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Exploring scene setting as a strategy to support learning of students with a formal diagnosis of ADHD studying in higher education

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posted on 28.03.2022, 18:40 by Christine Young
An increasing number of students diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are enrolling in higher education (HE) in Australia. Little is currently known about their needs and learning strategies or the support required for successful completion of their studies. What is known is that these students are at greater risk of psychological difficulties and academic failure. Bachelard’s (1964) Poetics of space, Dewey’s (1934) observations of experiential learning and Jackson’s (1998) theory of intersubjective relationships inform this inquiry. In-depth interviews and photo-voice were used to investigate what 13 students with a medical diagnosis of ADHD needed to support their HE learning. Interpretations of the data are found in the development of a new pedagogy for engineering students with ADHD (Hain, Turek, Zaghi, & Hain, 2017) and Ingold’s (2000, 2001, 2013) anthropological work culminating in his theory of attentionality (2016). Ingold (2016, p. 9) identifies the cognitive, sensory and motor experiences that occur during the developmental process of skill acquisition (enskilment) as the educational correspondences of attentionality, “attention as a resonant coupling of concurrent movements”. Meta-cognitive resources were interpreted through the concept of imaginative tools for placemaking developed by Fettes and Judson (2013). The participants in this study were found to use a range of strategies to set the scene for their learning by working to their strengths with the help of medication, psychosocial education, support and/or coaching. Scene setting helped participants to manage anxiety, eliminate distractions and focus their attention using learning strategies such as visual-spatial signposting to hyperfocus, which is expressed through the metaphor of gating. Gating extends to gate-keeping, time-keeping and book-keeping, forms of strategic partnering support that greatly benefit the participants. Such external support, combined with socio-economic status, stability, greater self-awareness and self-advocacy, strongly influenced how well the participants could function in the HE environment. The research also highlights the tensions between institutionalised learning environments and ADHD.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Literature review -- Chapter 3. Methodology -- Chapter 4. Data : the protraits -- Chapter 5. Discussion -- Chapter 6. Conclusion -- Appendices -- References.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 212-232

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Educational Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Educational Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Neil Harrison

Additional Supervisor 1

Judith Homewood


Copyright Christine Young 2018. Copyright disclaimer: http://mq.edu.au/library/copyright




1 online resource (xviii, 232 pages) colour illustrations

Former Identifiers

mq:70543 http://hdl.handle.net/1959.14/1265306