University of Leicester
PRBM-451211-cognitive-flexibility-rsquo-s-role-in-reducing-academic-stre.pdf (1.25 MB)

Cognitive Flexibility’s Role in Reducing Academic Stress During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-02-13, 15:53 authored by Bandar Alsaif, Sehar-un-Nisa Hassan, Mohamed Ali Alzain, Ali A Almishaal, Aqeela Zahra

Background: Cognitive flexibility (CF) in the psychological literature has been described as an individual’s ability to produce several solutions and retain control in novel situations. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to be an ideal scenario that demanded the application of adaptive thinking by students to deal with several challenges of the pandemic.

Aim: This study aimed to assess the role of CF in reducing academic stress among university students due to the sudden and strict implementation of online education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: This study employed a cross-sectional survey design and data collection was completed during the 2020– 2021 academic year. The study sample comprised 328 university students from Saudi Arabia. The online survey method was used, and study tools comprises of reliable and valid psychological measures to assess CF, academic stress, the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and emotional symptoms. IBMSPSS25 was used for statistical analysis of data. Multiple regression analysis was applied to determine the role of CF in reducing academic stress after controlling for other factors such as gender, age, academic year, negative impact of COVID-19 on daily life, and unpleasant emotional experiences.

Results: CF was significantly decreased the risk of experiencing academic stress (b = ‒0.196, t = ‒3.54; p < 0.001; 95% CI = ‒3.53 to ‒0.11) after controlling for the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on daily life (b = 0.119, t = 2.09; p < 0.05; 95% CI = 0.02– 0.63) and emotional repercussions (b = 0.109, t = 1.91; p < 0.05; 95% CI = ‒0.01– 0.15).

Conclusion: The current findings suggest that CF could be fostered among university students as a useful mental tool to cope with academic stress during less-structured educational and social circumstances that may impact their daily lives and emotional wellness.

Plain Language Summary: Cognitive Flexibility (CF), also known as the capacity for adaptive thinking, has been recognized as an important mental coping tool. The prolonged implementation of full-time online studies during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a source of academic stress among university students. This study examined the positive impact of cognitive flexibility on academic stress by collecting data from university students who underwent full-time online studies during the COVID-19 pandemic in Saudi Arabia. The study findings validated the protective role of CF, and recommended devising appropriate educational strategies that could foster adaptive thinking and enable students to cope with study-related stressors during uncertain times.


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Taylor & Francis Group

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Dr Aqeela Zahra

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