Neal A. Whitman
ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education
purpose of this report is to help college faculty increase students' learning
by reducing stress among students. Because this report addresses the role of teachers
and students, it is helpful first to explore the relationship between teaching
and learning. The relationship between teacher and learner essentially poses problems
of human relations. Teachers bring more than knowledge to the relationship; they
are motivators, experts, judges. Teachers and learners share responsibility for
learning, and some question whether "teaching" has occurred if no "learning"
of teaching that produces the most learning suggest that "effective"
teachers use an analytical and synthetic approach to the subject matter, organize
the material well to make it clear, and establish rapport with their students.
Most studies identify enthusiasm as important in promoting students' learning.
The key seems to be to make college courses challenging but not threatening.
DOES STRESS AFFECT LEARNING?
stress models emphasize a "mismatch" between the individual and his
or her environment. Both too little and too much stress inhibit learning. Stress
is difficult to define because individuals react to it very differently, and a
situation that is stressful for one person may not be for another. Further, stressed
individuals vary widely in the effectiveness of their coping.
college students, when stressed by academic demands, use ineffective mechanisms
for coping. They may use "defensive avoidance"; for example, avoiding
studying and putting off writing assignments. Teachers can help such students
develop more effective mechanisms for coping through "stress inoculation"--managing
their courses so that students have information about what to expect, giving feedback
on their progress, and providing a degree of control over course activities.
IS THE VALUE OF FEEDBACK AND CONTROL?
is information about current performance that can be used to improve future performance.
When given properly, feedback can encourage positive stress that motivates students
to action and can discourage the negative stress that inhibits action.
can take specific steps to give effective feedback: (1) helping students know
where they stand, (2) setting up "learning loops," (3) providing written
comments on students' work, (4) testing often enough, and (5) arranging personal
meetings to discuss students' work.
a personal sense of control is an important factor in reducing stress. When students
do not know what to expect in their courses, they feel out of control. Teachers
can help students have a greater sense of control by using requests rather than
commands, giving students choices in course requirements, explaining assignments
so students know their purpose, involving students in the design of examinations,
and soliciting and using feedback from students to improve courses and teaching.
who can effectively use feedback and control in their classroom create a climate
ripe for learning. Students are relaxed but motivated to learn when they have
an instructor who provides direction and feedback and who is willing to accept
it in return.
IS THE VALUE OF INTERACTION BETWEEN FACULTY AND STUDENTS?
of college teaching support the view that the frequency and quality of teachers'
contact with students, inside and outside the classroom, affect students' involvement
in their own learning. Positive teacher-student relations have been linked to
students' satisfaction with college, their educational aspirations, and their
academic achievement. And when students perceive their teachers as partners in
the educational process, they are more likely to take on new and difficult tasks.
their relationships with students and enhance students' learning, teachers can
provide structure at the onset of a course, encourage class participation, get
to know students by name, mobilize student tutors and study groups, use appropriate
humor and persona stories, be "professionally intimate," be accessible
outside of class, develop advising skills, and be open to the role of mentor.
students feel less stress and cope more effectively with stress if they feel they
belong to the academic community. Faculty can play a key role in introducing and
welcoming students to that community.
IS THE VALUE OF STRESS AWARENESS?
teachers are not therapists, they can be helpful to stressed students. By demonstrating
friendly attributes, teachers can become aware when students are stressed and
help them cope more effectively. Specifically, they might help students with stress
reactions, maximize the outcome of meetings with students, recognize severe stress
that warrants referral to professional mental health counselors, and disclose
their own thoughts and feelings about the course work.
dropout rate between freshman year and expected graduation year may be as high
as 50 percent. For many students, dropping out of school represents a personal
loss and failure; for many students in school, ineffective coping contributes
to clinical depression. Suicide is a tragic consequence that possibly could be
avoided by greater self-awareness. While faculty are not responsible for the well-being
of those they teach, college teachers can make an important difference.
