Stress, coping strategies and academic achievement in teacher education students


Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, 42:3, 375-390

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study focuses on stress, coping strategies and academic achievement in teacher education students and has three objectives: to describe different degrees of stress and coping styles; to examine the relationship between stress, coping strategies and academic achievement; and to examine whether increased age can moderate the effects of stress on academic achievement.

Participants - The research sample of this study consists of 334 undergraduate university students at a Spanish university enrolled in a bachelor’s degree course in either Early Childhood Education or in Primary Education (79.6% women) whose mean age was 23.6 years old (SD = 5.2).
Measures - The following questionnaires were administered by the researchers:
The socio-demographic data sheet - This questionnaire provided information about the respondents’ age, gender, year of study, degree being studied, country of birth and family socioeconomic status (FSS).
The perceived stress scale (PSS) - This questionnaire provided information about the participants’ perception of the stress they experience.
The questionnaire is widely used in educational studies with students.
The coping responses inventory-adult form (CRI-A) - The CRI-A was used to obtain an indication of the respondents’ coping strategies.
Academic achievement - The students specified their university grade-point average and the number of academic credits they had successfully completed.
Procedure - The questionnaires were administered to groups of 15–30 students over a 1-hour
session in their classrooms.

Results and discussion
Regarding the authors’ first objective (to study the relationship between stress, coping strategies and academic achievement), a substantial proportion of the students in the study (51.2%) experienced notable levels of stress.
The prevalence of stress reported in the study resembles the levels reported in international university student populations (Deasy et al. 2014a; Tavolacci et al. 2013).
The coping profile of the students in the research sample was characterized by avoidance strategies such as cognitive avoidance, emotional discharge and seeking alternative rewards.
Another finding in this study reported by the authors relates to the variables that are most closely associated with students’ academic performance.
Approach strategies such as seeking help and attempting to solve problems were positively related to academic performance, while cognitive avoidance and stress were negatively related.
The authors note that these results corroborate the findings of numerous studies (Deasy et al. 2014a; Gustems and Calderon 2013; Pietarinen et al. 2013), suggesting that academic performance depends in part upon how students perceive and cope with stressing situations.
One educational implication of the results noted by the authors is that knowledge of how students deal with personal and academic difficulties is a better predictor of their academic achievement than knowledge of their level of stress.
Students who were under less stress and who responded to pressure with fewer avoidance coping strategies and more approach coping strategies were also those who performed best academically.
The authors’ results show that students perform worse under stress, but that the effects of stress on performance diminish with age, so younger students are more likely to ignore their emotional or mental ill health.
The authors note that because stress is often accepted as being part and parcel of student life, few measures are taken to prevent it.
However, it is important to understand the detrimental effects of stress on students’ academic performance and personal well-being.
In the case of preservice teachers, this is also important because today’s teacher education students will be tomorrow’s teachers.
Some studies suggest that student attrition is related to stress and to expectations about and motivations for entering teaching (Van Maele and Van Houtte 2015; Watt and Richardson 2012).
Unhealthy lifestyles, high levels of psychological distress and maladaptive coping strategies raise concerns about students’ future role as teachers in a profession which can become especially stressful and lead to early burnout.
The authors suggest that those who are responsible for designing university curricula should work proactively to address the problem of stress in student populations, and help individuals acquire specific approach coping strategies (Vaez and Laflamme 2008; Väisänen et al. 2018), i.e. help the students to regulate one’s well-being is an important part of a teacher’s competence and it should be recognized and facilitated during the teacher studies (Väisänen et al. 2018).
The authors stress that environments that provide support and help teachers derive a sense of personal accomplishment and satisfaction from their work are more likely to promote resilience (Blackmore, Howard, and Kington 2018; Mansfield et al. 2016).

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Updated: Dec. 09, 2019