University of Leicester
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Sources of perceived stress for students in a College of Higher Education : implications for learning

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posted on 2014-12-15, 10:43 authored by Jacqueline. Dabney
Much of the research to identify sources of stress in undergraduates has been carried out in the United States using medical/dental students. Although students in general are increasingly being seen as important contributors in quality assurance procedures, determining the nature and the perceived severity of stressors and the impact these are seen to have on the learning process has attracted little attention from researchers. Furthermore, expanding these findings with detailed accounts from the students involved has not been attempted within the educational field. This research, carried out over two academic years in a college of higher education, set out to address these issues. In addition, the study aimed to examine the importance of variables such as gender, age, academic year and personality in the perception of stress.;During year one quantitative data obtained via cross-sectional questionnaires, formulated using material gathered from the target population, were analysed. Those experiences perceived as most stressful and as having the greatest potential negative and positive effect on learning were identified. Correlational analysis for each item on the questionnaire showed a positive relationship between stress and the degree to which learning was seen to be affected. Findings revealed that gender, age, year of study, self esteem and anxiety influence the perception of stress and/or the perceived effect on learning. Diaries provided qualitative evidence that many of the stressful experiences contained in the questionnaires were occurring on a daily basis.;During year two qualitative data gathered during longitudinal semi-structured interviews were used to explore the experience of stress through the eyes of individual students using a phenomenological perspective. They reported numerous cognitive, affective and behavioural responses to previously identified stressful situations which generally resulted in learning being negatively affected. Suggestions to address the unnecessary and debilitating effects of stress within higher education are discussed.


Date of award


Author affiliation

Nene College

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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