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Correlates of student stress in secondary education

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Background New demands are imposed by rapid change in the education system; these, in turn, cause stress. Previous studies have suggested that the degree of stress experienced by students is affected by characteristics of education, teachers and the students themselves. Purpose To identify student and teacher characteristics that determine the stress experienced by students in Dutch secondary education. Sample The sample consisted of 3300 students with an average age of 16 years 5 months (standard deviation of seven months) who entered their first year of secondary education in The Netherlands in 1995. Design and methods Students' cognitive ability levels were assessed by means of a cross-curricular skills test. Their level of fear of failure was assessed by means of an achievement motivation questionnaire. Student stress was categorized as 'experienced study workload' and 'perception of lack of teacher guidance'. Results Data suggested that fear of failure was associated with experienced workload as well as perception of lack of teacher guidance; cognitive ability was associated only with workload. Teaching style, as reported by teachers, was not associated with student stress. Only teachers' age was associated with student stress. The older the teacher, the more students experienced heavy workload and perceived strong lack of teacher guidance. Conclusions Student support should be differentiated depending on student need - some students may need cognitive support and others emotional support. It may be that if those perceiving a lack of teacher guidance were given support at the socio-emotional level, the possibility of their withdrawal from education would be reduced.
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Keywords: Cognitive capacity; Fear of failure; Student stress; Workload

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: March 1, 2007

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