EXP: Tenacity: Self-Regulation of Attention and Its Relationship with Learning


PIs: Constance Steinkuehler, Kurt Squire, Richard Davidson
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Award Details

So-called ‘non-cognitive’ factors such as grit, tenacity, and perseverance have drawn renewed attention from researchers, policy makers, and the public. Cutting across all three concepts is the fundamental idea of ‘self-regulation,’ or the ability to monitor and appropriately regulate one’s attention. Self-regulation skills are critical for success in today’s era of rapid technological and social change. Luckily, evidence is accumulating that such skills can be taught. New technologies for collecting, tracking, and reporting data offer great promise for developing and scaffolding students’ ability to self-regulate. One such tool is the touch tablet application entitled Tenacity. Tenacity is a tablet based application for middle schoolers designed to train and track the user’s attentional self-regulation. Prior research found that, after using the tool for roughly 20 minutes per day for a period of two weeks, students showed significant improvements in self-regulation skills. In this project, researchers will adapt the existing prototype application for more accessible use on wearable devices, add a data dashboard for monitoring one’s skill development over time, and then assess its use and effectiveness in the natural environment both inside and outside the classroom. The results will be a market ready application for wearable technologies (smart watches) for self-regulating attention, empirical results assessing its use and impact among everyday users, and the public release on iTunes of the software for dissemination and assessment at mass scale.

Specifically, the research team will adapt the current prototype for use on the Apple iWatch, debug and polish its ability to train and track breath-counting accuracy intermittently throughout the day, and implement data visualization tools for use by users and their parents and teachers. They will then assess its effectiveness in an 8-week experimental study using a pretest/posttest control group design with teens (13-15 years old). Finally, they will release the tool to the public via the Apple App Store to examine its use and effectiveness at mass scale. The hypothesis is that systematic use of Tenacity will result in behavior change on standard measures for attention, foster a more productive conceptual understanding of self-regulation, increase self-regulation skills on first order tasks (i.e., direct skill improvement measures within the application) and second order variables, such as school grades and social wellbeing, and increase school affiliation.

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