University of Missouri blames pandemic isolation for failing grades and mental health issues | Missouri


(The Center Square) — An outreach program helped students recover from failing midterm grades, and related research confirmed that pandemic-induced isolation was contributing to their learning issues.

An intensive counseling program at Missouri University of Science and Technology helped students achieve a grade of C or higher after their grades were D and F mid-semester. About 25% self-reported that their academic performance was negatively affected by mental health issues.

Jossalyn Larson, one of the creators of the program and author of a further study, said the initiative helps ensure that the university’s fiscal resources are maximized, while helping students prepare to enter the workforce. The project was funded by the College of Arts, Sciences and Business as part of an overall initiative to support student academic success.

“Much of our focus, and by extension our funds, is supporting the student holistically, Larson said. “When this student graduates, we will have someone who will be more ready for the job market and more ready to do good things in the job market. Not only do they have the educational and intellectual background, but by the time they’ll be done with college, they’ll have the emotional and mental health and self-efficacy they need.”

When in-person classes resumed after COVID-19 forced remote learning, university leaders witnessed an overwhelming trend of poor student performance. Larson and Elizabeth Roberson were tasked with identifying the problem and creating a solution.

“It was happening a lot more than usual; it was a collective wake-up call,” Larson said. “Everyone on campus — from professors to administrators — was seeing the same thing.”

About 160 undergraduate students were identified by 31 professors from the English and Technical Communication department. After respondents participated in intensive teacher-created counseling, 59% increased their grades to C or better.

The report found that students responding to the program described “their problems stemming from a general lack of personal well-being. and “in trouble”. This self-deprecating self-talk contributed not only to students’ midterm grades, but also to their lack of confidence that they could get their grades back at the end of the course.”

“When we came back into the classroom, there was this assumption that it would be business as usual,” Larson said. “But what we found was that the students weren’t ready for business as usual because they were dealing with all the effects of isolation during that year.”

Larson said students returning to campus and those starting after a final year of high school spent in distance learning had significant difficulty. They often struggled to start classes and felt too ashamed to ask for help or more time to complete their homework.

Their report indicated that their findings paralleled other research discover that the pandemic is responsible “for a striking increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety among college students, and that these symptoms are less correlated with COVID-19 diagnoses of self and/or loved ones, but more with difficulties associated with distance learning and social isolation.”


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