Self-Regulation and Students with Mental Illness


Ren VanderLind

Ren VanderLind is a doctoral student at Texas State University studying Developmental Literacy. Her research interests are currently focused on the issues facing college students with mental illness, particularly in terms of resilience, stigmatization, and identity development. She currently works as the Graduate Coordinator in the Texas State University Writing Center. Questions or comments can be directed to Ren at

College student mental health has been shown to relate to lack of academic success, persistence, and degree completion (Breslau, Lane, Sampson, & Kessler, 2008; Cranford, Eisenberg, & Serras, 2009; Elion, Wang, Slaney, & French, 2012; Keyes, Eisenberg, Perry, Dube, Kroenke, & Dhingra, 2012; Thompson, Connely, Thomas-Jones, & Eggert, 2013).  Research has also demonstrated how students reporting mental health concerns may benefit from development of self-regulatory skills (Van Nguyen, Laohasiriwong, Saengsuwan, Thinkhamrop, & Wright, 2015).

When working to support the needs of students with mental illness, one might feel pressured to have all the answers; on the contrary, there is no one solution for supporting the needs of college students with mental illness as symptoms and necessary supports are rather diverse.  One promising practice for increasing the success of college students with mental illness is teaching self-regulatory skills alongside explicit instruction in how to apply these skills outside the classroom.

By teaching self-regulatory processes, one can provide support to students with mental illness without requiring that they self-disclose their diagnoses or that you specialize your instruction; development of self-regulatory skills is beneficial for all students.  To accomplish this, ask students to monitor their behaviors and the efficacy of them as well as how they might go back and revise their approach for a better outcome.  Then make explicit how this can apply to their academic pursuits as well as their personal lives.  Show students how using self-regulation can benefit them when they are struggling outside the classroom, such as in instances in which they need to seek help.

Developing metacognitive and self-regulatory skills will benefit this population immensely, as building self-awareness is a large component of managing mental illness symptoms.  If you can help students grow in self-awareness, you can help them become more in tune with their personal and academic needs.  It may seem like a small step, but teaching these skills to your students can help those who have diagnosed mental illnesses persist through the course, semester, and academic career.


Breslau, N., Lane, M., Sampson, N., & Kessler, R. C. (2008). Mental health disorders and subsequent educational attainment in a US national sample. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 42, 708-716.

Cranford, J. A., Eisenberg, D., & Serras, A. M. (2009). Substance use behaviors, mental health problems, and use of mental health services in a probability sample of college students. Addictive Behaviors, 34, 134-145. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2008.09.004

Elion, A. A., Wang, K. T., Slaney, R. B., & French, B. H. (2012). Perfectionism in African American students: Relationship to racial identity, GPA, self-esteem, and depression. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 18(2), 118-127.

Keyes, C. L. M., Eisenberg, D., Perry, G. S., Dube, S. R., Kroenke, K., & Dhingra, S. S. (2012). The relationship of level of positive mental health with current mental disorders in predicting suicidal behavior and academic impairment in college students. Journal of American College Health, 60(2), 126-133.

Thompson, E. A., Connelly, C. D., Thomas-Jones, D., & Eggert, L. L. (2013). School difficulties and co-occurring health risk factors: Substance use, aggression, depression, and suicidal behaviors. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 26, 74-84.

Van Nguyen, H., Laohasiriwong, W., Saengsuwan, J., Thinkhamrop, B., & Wright, P. (2015). The relationships between the use of self-regulated learning strategies and depression among medical students: An accelerated prospective cohort study. Psychology, Health, & Medicine, 20(1), 59-70.


Students’ Attitudes towards Mathematics at a Historical Black University (HBU)


Jonah Mutua

Jonah Mutua is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Developmental Education program at Texas State University with a specialization in developmental math.  He earned his M.S. from the University of Texas at Dallas. Jonah taught mathematics at Dallas Community College 2011-2012 and Huston-Tillotson University in Austin from 2012 to present. His research interests involve finding better and practical ways to teach fractions and quadratic equations to college algebra students.

This study attempted to examine if there is any relationship between students’ attitudes towards mathematics and their midterm scores in mathematics. Students’ attitude affects how they overcome academic challenges and their ability to adopt to changes (Bramlett and Herron, 2009). For example, students with a negative attitude tend to give up easily. On the contrary, students with a positive attitude are self-motivated and attempt numerous problems to improve on their speed and/or accuracy in solving mathematical problems. A positive attitude is a catalyst, which inspires students to achieve their goals (Ma & Kishor, 1997).

Theoretical Framework

The Operant Conditioning Learning theory guided this study. According to Bramlett and Herron (2009), the Operant Conditioning Learning theory explains that students’ behavior (attitude) is modified by positive or negative reinforcing. Bramlett and Herron found that when students interact with “role models” who are pursuing a major in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) on regular basis (weekly or monthly), they appreciate mathematics more, devote additional efforts in understanding concepts, and tend to complete their homework on time regularly. The interactions can occur in an informal setting, for example, in a mathematics learning center or in a formal setting like a classroom.  Research questions: 1.What is the relationship between students’ attitude towards mathematics and their midterm scores in mathematics. 2. Is there any difference between male and female students’ performance?


Participants were recruited from a Historically Black University in central Texas. A total of 65 students participated in the study, 34 (52.3%) were male and 31 (47.7%) were female. All participants were freshmen enrolled in developmental mathematics courses. The average age of freshmen students at this institution is 18.5 years old. Students’ participation in the study was voluntary.

Discussion and Conclusion

The purpose of the study was to examine if there is any relationship between students’ attitude towards mathematics and their midterm scores in mathematics. The study found that students’ confidence in doing mathematics was a necessary attribute for students’ performance in midterm examinations. This conclusion is in agreement with previous studies on attitude towards mathematics and sciences (Bramlett & Herron, 2009; Tapia & Marsh, 2004; Ma & Kishor, 1997). Students’ ability to value mathematics was the next highest attribute required by a student to excel in midterm mathematics test. However, student’s gender had p > 0.05 implying that gender was not a significant factor in determining students’ score on the midterm test.


Bramlett, D. C. & Herron, S. (2009). A study of African-American College students’ attitude towards mathematics. Journal of Mathematical Sciences & Mathematics Education, 4(2), 43-51.

Ma, X., & Kishor, N. (1997). Assessing the relationship between attitude toward mathematics and achievement in mathematics: A meta-analysis. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 28(1), 27-47.

Tapia, M., & Marsh II, G. E. (2004). An instrument to measure mathematics attitudes. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 8(2), 130-143.