A growing body of research revealed that students’ mental wellbeing is becoming one of the most important issues affecting the education sector. Exams and tests such as ATAR were noted to be among the reasons behind the increasing rates of anxiety and stress for students.
With depression cases also on the rise, principals have expressed that their students’ mental health is among their key concerns for this year.
To ensure student wellbeing, university experts are calling for educators – especially in primary schools – to promote academic buoyancy.
A new longitudinal study by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Australian Catholic University, which covered 481 years 7 to 12 students, revealed that students who were able to “bounce back” from setbacks such as failing a subject, suspension or moving schools had less education adversity later on.
The study also found that the extent of prior academic adversity did not translate to better academic buoyancy for students later on.
However, the study did not dismiss academic adversity entirely, so long as it is tied with higher levels of academic buoyancy. Another UK study published in 2013 also found that students can overcome academic adversity by reflecting on their experiences to help them overcome these hurdles.
Tips for teachers
UNSW Scientia Professor Andrew Martin, one of the researchers, said that, as students are placed under pressure to come out with good results, they need to be taught how to deal with challenges they face to reduce the risk of academic adversity and obstacles later on.
Scientia Professor Martin’s study also recommended that educators should look into developing their students’ confidence and relationships with their teachers and peers.
Another study by the Western Sydney University found a link between engagement in school activities, as well as a connection to the school community, and better student outcomes.
Teaching mindfulness at an early age can also help them manage their feelings, another aspect linked to better student outcomes. The Karma Class, for instance, has a program that helps teachers guide their students into managing their stress.
The NSW government, meanwhile, pledged that it will expand its mental health services to schools this year, although this was done in response to the bushfires that had led to the closing of some schools as well as loss of homes for some students.
Educators can also refer to the ‘5Cs’ of academic buoyancy, which were found to be effective in a 2010 study conducted by researchers from the Universities of Sydney and Oxford.
Teachers will first have to help students gain composure, or manage their anxiety, and build up their confidence to help them counter negative thoughts.
Teachers should also remind students to remember to co-ordinate with them on their plans to keep them from getting overwhelmed with the tasks at hand and help them commit throughout the process by encouraging them to reach out for help to push through with their tasks.
Lastly, teachers also need to help develop their students’ sense of control to promote independence.