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Research & Publications

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Our research projects and publications include examinations of:

  • The mental health and well-being of emerging adults (18-29), and the impact of peer support and sense of belonging in university students;

  • The mental health of marginalized emerging adults in learning and working places;

  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of university students;

  • How seasonal changes affect modalities of learning in university students;

  • The relationship between experiential learning and psychological constructs such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-concept, self-efficacy, motivation, study skills, and work ethic.

Mental health and wellness challenges in higher education: A comparison of students in three countries (in-press)


Maureen T. B. Drysdale, Sarah A. Callaghan, Kristina Johansson, Aasim Yacub, Mirjam Folger, Andreas Mahr

This study examined the similarities and differences in sense of belonging, mental health, and well-being of higher education students from three countries. A cross-sectional design using a quantitative online survey was used to collect demographics, and perceptions of sense of belonging, mental health, and well-being. Participants were recruited from three universities in Canada, Germany, and Sweden. All students from the three countries reported only moderate emotional stability, neutral satisfaction with life, moderately strong levels of sense of belonging, and only moderate control of self & events, happiness, mental balance, self-esteem, and social involvement, and sociability. Students in Sweden compared to Canada and Germany reported significantly stronger sense of belonging. Additionally, students in Sweden compared to students in Canada reported significantly stronger emotional stability and higher self-esteem. Higher levels of sense of belonging was strongly related to positive mental health and well-being. No significant differences as a function of sex, age, year-of-study, and program of study were found within and across countries. The findings shed light on the mental health status and well-being of students in two European countries where little research on student mental health has been conducted. Additionally, comparisons are made between student mental health in Canada and these European countries. The results validate the importance of a sense of belonging as it relates to the mental health and well-being of all higher education students. Findings can inform the design of promotion and prevention programs aimed at improving and maintaining mental health and well-being outcomes.

Drysdale, M. T. B., Callaghan, S. A., Johansson, K., Yacub, A., Folger, M., & Mahr, A. (in-press). Mental health and wellness challenges in higher education: A comparison of students in three countries. International Journal of Health, Wellness, and Society.

Disparities in work-integrated learning experiences for students who present as women: an international study of biases, barriers, and challenges


Tracey Bowen, Maureen T.B. Drysdale, Sarah A. Callaghan, Sally Smith, Kristina Johansson, Colin Smith, Barbara Walsh, Tessa Berg

Purpose – This study identifies gendered disparities among women students participating in work-integrated learning and explores the effects of the disparities on their perceptions on perceived opportunities, competencies, sense of belonging, and professional identity.
Design/methodology/approach –Aseries of semi-structured focus groups were run with 59 participants at
six higher education institutions in four countries (Australia, Canada, Sweden, United Kingdom). All focus
groups were designed with the same questions and formatting.
Findings – Thematic analysis of the transcripts revealed two overarching themes, namely perceptions of self and interactions with others in work placements. Theme categories included awareness of self-presentation, sense of autonomy, perceived Allies, emotional labour, barriers to opportunity, sense of belonging, intersections of identity, and validation value.
Originality/value – This study fills an important gap in the international literature about gendered
experiences in WIL and highlights inequalities that women experience while on work placements.

Bowen, T., Drysdale, M.T.B., Callaghan, S., Smith, S., Johansson, K., Smith, C., Walsh, B. and Berg, T. (2023). Disparities in work-integrated learning experiences for students who present as women: An international study of biases, barriers, and challenges. Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

Creating First Impressions: Problems with Diversity and Inclusivity in Higher Education Marketing Materials


Maureen T.B. Drysdale & Sarah A. Callaghan

This study utilized visual content analysis to examine the impressions being communicated to prospective
students through the marketing materials developed by Canadian institutions of higher education for promotion and recruitment. The goal of the study was to examine the images, symbols, and narratives that are used by higher education institutions to market their programs and university life. The results demonstrate that many marketing materials fail to equally represent specific groups of students, including students with different skin colors, Indigenous students, female-presenting students, and students with visible and invisible disabilities. Implications for higher education institutions and the development of marketing materials that represent diverse student bodies are discussed.

