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Thesis Defence: Inside the Student Mind: An Exploration of Self-Reported Executive Functioning Skills in University Students

April 8 at 2:30 pm - 6:30 pm

Addie Mercuri will defend their thesis.

Addie Mercuri, supervised by Dr. Peter Arthur and Dr. Robert Campbell, will defend their thesis titled “Inside the Student Mind: An Exploration of Self-Reported Executive Functioning Skills in University Students” in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Education.

An abstract for Addie Mercuri’s thesis is included below.

Defences are open to all members of the campus community as well as the general public. Registration is not required for in person defences.


The transition to university life can be challenging for students as they adapt to a new learning environment with potentially ineffective academic skills (De Clerq et al., 2018; Donche et al., 2010). As students progress in their university journey, they develop habits and abilities that shape their learning approach, influencing their sense of identity and beliefs in their capabilities. Executive functioning skills (EFS), the higher order functions that are essential for complex behaviours and cognitive processes, play a critical role in students’ mental well-being and academic success within university life (Pendry et al., 2021).

This quantitative study aims to explore university students’ self-reported EFS, investigating potential differences or correlations with variables such as age, sex assigned at birth, academic year of study, and academic performance. Using the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function—Adult Version (BRIEF-A; Roth et al., 2005) questionnaire, this study assessed individual aspects of EFS in relation to demographic variables. Key findings included high deficits (above 25% of the sample population) in the Task Monitor scale and Working Memory scale, and significant differences in the Emotional Control scale scores between assigned at birth males and females.

Last, there were negative correlations found between deficits for Metacognitive Index (MI) items, including the Working Memory scale, Plan/Organize scale, and the Organization of Materials scale, and students’ final course grade percentage. Age, the Inhibit scale, the Shift scale, the Emotional Control scale, the Self-Monitor scale, the Initiate scale, the Task-Monitor scale, the Behavior Regulation Index (BRI) and the overall Global Executive Composite scale (GEC) did not correlate with any academic performance measures. No scales measured by the BRIEF-A questionnaire resulted in a correlation with overall GPA measures, including the 2021/2022 academic year GPA and the 2022 fall GPA.

Future research in measuring EFS in university students could include focusing on metacognitive aspects in relation to academic performance. Should future research corroborate the present studies findings, employing and evaluating interventions or support systems targeting working memory enhancement and other crucial components like plan/organization and organization of materials may improve academic outcomes for university students (Minihan et al., 2021; Otero et al., 2014). In addition, further investigation of the intersectionality of EFS and emotional control, particularly regarding sex assigned at birth differences, could inform tailored interventions to enhance well-being among university students (Esmaeilinasab et al., 2016).


April 8
2:30 pm - 6:30 pm


Engineering, Management, and Education Building (EME)
1137 Alumni Ave
Kelowna, BC V1V 1V7 Canada
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Additional Info

Room Number
Registration/RSVP Required
Event Type
Thesis Defence
Research and Innovation, Student Learning
Alumni, Community, Faculty, Staff, Families, Partners and Industry, Students, Postdoctoral Fellows and Research Associates