Psychology Doctoral Dissertation Defense: Kristina Conroy
Tuesday, June 6 at 11:00am
AHC1 - Academic Health Center 1, 235
11200 SW 8th ST 33199, Academic Health Center 1, Miami, Florida 33199
What would it take to bring culturally and contextually responsive, evidence-based practices for youth anxiety into the classroom? A mixed-methods examination of teacher perceptions
The current mixed-methods study examines teachers’ (N=82) perceptions of student anxiety in urban elementary schools serving low-income and minoritized youth. Participating teachers were predominately female (i.e., 87.7%) and predominately from minoritized backgrounds (i.e., 89.2%). Teachers were asked about the nature of student anxiety, practices to address student anxiety, as well as cultural/contextual considerations that influence anxiety. Overall, teachers reported prevalence and signs of student anxiety that were highly consistent with the evidence base. Further, quantitative results revealed that student exposure to community violence and the proportion of Black/African American students within the class were associated with higher teacher-perceived prevalence and concern about student anxiety, respectively. In qualitative interviews, a subset of teachers (n=12) emphasized how 1) most of their students’ anxieties are proportional responses to stressful events (e.g., school safety threats and drills, resource insecurity at home), 2) systems-level problems (e.g., pressure to perform on standardized tests) contribute to student anxiety, and 3) school-based sources of anxiety often interact with traumas and stressors students experience outside of school (e.g., COVID-related family bereavement, immigration experiences).
All survey participants endorsed prior use of recommended practices for anxiety. Among recommended practices assessed, teachers were most enthusiastic about modeling, praise/rewards, cognitive coping, and relaxation strategies. In qualitative interviews, teachers noted key facilitators (e.g., keeping strategies time-limited), and highlighted other supportive structures (e.g., building relationships with students, fostering open communication) that work to minimize anxiety in their classrooms. On average, teachers rated recommended practices for anxiety as somewhat culturally responsive and described opportunities for modification. Moreover, teachers with higher self-efficacy and sense of personal accomplishment at work perceived recommended practices for student anxiety as more usable, underscoring the importance of teachers’ job-related wellness in student mental health promotion. To aid use of recommended practices going forward, teachers preferred professional development resources that were time-limited, asynchronous, and engaging.
Taken together, this study highlights the importance of expanding our conceptualization of the nature of youth anxiety, including how broader economic and social factors exacerbate anxiety in low-income and minoritized youth. Additionally, results suggest value in leveraging teachers’ opinions and existing practices to address student anxiety in schools.
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