Stress, positive psychology and the National Student Survey

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The aim was to explore the predictive ability of sources of stress and a range of dispositional and coping behaviours on student satisfaction and motivation. Most research exploring sources of stress and coping in students construes stress as psychological distress, with little attempt to consider positive experiences of stress. A questionnaire was administered to 120 first-year UK psychology students. Questions were asked which measured sources of stress when rated as likely to contribute to distress (a hassle) and likely to help one achieve (an uplift). The sources of stress were amended from the UK National Student Survey (NSS, 2011). Support, control, self-efficacy, personality and coping style were also measured, along with their potential affect oncourse satisfaction, motivation and feeling part of a learning community. The sources of stress likely to lead to distress were more often significant than sources of stress likely to lead to positive, eustress states. Ironically,factors one would consider would help students, such as the university support facilities, only did so when rated as a hassle, not as an uplift. Published university league tables draw heavily on student course satisfaction but this negatively correlated with intellectual motivation and feeling part of a learning community. This suggests course satisfaction alone reveals an incomplete picture of the student experience. Course educators need to consider how course experiences contribute not just to potential distress but to potential eustress. Teaching quality, effective support and work-life balance are key to student satisfaction and motivation. How educators interact with their students and the opportunities they create in and outside the class to promote peer support are likely to enhance satisfaction and motivation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-30
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology Teaching Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


  • Student stress; eustress; coping; satisfaction; motivation; learning.


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