, Brown, and Belmonte all have a vision for the future of education. Brown is currently an elementary behavior disabilities teacher and his goal is “for everything to be done with the intention of always helping the student. I personally believe research will continue to show how interventions and teaching students the appropriate skills will have greater success in long-term outcomes.” Baran currently teaches kindergarten and believes it is crucial that teachers start implementing these strategies early on as students have so many expectations placed upon them in the classroom. She states, “the earlier we teach students these skills, the more time they will have to master and practice these skills in a classroom setting.” Belmonte has a clear goal in mind for educating students with ADHD, “we must teach students the skills needed to be successful in life…We need to change our mindset when educating students with ADHD and teach them the skills that will help them to reach their highest potential in their future careers.” The GSE is committed to Advancing Excellence and Equity in Education and this team has furthered our mission through their research.