Drysdale, M., & Callaghan, S. (2022). Creating first impressions: Problems with diversity and inclusivity in higher education marketing materials. The International Journal of Learner Diversity and Identities, 29(2), 95-105.

The Feasibility and Impact of Online Peer Support on the Well-being of Higher Education Students


Maureen T.B. Drysdale, Margaret L. McBeath, Sarah A. Callaghan

The purpose of this study is to examine the feasibility of implementing an online peer support group and its impact on measures of well-being. A mixed-methods randomized controlled trial design was used to examine the feasibility and impact of online peer support. Comparisons in well-being were made between the online peer support group and an in-person peer support group and control group. Both the online and face-to-face peer support groups scored significantly higher on post-test measures of well-being than pre-test scores and control group scores. Qualitative narratives and significant quantitative findings supported the feasibility of peer support offered online. Post-condition outcomes showed that online peer support is as effective as in-person peer support for improving well-being.

Drysdale, M.T.B., McBeath, M.L., & Callaghan, S.A. (2022). The feasibility and impact of online peer support on the well-being of higher education students. The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, 17(3), 206-217.

Wellness, blaming, and coping during a pandemic: An analysis of perceptions on Reddit


Sarah A. Callaghan, Maureen T.B. Drysdale, Jessica Lee

This study aims to examine Reddit posts regarding the COVID-19 pandemic from a subreddit dedicated to the campus community of a large, research-intensive Canadian University. The goal was to determine what users were sharing regarding their mental health, well-being, problems, coping strategies and perceptions about the health measures taken to prevent further spread. Many users expressed struggling with their mental health and well-being during the pandemic. Difficulties with online learning, finding paid study and affording the costs of living were also reported. Coping was largely conducted through online means and included sharing advice, emphasizing connectedness and communicating information. The mixed perceptions regarding health measures focused on responsibility and fairness, with many users blaming the university and public health units.

Callaghan, S., Drysdale, M.T.B., & Lee, J. (2021). Wellness, blaming and coping during a pandemic: An analysis of perceptions on reddit. Mental Health and Social Inclusion, 25(3), 267-278.

Work, resilience, and well-being: The long game of WIL.


Maureen T.B. Drysdale, Kylie Twyford, Brock Glenn, & Sarah A. Callaghan

With rapid advances in technology and the expansion of the global village, the relevance of work-integrated learning (WIL) in higher education is increasing, with more students participating to access its benefits and to minimize long-term work-related stress and financial burdens – both of which impact health and overall wellbeing. However, students’ experiences with WIL are not all equitable, and there remain significant discrepancies between those who can benefit from participating. Student economic wellbeing and resilience play an important role in the positive outcome trajectory. This chapter presents a foundational overview of work and wellbeing with direct connections to the role that WIL plays in overall health, economic wellbeing, and resilience, and examines the accessibility of WIL for different student populations.

In "Advances in Research, Theory and Practice in Work-Integrated Learning: Enhancing Employability for a Sustainable Future" (S. Ferns, A. Rowe, and K. Zegwaard)

Drysdale, M. T. B., Twyford, K., Glenn, B., & Callaghan, S. A. (2021). Work, resilience and wellbeing: The long game of work-integrated learning. In. S. J. Ferns, A. D. Rowe, & K. E. Zegwaard (Eds.), Advances in research, theory and practice in work-integrated learning: Enhancing employability for a sustainable future (pp. 75-84). Routledge.

Student Mental Health in Higher Education: Discourse on Reddit Reveals Contributing Factors and Solutions


Maureen T.B. Drysdale, Renate Donnovan, Sarah A. Callaghan

This study examined student narratives of mental health problems in higher education from the open forum Reddit after two student suicides at a large, competitive university in Canada. Student narratives including personal struggles and perceptions about mental health were extracted from an open, public subreddit page. A total of fourteen threads with 994 unique anonymous users were selected for analysis. Qualitative data was analyzed by three coders using grounded theory. Multiple themes related to suicide and student mental health problems, programs, resources, and solutions emerged. Factors contributing to mental illness and barriers to mental health support were also identified. Online forums such as Reddit are popular sites for sharing personal experiences, perceptions, and advice regarding mental health, well-being, and suicide. The rich narratives can be used by university officials and practitioners when developing and implementing mental health services on higher education campuses. Implications are provided.

