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ETAP 623 Spring 2009

Reducing Student Stress Through Instructional Practice (mini-course)

Unit 1: Causes and Consequences of Student Stress

Unit 2: Role of Instructional Practice in Student Stress

Unit 3: Implementing Instruction Practices to Reduce Student Stress

Introduction to Project Topic

A good portion of my job is dealing with stressed out students. Our students tend to do 2-3hrs of HW per night, take part in many extra-curriculur activities, and maintain their family role (some must take care of brothers and sisters, cook dinner, go to grandma's house on a Saturday). All these responsibilites tend to leave little time for their own needs including sleep. School places high demands on students time.

This mini-course will attempt to make teachers aware of the stressors in the student environment and help them understand how they can help relieve many aspects of student stress through instructional design.

Needs Assessment

Step 1 – Describe the Intent

Intent Statement:

1. The purpose is to help alleviate a large source of students stress: - the number and construction of assignments that teachers give to students - lack of study and organizational skills of students/teachers, through the use of instructional design

2. Target audience is instructors in a K-12 or beyond environment.

3. The course itself is a short workshop and should take no more than 1 to 3 hours to complete.

4. The contents of the course will focus on proper construction of assignments (subject to change)

 Clarity of instruction

 Awareness of Purpose and importance to planned educational outcomes (including assignment point value)

 Rubrics and expected content of student work

 Achievability given current student knowledge and skills

 Specific deadlines – broken down into smaller parts for larger or long term assignments.

 Use of accepted educational methods to improve retention and transfer

 Modeling and teaching of time management and content management skills

Step 2 – Gather information.


The need for an instructional resource for teachers began with a number of students coming to my office to complain of lack of sleep and too much stress. The sources of stress seem to be centralized around school and class assignments. Also, as part of my role as guidance counselor, I meet with students who are performing poorly in their classes in order to help diagnose the cause and create an academic plan that will help them be more successful. By and large, the lack of student success as well as the accompanying stress, stems not from an inability to understand the material or lazyness, but from poor time management on the part of the student, poorly designed and/or ambiguous assignments demanded by teachers, and/or assignments that assume students understand and can apply principles that have either not been covered in class or were covered but the student misunderstood.

Teachers tend to assume that students naturally have the ability to structure their time in order finish assignments. This seems to be far from the case even for the best students. In addition, teachers often do not accurately assess the time it will take a student to complete an assignment or the pre-requisit skills and knowledge a student will require.

Parents have complained to administration that their children are often up until all hours of the night completing homework. Faculty has responded that students wait until the last minute to finish assignments and therefore pull all-nighters and hand in assignments of inferior quality.

The amount of time it takes for students to study for tests or complete projects far exceeds the number of hours reasonably available outside of school while taking into account sport, activity, socialization, and family responsibilities. Each of the above areas demand a committment from students that they are often unable to meet. This can create overwhelming stress and relatively poor decision making.

One of the goals of the course is to make teachers reasonably aware of the students source of stress and the teachers role in creating some of the pressure. The other major goal is to help the teacher re-evaluate, design, and implement instructional practices that alleviate some of the students stress caused by teaching methodology. Further, it is hoped that teachers will specifically design lessons aimed at increasing students ability to manage their time appropriately as well as improve their study skills.

Learner Profile:

Teachers with a Bachelors degree or beyond and experience in the teaching field of 2-30+ years. The teachers come from various cultural backgrounds (France, Japan, Britain, the US, Australia, Philippines, Canada, and India) and very different emphasis’ on the role of the teacher in the classroom. The teachers are generally highly skilled and have a high level of knowledge concerning instruction, instructional practices, and the psychology of learning. However, this tends to be declarative knowledge as it was learned in the context of a teacher education program or workshop. Often teachers have difficulty applying the concepts within the classroom and tend to revert to old patterns of instruction.

Teachers tend to need to apply concepts within lessons even more so than younger students. This isn’t true in a theoretical context as the human mind is the same or similar but in a practical context. Students can be compelled to try and remember information that is not useful to them. Professionals generally can not. You need to show or prove it’s useful or practicle as well as lay down a theoretical base. Furthermore, if one plans for a technique of instruction to ever be applied by a teacher, hands on activities that require practice are vital. An instructor especially a certified teacher, has had a large amount of theory based education on the best instructional methods, what they lack is learning these methods while within the real environment of teaching the class.

Limitation of the medium

Though this lesson will be designed in a wiki format, this is not the ideal format for instruction; better would be a course management environment, such as moodle, which would allow for a host of other activities including online lessons, where a student (teacher) couldn't proceed to the next point until they successfully answer questions on the first. Or, even forums where they would need to submit plans, process, and outcomes which occurred during employment of the techniques. The wiki tends to lend itself to an informational context, which will have limited effectiveness in supporting practical application of technique.

Step 3 – Summary of Important Ideas

Though not much has changed in terms of intent and goals since beginning the needs assessment, I’m having some doubts of my ability to deliver the lessons with maximum effectiveness for my target population, within a wiki-environment. Perhaps it is my unfamiliarity with the wiki medium that causes these concerns. Over the last two years, I've become quite familiar with the moodle course management system. When I think of designing a lesson online, I tend to think within the framework of that system. Over the course of further instructional design of this project, hopefully I will come to understand better the benefits and limitations of the wiki system.

Course Objectives

Participants will be able to:

1. Understand the causes and consequences of student stress and the major part that school work plays in that stress.

2. Understand how through instructional practice, teachers can relieve some of the stressors that students face and at the same time improve student performance.

3. Design and implement instructional practices within their teaching environments to reduce student stress.

Task Analysis

Course Goal - teachers will acknowledge that student stress can be a problem, evaluate the level of stress students are currently experiencing in their classes, analyze their instructional practices, and change instruction methodologies to reduce student stress and potentially increase student performance in the courses in which they teach.


1. Knowledge of how to use the internet and browsers

2. Knowledge of teaching methodology

3. Current role of a teacher (aimed at secondary school to university level teachers)

4. Ability to create online surveys at survey monkey

Enabling Objectives

Unit 1 - Causes and Consequences of Student Stress

1. Students will demonstrate comprehension of the symptoms and causes of student stress as explained in a short reading by making choices between several prompts.

2. Students will identify why it is important to reduce student stress in order to improve performance and satisfaction of students within a course by making choices between several answer prompts.

Unit 2 - Role of Instructional Practice in Student Stress

3. Students will identify the area’s of student stress that can be reduced or alleviated through teacher intervention, in terms of instructional planning by analyzing student case studies and typing the most likely cause/effect relationship.

4. Students will discriminate between their own instruction practices and those described as stress reducing by creating specific examples of improvements in these lessons to reduce student stress.

Unit 3 - Implementing Instruction Practices to Reduce Student Stress

5. Students will employ these changes within the context of their current teaching environment and evaluate the changes in stress levels experience by their students in regards to their class through before/after online surveys and student performance levels by comparing before/after student grades on assessments.

6. Students will reflect upon the experience, evaluate the level of success with the techniques, and compare these with other students (instructors) by engaging in an online discussion with other students taking the same online course.