Society for the Teaching of Psychology: Division 2 of the American Psychological Association

STP at APA 2023; Sad news; and Guest column by Judith Pena-Shaff

24 Jul 2023 12:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

As I write this column, I keep looking at the calendar in disbelief. August, and the start of a new school year, are right around the corner. While I love the start of a new school year and all the possibilities it brings, I cannot believe the summer has gone by so quickly! I hope you have been able to take some time to recharge and relax. I recently found out how important that actually is. Do not let work consume you!

The Presidential Trio (President Elect, Past President and President) along with the executive Director will represent STP at the American Psychological Association annual convention in Washington DC during the first week of August. Our Program Chair, Melissa Maffeo, has put together a program rich in updated content and it looks to be an invigorating experience.

I do have some sad news to share.  I always hate to share such news in a public forum, but it is the only way to reach everyone who might want to know. We recently lost two of our long-time supporters and members. Dr. Rick Miller, former President, passed away this June in Mallorca Spain. Dr. Robin Hailstorks, recipient of the 2023 Presidential Citation, passed away in Washington DC in July. Our thoughts are with their families, and we are grateful for all they gave to STP.

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My guest columnist this month is Dr. Judith Pena-Shaff, the Chair of our Diversity Committee. Her thoughts are really apt given the imminent start of the school term.

Building Resilience in Students: Understanding Factors and Implementing Strategies

Dr. Judith Pena-Shaff, Ithaca College,

The other day, I came across a thought-provoking Facebook message that read: "We are confronting a generation of emotionally weak people, where everything must be softened for them." While it would be unfair to label an entire generation as weak, it is true that some college students may struggle with resilience. In this column, I will explore some of the factors contributing to this challenge and propose strategies I have been researching to incorporate in the psychology courses I teach to help build resilience in students. I hope you find some of these strategies useful as well.

Factors Influencing Students' Struggles with Resilience:

  • Changing societal dynamics: Advancements in technology, evolving family structures, and shifts in cultural values impact how students perceive and respond to challenges. These changes create different pressures and stressors in students' lives.
  •  Increased academic pressure and lack of preparation: College students today face high academic expectations, intense competition, and a focus on achievement. Many are unprepared for the demands of college, leading to stress, anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed.
  • Mental health concerns: Research indicates a rise in mental health issues like anxiety and depression among college students. These conditions can hinder their ability to cope with adversity and affect resilience levels.
  • Lack of experience: College is a transitional period where young adults navigate newfound independence and face new challenges. Some may not have had prior opportunities to develop resilience fully.
  • Limited coping skills: Some students may lack effective coping mechanisms and problem-solving strategies, leaving them ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of young adulthood and college life.

Strategies to Foster Resilience in College Classes:

Building resilience in students is crucial to help them navigate the challenges of academic life and beyond. As psychology instructors, we can play a vital role in developing their coping skills and problem-solving abilities. Here are some effective strategies to consider. Many of these can be implemented both in small and large enrollment classes.

  • Provide theoretical knowledge: Introduce students to various coping mechanisms and problem-solving strategies through theoretical foundations. Explain concepts like cognitive-behavioral approaches and problem-solving models.
  • Demonstrate practical examples: Use real-life scenarios and case studies to illustrate the application of coping and problem-solving techniques. Show how individuals have effectively managed stress and adversity using specific strategies.
  • Engage students in experiential learning: Incorporate experiential activities, such as relaxation exercises, mindfulness practices, and stress management techniques, to help students practice coping skills. Use hypothetical scenarios for problem-solving exercises.
  • Foster group discussions and collaboration: Encourage group discussions and collaborative problem-solving exercises to enhance communication and teamwork skills. Students can learn from each other's perspectives.
  • Assign Reflective exercises: Ask students to maintain reflective journals to analyze their coping strategies and problem-solving approaches. Encourage self-awareness and metacognitive thinking.
  • Integrate technology and resources: Utilize digital tools and online resources that offer coping mechanisms and problem-solving guidance. Recommend stress reduction apps and decision-making aids.
  • Invite guest speakers: Guest speakers, such as mental health professionals or individuals with resilience experiences, can provide valuable insights and real-world examples.
  • Provide constructive feedback: Assess students' coping skills and problem-solving abilities through assignments or quizzes. Offer constructive feedback to help them improve.
  • Promote self-reflection and self-care: Emphasize the importance of self-care and self-reflection in building resilience. Encourage students to evaluate their strategies and make adjustments when needed.
  • Foster a growth mindset: Encourage students to adopt a growth mindset, viewing challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. Teach them to develop resilience through perseverance and effort.
  • Stay updated and adaptable: Keep abreast of the latest research on coping mechanisms and problem-solving strategies. Be adaptable in your teaching methods to meet students' evolving needs.

Building resilience in college students is an ongoing process that requires empathy, understanding, and support. By implementing these strategies, psychology instructors can equip their students with the tools and knowledge to navigate the ups and downs of college life and beyond. Creating a compassionate and supportive environment will foster their growth, allowing them to thrive personally and academically.

Resources Consulted

DeRosier, M. E., Frank, E., Schwartz, V., & Leary, K. A. (2013). The potential role of resilience education for preventing mental health problems for college students. Psychiatric Annals43(12), 538-544.

Rogers, H. B. (2013). Mindfulness meditation for increasing resilience in college students. Psychiatric Annals43(12), 545-548.

Shatkin, J. P., Diamond, U., Zhao, Y., DiMeglio, J., Chodaczek, M., & Bruzzese, J. M. (2016). Effects of a risk and resilience course on stress, coping skills, and cognitive strategies in college students. Teaching of Psychology43(3), 204-210.

Walsh, P., Owen, P. A., Mustafa, N., & Beech, R. (2020). Learning and teaching approaches promoting resilience in student nurses: An integrated review of the literature. Nurse education in practice45, 102748.

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