CAN STUDENTS DO?
should keep in mind that the goal is not to eliminate all stress but to help students
develop a variety of skills to cope with the negative aspects of stress.
To assist students, faculty can recommend a number of strategies: (1) improving
study habits, (2) managing time wisely, (3) learning positive self-talk, (4) learning
how to relax, and (5) joining a student support group.
students try strategies for coping and still experience the negative aspects of
stress, then faculty should encourage students to seek professional counseling
or therapy. This suggestion will more likely be received and acted upon if a good
relationship between teacher and student already exists and if teachers are aware
of what stress is.
guiding principle of stress reduction is "stress inoculation," suggesting
a preventive approach so that the negative aspects of stress can be avoided. Stress
inoculation involves giving people realistic warnings, recommendations, and reassurances.
Hence, this report has focused on the value of feedback, faculty- student relationships,
and stress awareness.
inoculation is associated with giving people information. Yet little research
in the field of higher education describes how best to inform students about the
challenges of higher learning. Research in the fields of combat and health care
demonstrates mixed results regarding the value of information. Thus, a need exists
to identify the factors that influence the helpfulness of information in reducing
research is needed to identify the constructive side of professional intimacy,
self-disclosure, and mentoring. Further research could determine why and how teacher-student
relationships deteriorate and help faculty construct more successful relationships.
Further research is needed to describe the learning that occurs when one
teaches another. Research at lower levels suggests that "to teach is to learn
twice." Better understanding of this phenomenon at the level of higher education
could lead to new teaching strategies. And more research is clearly needed to
understand stress among faculty.
David; and Flora Roebuck. KIDS DON'T LEARN FROM PEOPLE THEY DON'T LIKE. Amherst,
MA: Human Resources Development Press, 1977.
David C.; and Jon C. Dalton. "Why College Students Cheat." JOURNAL OF
COLLEGE STUDENTS PERSONNEL 22 (1981): 545-551.
Carolyn L.; and Carol P. Barnes. STUDIES OF COLLEGE TEACHING: EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS,
THEORETICAL INTERPRETATIONS, AND NEW PERSPECTIVES. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books,
D.C. Heath, 1983.
Stanford C. THE ESSENCE OF GOOD TEACHING. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1984.
Gaff, Jerry G.
"Making a Difference: The Impacts of Faculty." JOURNAL OF HIGHER EDUCATION
44 (1973): 605-622.
Walter H.; Nicholas P. Lovrich; and Phyllis K. Wilke. "Sources of Stress
in Academe: A National Perspective." RESEARCH IN HIGHER EDUCATION 20 (1984):
David. STUDENTS UNDER STRESS: A STUDY IN THE SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF ADAPTATION.
2d rev. ed. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978.
STRESS INOCULATION TRAINING. New York: Pergamon Press, 1985.
Earnest T.; Patrick T. Terezini; and James Hibel. "Student-Faculty Interactional
Settings and Their Relationship to Predicted Academic Performance." JOURNAL
OF HIGHER EDUCATION 49 (1978): 450-463.
Tracey J.; and Patrick Sherry. "College Student Distress as a Function of
Person-Environment Fit." JOURNAL OF COLLEGE STUDENT PERSONNEL 25 (1984):
Neal A.; And Others. INCREASING STUDENTS' LEARNING: A FACULTY GUIDE TO REDUCING
STRESS AMONG STUDENTS. ASHE-ERIC HIGHER EDUCATION RESEARCH REPORT NO. 4, l986.
ED 274 264.
ERIC digest (ED284526, 1987) is a summary of "Increasing Students' Learning:
A Faculty Guide to Reducing Stress among Students" (ED 274 264). Sponsoring
Agency: Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), U.S. Department of
Education, Washington, DC. Contract No: 400-86-0017
opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or
policies of Learn2study, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products,
or organizations imply endorsement by Learn2study.