Professor receives NSF grant to study the Impact of COVID-19 emotional stressors on executive function and e-learning
Lindsey Richland will research how undergraduates might learn to influence stressors that are impacting new learning
Richland will study students’ stress in relation to their performance in social science, biology, and education classes that require higher-order thinking, such as making generalizations and encouraging deep thinking about conceptual issues. Along with their academic instruction, students will be taught to think about cognitive resources and how to harness, reappraise, and channel stress into motivation and focus. Cumulative measurements will assess the impact of students’ cognitive and attentional resources on learning and determine whether additional training could offset any negative influences of stress on performance.
“Much of my research on anxiety to this point has focused on how performance pressure impacts learning in the K-12 classroom,” Richland said. “There is considerable research exploring under-performance on tests due to feelings of pressure, but there is less research about the impact of stressors on everyday learning.”
Richland is currently principal investigator on an IES grant that is studying how stress responses impact math learning in children. She understands, however, that COVID-19 presents a unique situation where everyone is exposed, everyone is experiencing pressure, and the switch to distance learning is creating its own stressors.
“From a theoretical perspective, this provides an important opportunity to understand how individual differences in students’ experiences and feelings of worry may interact with their cognitive resources to impact learning,” Richland said. “ From a practical perspective, it is essential that we understand the types of stressors that our students are encountering and how this is differentially impacting their learning, so that we can best meet our students’ needs in the forthcoming period of continued uncertainty.”
Richland is collaborating on project implementation with Associate Professor of Anthropology Justin Richland. School of Education doctoral students Joseph Wong and Natalie Au Yeung, along with School of Law student Bryant Jackson-Green, are assisting with the research design and measurement protocols. Members of Richland’s Science of Learning laboratory, including Isabelle Lerner (lab manager) and undergraduate research assistants, are assisting with project management, data coding, and analysis.