Pay Attention to This: A Knowledge Translation Study of ADHD and its Brain Basis to Preservice and In-Service Teachers




The purpose of the present study was to develop a knowledge translation (KT) activity for educators about the brain in children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The goal was to increase our participants’ knowledge about ADHD and its brain basis. In addition to neuroscience content, the KT activity included the personal story of the lead researcher’s lived experience with ADHD to provide context, and to inform the participants’ perceptions of ADHD. Framed in an action research paradigm, our study undertook three cycles of reflection, planning, action, and observation to develop and improve a knowledge translation activity. The knowledge translation activity was presented to 48 preservice and in-service teachers and members of the public across Canada, with a mixed methods approach to evaluate the outcomes. The findings demonstrated that this knowledge translation activity was effective in enhancing participant knowledge about ADHD. Quantitively, a non-significant trend was observed that participants shifted their perceptions from social and behavioural causes to brain-based causes of ADHD. Qualitatively, the participants indicated making connections between the personal story and neuroscience. Effective KT requires a review of context vocabulary and opportunity for teacher interaction. Teachers are aware of several behavioural management strategies but do not have a clear idea of how or why they work. Teaching neuroscience to teachers allows for a discussion of neurodiversity and a strength-based approach to programming and accommodation. This research could help guide future knowledge translation research into the benefits of combining personal lived experience with neuroscience content.

Keywords: knowledge translation, neuroscience, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, lived experience, storytelling, action research, neurodiversity

Author Biographies

Erin L. Mazerolle, St. Francis Xavier University

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Conor Barker, St. Francis Xavier University

Assistant Professor, School of Education