[wwpoenglish] Request for Comments: Effectively Teaching Students who Feel Stressed

  • From: Bruce Cook <cookcomm@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "wwpoenglish@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <wwpoenglish@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 4 Jan 2015 14:46:06 -0600

Hello everyone,

Thanks again for reviewing my recent articles.

Here I offer a revision to my second lecture/discussion on the problem of
stress in the higher education classroom.

As you may recall, my December essay focussed on stress as a problem in the

This essay is prepared as a compendium of solutions to this problem. I will
be presenting it in two faculty training sessions *after *I ask my fellow
faculty members to describe their own solutions to the problem of stress in
the classroom.

Any comments on this essay are welcome!


Bruce Cook

*Effectively Teaching Students who Feel Stressed*

*Bruce L. Cook, Ph.D.*

*Chicago ORT Technical Institute *

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to*

*Bruce L. Cook, Cook Communication Inc., 1407 Getzelman Drive, Elgin, IL

*Contact: bcook@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx <bcook@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>*


Given the prevalence of stress among students who study in an intercultural
setting, it becomes important to discover specific techniques which might
reduce stress and connect with students more effectively. Several examples
from research are presented, followed by techniques adapted to various
vocational subject areas.

Keywords: higher education, acculturation, stress, international

Reducing Stress for Effectiveness

In Teaching International Students

Many educational techniques have the potential to relieve stress and
improve quality. However, it’s useful to remember that education is not
available everywhere in the world, especially on a basis of equal access by
rich and poor, men and women, regardless of culture. In this light,
Stromquist and Monkman (2014) completed a study of globalization and
education. The purpose was to recommend quality education, even in
marginalized areas, at low cost, regardless of shifts in geopolitical
power, including state and non-state actors, corporations, and consulting

Given the prevalence of stress among students who study in an intercultural
setting, it becomes important to discover specific techniques which might
reduce stress in the classroom and connect with students more effectively.
Several examples from research are presented below, followed by techniques
adapted to various vocational subject areas.

*General Student Population*

*Relaxation Exercises*. An early bibliography by Wilds (1918) chronicles
early efforts to teach “expression” in public speaking. While not directly
targeted to stress, teaching of expression was common and dealt with
relaxation exercises now reserved for training of theatrical professionals.
This subject is no longer taught in courses on public speaking and the
like, perhaps reflecting a decline of interest in personal relaxation in
favor of courses having increasing focus on complexity and technology.

*Group Communication*. Historically, teaching effectiveness has been
improved as students have been placed into groups for activities and
communication. Richard A. Schmuck (1968) tried various methods to improve
group communication in the classroom, including: sensitivity training,
didactic discussions, problem-solving techniques, and data specific to a
teachers' own classroom.

*Life Space Relevance*. Other early improvements in teaching focused on the
relevance of teaching within the life space of students. An example is a
study (Frymier and Shulman, 1995) asking “What’s in it for me?” Here
content relevance was assessed using scaling and factor analysis. Relevance
accounted for a significant amount of improvement after taking verbal and
nonverbal “immediacy” into account.

*Immediacy*. Instructional Immediacy has been regarded as a promising
solution for dealing with stress and other student problems. Roca (2007)
defined this term at a conference “Student Motivations and Attitudes: The
Role of the Affective Domain in Geoscience Learning” held at Carleton
College in 2007:

According to Roca, instructional immediacy is behavior that brings the
instructor and the students closer together in terms of perceived distance.

Non-verbal immediacy includes

·         Smiling

·         Gesturing

·         Eye contact

·         Relaxed body language.

Verbal immediacy refers to:

·         Calling students by name

·         Using humor

·         Encouraging student input and discussion

Roca found improvements in immediacy when various positive relationships
were involved:

·         Affect toward professor and affective learning

·         Cognitive learning

·         Competence, caring, trustworthiness perceptions

·         Higher student evaluations

·         Motivation considered

·         Homophily – attitude and background

·         Interpersonal attraction – social, task, physical

·         Assertiveness and responsiveness

·         Attendance and participation

·         Out-of-class communication

Negative results were observed when these situations were involved:

·         Verbal aggression

·         Student resistance

·         Distance education (decrease in immediacy)

In summary, Roca offered various recommendations for integrating immediacy
in the classroom:

·         Add one behavior at a time

·         Increase the frequency of each behavior gradually

·         May need to decrease at times for credibility

·         Only use what you’re comfortable with

·         Remember all of the positive relationships with affect-related

Later Bodie and Michel (2014) used analysis of variance to confirm the
importance of immediacy. That study of cognitive learning and found greater
learning gains for groups with higher levels of immediacy.

*Emotional Response Theory*. Another area considered student emotions.
Mazer, McKenna-Buchanan, Quinlan and Titsworth (2014) employed Emotional
Response Theory to demonstrate that communications from teachers could
result in various discrete negative emotional responses in students: anger,
anxiety, shame, hopelessness, and boredom. Students were found to have
negative emotional reactions when the teacher:

·         Lacked immediacy

·         Was unclear

·         Had lower communication competence.

However, these effects were lessened when the student felt the teacher gave
them social support.

*Brainstorming*. Current K-12 educational resources from Educational
Technology and Mobile Learning (2014) are suggesting that a combination of
creative processes might improve teaching effectiveness:

·         Free Writing

·         Free Speech

·         Word Association

·         Mind Maps

·         Question Brainstorming

·         Sleep on the Problem

*Gamification*. Lepi (2014) has cited Public Broadcasting System Learning
Media in a new teaching concept using various game programs and apps.  It
is called “gamification”. Effectiveness here might depend on the game, or
“app”, and perhaps on how well it can be adapted for teaching.

