Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

William F Chaplin

Second Advisor

Kathryn T Hutchinson

Third Advisor

Marlene Sotelo-Dynega


Background: Between 40 and 60 percent of high school students are chronically academically disengaged and large differences in post-secondary educational attainment and completion across race/gender and socioeconomic groups reflect highly uneven academic preparation in the K-12 years. As such, there is a need to examine students’ motivation to learn, both at the high school and post-secondary level to address the multitude of negative student outcomes associated with academic disengagement. This study examines students’ motivation to learn by 1) evaluating models of motivation that include the impact of both executive function and self-efficacy on motivation and to examine the extent to which these variables can predict retention; 2) evaluating an evidence-based intervention to strengthen self-efficacy and executive functioning ability; and 3) presenting a valid and reliable mechanism to assess academic disengagement that may be collected during students’ first year at university.

Methods: Using a cluster randomized trial design, this study evaluates the effectiveness of an evidence-based intervention to strengthen self-efficacy and executive functioning ability vs control among freshman students at risk for academic disengagement enrolled in a four-year degree at a university. Participants in the intervention group receive a total of 9 Executive Function Coaching Program and 12 Rational Emotive Behavioral Coaching Program weekly sessions. We hypothesize that 1) students in the intervention group will have a greater retention rate than those in the control group at the end of their freshman year; 2) the intervention is positively related to retention and G.P.A. by the mediating effects that executive function and self-efficacy abilities have on motivation; and 3) the causal relationship between the intervention and retention and G.P.A. is temporally mediated by the executive function, self-efficacy, and motivation variables. As a part of this protocol, internal reliability data is provided on the outcome measures proposed for this study.

Discussion: Findings from this study will provide policy makers, educational institution administrators, and other stakeholders needed information to recommend scalable and cost-effective policy and practice with respect to academic disengagement and risk reduction and remediation to help alleviate the chronic disengagement and uneven academic preparation across race/gender and socioeconomic groups