Project to combat stress in students
West Nottinghamshire College has teamed-up with educational institutions in Germany and Finland on a pioneering project to help students overcome exam stress.
The project, which is being funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ programme, was initiated by academic studies staff at the Mansfield college and it is now linking with vocational schools Jyväskylän Ammattiopisto in Finland and BBS Osnabrück-Brinkstrasse in Germany, to get their professional input.
The project, called ‘Addressing Exam Stress and Improving Performance Under Pressure’, came about due to an increase in the additional support being made available to students suffering from anxiety, particularly linked to exam pressure.
It will focus on the needs of two different groups. Firstly, students with anxiety who are undertaking exam-based qualifications and secondly, students on exam-based qualifications not presenting symptoms of stress.
The objective is to identify and implement strategies at the point of enrolment and on-programme to build resilience in order to develop a more self-assured student and to engage with students to develop appropriate student-centred approaches.
It will share best practice with fellow professionals to improve the effectiveness of support while carrying out student surveys to measure the impact of the project.
Finally it aims to develop a range of help to support the transition to Higher Education and employment, whether this is in the form of audio and visual guidance or written assistance.
Last week, guests from the two European institutions visited the college for the first of the project meetings which also included a tour of the college, learning more about the role of student services and the ways it can support learners.
A Level students had the opportunity to meet Rea Tuominen and Minna Ahokas from Finland and Lina Haji and Sabine Uniland from Germany. During their tutorial lesson they discussed the kind of exam pressures they face and how they work to overcome them currently.
Nathan Scott, who is studying Business, English Literature and Law A Levels, said: “It’s important to take into account students’ beliefs into what they think will work for this project. We sometimes go through these problems so we know first-hand what issues we can encounter.
“I didn’t used to cope so well with exam and assignment pressure, so I sought help through the NHS. It helped me to discover where I was going wrong. Counsellors helped me to recognise my weak points, how to tackle them and turn them into positives and eventually overcome the fears and stress.
“As students we’re all on the same wavelength, we go through situations together and talking about it can be a comfort. We can work on issues together, listen to one another’s ideas and that’s a good step towards overcoming hurdles and feeling positive.”
Sabine Uniland, English and politics lecturer at BBS Osnabrück-Brinkstrasse, said: “The way students in Germany and the UK cope with stress is very similar. The first important step is for young people to be aware of when stress first hits them, as prolonged periods of stress can cause illness.
“Young people have to remember so much during exam times, so we need to help them to focus on certain things rather than everything at once. We want to help them to manage both study times and leisure times.”
Academic studies curriculum manager Stuart Booker, said: “Initially we’ve done some background research to look at the extent of the problems around stress and looked at the strategies already in place to support students.
“We then spoke to our colleagues from other countries to see if they would be interested in exploring this matter and working with us on it. Happily they’re keen to embrace this project because they recognise similar needs in their own students.
“Ultimately we are hoping to develop a toolkit that will help students to manage exam stress better. We also want students to work closely with us and be fully-involved in the project. We’d also like the resulting toolkit to be able to assist them with managing potential stress in other areas of life, such as job interviews and university studies.”
The next steps in the project will be to set up internet-based sharing platforms followed by a meeting in Germany in spring 2018 to assess progress.
In 2019, there will be a five-day workshop for students from all three colleges that will take place in Finland, allowing the project team to look at proposed strategies and gather learner feedback. The final meeting of the project group will be at West Nottinghamshire College where the toolkit will be launched.