Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Sarah Nielsen


Attention; Environment; Learning; Mental Processes; Students


Background/Purpose: Higher education institutions are facing pressure by state and federal authorities to retain and efficiently graduate students. The University of North Dakota (UND) has responded by implementing initiatives in light of declining retention rates within recent years. University of North Dakota’s approach focused on best teaching practices and classroom learning approaches versus individualized student programs for academic success. Studying With Successful Sensory Environments (SWSSE) is an individualized approach created within occupational therapy, which focuses on effective management of the environment through knowledge of sensory processing patterns to enhance focus and productivity in higher education. The purpose of this study was to pilot and refine SWSSE.

Methodology: Chen’s (2005) Formative Evaluation Approach is a six-step method utilized to determine the usefulness of each step and formulate solutions to problems identified. Information was obtained through the use of participant surveys, therapist surveys, and therapist reflections. Four UND students who met inclusion criteria participated in this study. Approval from the UND Institutional Review Board was obtained.

Findings: Major findings within the study include: (a) changing from a 6-step process to a 5-step process by combining the first and second sessions, (b) program flow chart and sensory profile results template creation to guide analysis and dissemination of assessment results, and (c) coaching methodology was instrumental for effective implementation of the program. Future research recommendations include pilot effectiveness studies on Studying With Successful Sensory Environments 2.0 and pilot projects for application within other environments.