Academic Stress of College Students: Comparison of Student and Faculty Perceptions

By Misra, Ranjita; McKean, Michelle et al. | College Student Journal, June 2000 | Go to article overview

Academic Stress of College Students: Comparison of Student and Faculty Perceptions


Misra, Ranjita, McKean, Michelle, West, Sarah, Russo, Tony, College Student Journal


This study examined perceptions of academic stress among male and female college students, and compared faculty and student perceptions of students' academic stress. The sample consisted of 249 students and 67 faculty members from a midwestern University. Mean age of the students and faculty members were 21 years and 42 years respectively. Results indicated a considerable mismatch between faculty and students in their perceptions of students' stressors and reactions to stressors. The faculty members perceived the students to experience a higher level of stress and to display reactions to stressors more frequently than the students actually perceived. This could result simply from the faculty observing the students only during their moments of stress in the classroom. Results also supported the hypotheses that stress varied across year in school and by gender. Implications for improving faculty-student interactions are discussed.

All further correspondence should be made to Ranjita Misra

Introduction

Academic stress among college students has been a topic of interest for many years. College students experience high stress at predictable times each semester due to academic commitments, financial pressures, and lack of time management skills. When stress is perceived negatively or becomes excessive, it can affect both health and academic performance (Campbell & Svenson, 1992). University students often attempt to control and reduce their stress through avoidance, religious and social support, or positive reappraisal (Mattlin, Wethington, & Kessler, 1990; Blake & Vandiver, 1988). Leisure satisfaction and fitness activities act as stress buffers, providing a sense of purpose and competence for college students (Ragheb & McKinney, 1993). Student academic stress is also reduced and controlled through effective time management and study techniques (Brown, 1991). Macan (1990) found that students who perceived themselves in control of their time reported greater work and life satisfactions and fewer job-induced and somatic tensions. Research examining gender differences and comparison of student and faculty perceptions of students' academic stress, however, is limited.

A few studies have examined faculty perceptions of students' behaviors. Studies indicate that student behavior is linked to the attitudes of faculty members (Williams & Winkworth, 1974). Faculty members from predominantly teaching- or research-oriented universities, however, differ in how they evaluate students' behavior (Brozo & Schmelzer, 1985). Interaction with students significantly influences faculty behaviors (Pascarella, 1975). Stress levels of faculty members vary due to personal and organizational behaviors (Pretorius, 1994) that may affect their interactions with students. Although stress-causing stimuli are often similar in the lives of professors and students (Brown, 1991; Pretorius, 1994), teachers also bring stress into the classroom in the form of inherent personality traits (Kagan, 1987). However, stressful personality of a teacher may be perceived as a positive rather than a negative attribute by students (Kagan, 1987). Faculty members' accurate perceptions of student academic stress are important for effective communication with them. For instance faculty may highly prioritize prompt attendance and good academic performance, while some students may not necessarily value such items (Parish & Necessary, 1995).

This study examined (1) academic stress by gender and year in school (class status) of college students and (2) compared faculty and students perceptions of students' stress. We expected that there would be differences across year in school in academic stressors and reactions to stressors due to disparate demands, unique stressors, and acquired coping capabilities of each class (e.g., freshmen leaving home and adjusting to group living, sophomores facing major field curricular decisions, and seniors facing job searches or postgraduate training decisions). …

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