In this section we feature research highlights from the Directory of Canadian Adult Literacy in English. This comprehensive online resource is constantly being updated to improve coordination and information-sharing among Canadian literacy practitioners and researchers. Find completed research as well as research in progress in the Directory at www.nald.ca/crd/start.htm.
Coping strategies of successful students
Adult basic education students are often juggling the multiple demands of school, work, and relationships. These demands, coupled with limited financial income, contribute to the students' levels of stress. Yet, despite the many difficulties they face in their day-to-day lives, many students persist and complete their schooling. Marvin Bjornstad examined the coping strategies used by highly stressed, but successful students enrolled in a college ABE program.
ABE program coordinators from three campuses located in small Alberta towns selected 10 ABE students who were successfully completing the semester, despite enduring significant stress in their lives. They ranged in age from 20 to 40; there were nine females and one male.
A Life Stress Questionnaire was administered to each of the ten participants, in order to confirm their stress levels. According to the results of the Life Stress Questionnaire, the participants in this study were very stressed. The scores of the younger female students indicated higher levels of stress than the older women. Significant relationship problems; financial difficulties; personal illness; and health problems and the death of a close family member ranked as the highest stresses in the lives of the ten students.
Marvin interviewed each of the participants, engaging them in a discussion about their coping strategies, using a list of nine strategies as a way to elicit responses (see Table 1). The findings indicated that the older students used significantly more strategies than the younger students to cope with their crises. Overall, the most common coping strategies were using humour and seeking advice from others.
The students also used their support systems including school support to get them through a crisis. The findings revealed that parents were the key supports; they listened, helped with chores, and in some instances, provided monetary support. For many, the ABE program was a refuge or getaway from their stresses at home. Among the women, spousal support ranked as the lowest form of support.
Although this study generated many conclusions and implications, it is clear that the general student population would benefit by being aware of some coping strategies. ABE programs could use discussion and role play to help develop students' use of these coping strategies.
Bjornstad, M. (2002). Strategies used by successful, highly stressed students in a college ABE program. Unpublished Masters Thesis. St. Francis Xavier University. Antigonish, NS.
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