*International Education*

*Teacher “Confirmation.*” Teacher “confirmation” has been proven as an
effective teaching technique for intercultural settings by Goldman, Bolkan
and Goodboy (2014). Examples of teacher confirmation were: (1) responding
to questions and (2) demonstrating interest in an interactive teaching
style. The effect of teacher confirmation seemed more relevant in America,
with less effectiveness in China than in Turkey.

*Quiet Time*. Perhaps the technique with most potential has been tested for
four years in violence-prone San Francisco Middle Schools. (Inquisitir,
2014) Based on the theories indicating that meditation and mindfulness can
reduce stress, these schools made significant changes in order to face
problems with violence. Their solution proved effective. They introduced
two 15-minute periods of “quiet time” during each day and found that “since
the meditation program began, students generally get along better with one
another and were equipped to find ways of dealing with negative emotions
and stressful situations in a positive, non-violent way…. Although many
school officials were initially skeptical when the program was introduced
four years ago, they are now believers in the power of meditation after
seeing nearly an 80 percent reduction in the number of suspensions each
year, coupled with increases in both academic performance and student

*Vocational Education*

Other studies focused on specific educational settings.


*ELLs and Technology*. In a recent study (Robertson, 2008) among K-12
English Language Leaners (ELLs), reported a 2002 Visilearn survey of
students which identified several instructional techniques and methods as
most effective for teaching computer skills to special education students:

·         In-class labs

·         Step-by-step instructions

·         Numerous graphics

·         Information presented in small chunks

·         Real-world examples

Several specific techniques were recommended:

·         Tasks: Computer tutorials organized by tasks, depending on what
students want to do with the program

·         Steps: For each task, concise, step-by-step instructions

·         Illustration: Illustrate each step with a computer screen shot
showing exactly what to do

·         Reinforcement: At the end of each important task, stand-alone
exercises so students have an opportunity to practice the tasks

*In-class Computers*.  The presence of computers in classroom has given
rise to several studies examining student behavior during class sessions.
Fried’s (2008) research asked whether in-class laptops aid or hinder
learning. Multitasking was found to cause significant distractions.  Later
work by Kraushaar, and Novak (2014) used student surveys and spyware on
computers to assess frequency and duration of multitasking. This study
found such multitasking about 42% of the time and this had an unfavorable
effect on academic exam performance.

*Computer-free zones*. In 2012 “computer-free zones” were tested by
Aguilar-Roca, Williams, and Dowd (Roca, Williams, and Dowd, 2012).
Correlational data suggested that academic performance improved for
note-takers but declined for those using computers.  By 2014 Wei, Wang, and
Fass (Wei, Wang, and Fass, 2014) expanded these discussions to include
online chatting as well as note taking. In this study, note taking improved
cognitive learning while online chatting during note taking hampered
student recall of the lecture.

*Medical Education *

In September 2010, King Saud University Medical College in Riyadh, Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia revised their curriculum for medical education because.
According to Soliman (2014), research there had found high stress among
medical students due to lack of time, excessive subject content, tests,
excessive self-expectation, excessive extracurricular activities,
competitiveness and family problems. To ameliorate the problem they
replaced their “teacher-centred” lecture curriculum with student-centred,
multiple learning methods:

·         Lectures

·         Laboratory sessions

·         Small group sessions

·         Clinical practice in small group

·         Integrated disciplines of anatomy, physiology, pathology and
pharmacology so that all departments taught the same system, such as the
cardiovascular system, at the same time.

*Nursing Education*

Mackenzie, Poulin, and Seidman-Carlson (2006) conducted a brief
mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention for nurses and nurse aides
in Applied Nursing Research, This study found that 16 participants in the
mindfulness intervention experienced significant improvements in lower
levels of burnout, favorable relaxation, and life satisfaction.

Jameson (2014) conducted a quasi-experimental study of junior baccalaureate
nursing students using paired pre/post t-tests. This study analyzed whether
an increase in hardiness and a decrease in perceived stress occurred in
those who participated in a hardiness intervention. The study concluded
that hardiness intervention did have a statistically significant effect on
decreasing perceived stress scores.

What is hardiness in nursing education? Perhaps hardiness it best described
as the ability to become “hard” in helping patients in dire circumstances.
Maddi (2006) descries hardiness as attitudes that give courage and
motivation to turn stressful circumstances into growth opportunities. Avery
(2014) found that hardiness has three dimensions, applying it within
Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans.

·         Commitment

·         Control

·         Challenge

Wang (2014) tested a special program to reduce stress in nursing education
which featured instruction in local language (Finnish), names of medical
equipment, etc., and instruction on possible stressors based on previous
stress research.  While detailed descriptions weren’t reported, it was
noted that pre-tests, open discussions and video PowerPoint showcases were
used. The study recommended using video and graphics and local language for
increased effectiveness.

*Conclusions and Future Study*

This brief review reveals a variety of teaching techniques which address
the problem of student stress. While many ideas are presented, few studies
focus on solutions for intercultural setting. Further research in needed in
this area. Thus, it’s especially important for teachers to share and
discuss their experiences with techniques they have employed in schools
serving international students,

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