Learning environment, students’ coping styles and emotional and behavioural problems
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One of the main purposes of the present thesis was to investigate to what extent associations between learning environment factors and emotional and behavioural problems could be influenced or accounted for by variations in personal characteristics. This was based on previous research which had stated that the associations between perceived learning environment and behavioral and emotional outcomes had primarily been identified at the individual level. Students’ coping styles were included in the thesis as measurements of personal characteristics. A further purpose of the study was to explore the extent to which different learning environment factors were associated with off-task-orientation, emotional problems and externalising problems. In addition to exploring how students’ coping styles could influence the relationship between learning environment factors and emotional and behavioural problems, investigating the direct associations between students’ coping styles and emotional and behavioral problems were also of interest. Two data sources were used: a survey conducted in 1998 among 2006 9th grade students in a representative sample of Norwegian municipalities and a one group pretest-posttest design study linked to a restructuring of the learning environment in a Norwegian secondary school of 350 students. The restructuring itself provided us with an opportunity to investigate the aims of the thesis adopting an approach other than the survey study. The results indicate that the way students usually cope with academic and social stress at school is related to their reports of emotional and behavioural problems, and, in general, a similar relationship pattern was found for the ten per cent of students with the most serious problems. These results indicate that students’ coping styles are good predictors of emotional and behavioural problems. With regard to the examination of the degree to which the associations between learning environment factors and emotional and behavioural problems could be influenced or accounted for by students’ coping styles, the results showed that one third of the variance learning environment factors accounted for in emotional and behavioural problems had also been accounted for by students’ coping styles. This may indicate that the associations between learning environment factors and emotional and behavioural problems to some degree could be reflections of students’ coping styles in that coping styles affect or color students’ perceptions of the learning environment or that students contribute to the shaping of the learning environment through their coping styles. Finally, the results showed that the learning environment factors still accounted for a substantial amount of the variances in emotional and behavioural problems when controlling for students’ coping style. About two-thirds of the covariance explained by learning environment factors in the variances in emotional and behavioural problems were explained solely by learning environment factors. The unique effect of learning environment factors on variances in off-task-orientation, externalising problems and emotional problems was 22%, 13% and 4%, respectively. The results indicate that most of the learning environment factors are related to emotional and behavioural problems. However, some of the learning environment factors emerge as stronger predictors of emotional and behavioural problems than the others. Among these, emotional support from teachers and perceptions of the meaningfulness of schoolwork stand out the most.
Paper I: School Psychology International 21, Thuen, E., & Bru, E., Learning environment, meaningfulness of schoolwork and on-task-orientation among Norwegian 9th grade students, pp. 393-413. Copyright 2000 Sage Publications Ltd. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0143034300214004Paper II: Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 48, Thuen, E., & Bru, E., Coping styles and emotional and behavioural problems among Norwegian 9th grade students, pp. 493-510. Copyright 2004 Taylor & Francis. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/003138042000272140Paper III: Thuen, E.; Bru, E. & Ogden, T., Students’ perceptions of learning environment factors and their reports of emotional and behavioural problems. To what degree do students’ coping styles influence this relationship? In press. To be published in Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research. Copyright Taylor & Francis.Paper IV: Thuen, E. & Bru, E., Are Changes in Students’ Perceptions of the Learning Environment related to changes in Emotional and Behavioural Problems? Preprint. Submitted to Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research.