Since the start of 2018 the Ruyton School community has been on a journey to understand our students’ experience of academic worry through our research study, From Anxiety to Empowerment. At the end of 2019 parents joined us to collaborate on this project. We reflected on our journey thus far, explored and provided the opportunity for discussion with parents to further contribute to our research project.
Why study academic worry?
Stressful events are very common in educational settings, both for students and for teachers. A multitude of exams, evaluations and deadlines creates an enormous pressure to perform. This stress, however, can have a critical impact on learning and memory processes. In this study, we have intentionally used the language of 'academic worry' rather than stress or anxiety. This ensured students from Years 5 to 9 could relate to the questions posed in the surveys used to collect the data.
Using student voice for meaningful data
Over the course of this study, we have been asking students to reflect on their experience of academic worry at school. This qualitative approach has helped us understand academic worry through the eyes of our students. It has been their voice and the consistent use of a Data Driven Dialogue protocol with students, staff and parents that has helped us make sense of and determine strategies and structure learning to effectively minimise academic worry for our girls.
Collaborating with parents
Workshops provided the opportunity to engage with our parents to gain insights and parent perspectives on the topic of addressing academic worry. At a workshop late in 2019, we read ‘Little Miss Anxiety’, a chapter from Madonna King’s book, Being 14, and then used a protocol that helped us discuss the issue of anxiety from an Australian girls' perspective. We gathered parent input, that will assist our researchers to determine potential ways forward to tackle the epidemic of anxiety. Collaborating with parents is one method of data collection in this proactive study, Ruyton is leading the way in combating the effects of anxiety or academic worry in girls.
Below is a sample of some the practical classroom strategies our parents discussed:
“Celebrate growth rather than the percentage on the test.”
“Reflect on failure.”
“Meditation moments in school.”
“Plan / organise students’ time management to prioritise relaxation.”
Dr Bern Nicholls
Student Leadership Coordinator
Ruyton Girls' School