Stress: Impact on Classroom Engagement and Self-Directed Learning

Sunday, 8 November 2015: 11:40 AM

Rose R. Schwartz, PhD, RN, BC-CNS
School of Nursing, Widener University, Chester, PA, USA
G. Jean Klein, PhD, PMHCNS, BC
School of Nursin, Widener University, Chester, PA, USA

The value of student engagement through active learning strategies is well known. Students who are engaged in content have better retention and improved problem solving skills.  To meet the needs of these students, learning in higher education must shift from content focused, instructor-centered to a constructivist, learner-centered approach.  Focused active learning activities promotes student engagement in their learning.  However, students often face barriers that prevent active engagement learning.  One such barrier to the student success in a nursing program is stress. Stress has the potential to effect memory, concentration, and problem solving ability that can lead to decreased student engagement and self-directed learning. . The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of stress, student engagement and self-directed learning in junior nursing students.  Junior students were recruited from the Medical Surgical Nursing II class in the spring and the Medical Surgical Nursing I class in the following fall. Two cohorts consisted of 166 students total (11.6% male, 88.4% female) with a mean age 21.96 (SD= 3.709; range: 18 – 40).  The students completed the Class-Level Survey of Student Engagement (CLASSE), the Perceived Stress Reactivity Scale (PSRS) and the Self Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS) in addition to a demographic questionnaire.  The mean score on the PSRS was 22.96 (SD: 6.925; range: 5-40 with a total score range 0-46), CLASSE mean 96.96 (SD: 11.354; range: 68-121 total score range 0-136) and SDLRS mean 165.92 (SD: 14.248; range: 136-198 total score range 40-200). There were no significant differences between the two cohorts’ scores on the scales or demographic data. The results demonstrate that the participants reported moderate levels of stress but were engaged in class and utilized self-directed learning strategies. This finding contradicts the literature that purports the negative impact of stress on learning. Nursing students may use the stress to motivate them to be successful in a rigorous program.