University of Missouri blames pandemic isolation on academic failure, mental health issues

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By JOE MUELLER
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER

(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 program’s creators and author of a later study, said the initiative helps maximize taxpayer resources for the university, while helping students prepare to enter the job market. work. 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, Dr. Larson said. “When this student graduates, we will have someone who is more ready for the job market and more ready to do good things in the world of work. Not only do they have the educational and intellectual background, but when they graduate from college, they will 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. Dr. 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 realization,” Dr. 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 Department of English and Technical Communication. 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. Students complained of “stress”; they reported feeling “overwhelmed” and described themselves as “procrastinating”, “behind” and “struggling”. 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,” Dr. 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.”

Dr. 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 said their findings paralleled other research concluding 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. oneself and/or those close to it, but more with the difficulties linked to distance learning and social isolation.

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