Drysdale, M. T. B., Donnovan, R., & Callaghan, S. A. (2021). Student mental health in higher education: Discourse on Reddit reveals contributing factors and solutions. International Journal of Health, Wellness, and Society, 12(1), 53-68.

Boundary spanning and performance: Applying skills and abilities across work contexts


Patricia M. Rowe & Maureen T.B. Drysdale

An important component of the T-model is the set of boundary spanning abilities that permit an individual to work across complex systems boundaries. This chapter will describe these skills and abilities, and consider how they may be assessed, trained, and developed within educational programs. Two programs explicitly designed to produce T-shaped individuals will be described. In addition, some consideration will be given to how cooperative and work-integrated education programs can also develop boundary spanning skills.

In "Advancing talent development: Toward a T-model infused undergraduate education" (P. Gardner and H. N. Maietta)

Rowe, P. M., & Drysdale., M. T. B. (2020). Boundary spanning and performance: Applying skills and abilities across work contexts. In P. Gardner, & Maietta, H. N. (Eds.), Advancing talent development: Steps toward a T-model infused undergraduate education. Business Expert Press.

Academic Self-efficacy, Subjective Well-being, and Academic Achievement of Students Who “Believe” They Are Gifted


Sarah A. Callaghan & Maureen T.B. Drysdale

Previous research about the relationship between giftedness, well-being, academic self-efficacy, and academic achievement has been inconclusive in most settings and lacking in higher education contexts. This study addressed these uncertainties and gaps using a quantitative, cross-sectional design that included correlational and quasi-experimental methods to examine the subjective well-being, academic self-efficacy, and academic achievement of students in higher education who reported being gifted. Analyses were conducted as a function of students who reported giftedness without a formal diagnosis, students who received a formal diagnosis, and students who self-reported that they were non-gifted. A total of ninety-eight students (thirty gifted and sixty-eight non-gifted) from a large Canadian University participated in the study. Results demonstrated that all self-reported gifted students had significantly higher academic self-efficacy and faculty grade-point averages than students who were not gifted. Students who reported being gifted but had no formal diagnosis reported having significantly higher levels of happiness, self-esteem, and mental balance than students who had received a formal gifted diagnosis. Implications and recommendations for future research are discussed.

Callaghan, S. A., & Drysdale, M. T. B. (2020). Academic self-efficacy, subjective wellbeing, and academic performance of students who think they are gifted. The International Journal of Learning: Annual Review, 27(1), 17-35.

Sense of belonging of sexual minority students participating in work-integrated learning programs


Maureen T.B. Drysdale, Sarah A. Callaghan, & Arpan Dhanota

This study examined sexual minority status on perceived sense of belonging and compared sexual minority students and exclusively heterosexual students as a function of participating in work-integrated learning (WIL). A cross-sectional, quantitative design was used with participants grouped by sexual minority status and participation in WIL. Sexual minority students (WIL and non-WIL) reported lower sense of belonging than exclusively heterosexual students (in WIL and non-WIL). Sexual minority students in WIL also reported significantly weaker sense of belonging compared to non-WIL sexual minority students suggesting that WIL presents some barriers to establishing a strong sense of belonging for sexual minority students.

Drysdale, M. T. B., Callaghan, S. A., & Dhanota, A. (2020). Sense of belonging of sexual minority students participating in work-integrated learning programs. Education + Training, 63(2), 182-194.

Work-integrated learning and the importance of peer support and sense of belonging


Margaret McBeath, Maureen T.B. Drysdale, & Nicholas Bohn

The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between peer support and sense of belonging on the mental health and overall well-being, with a specific focus on comparing the perceptions of students in a work-integrated learning (WIL) program to those in a traditional non-WIL program. Semi-structured group interviews were conducted with 25 participants, selected from a university with a WIL program. Interview data captured perceptions of peer support, sense of belonging, and how these influenced mental health, overall well-being, and confidence in making school-to-work transitions. Analysis followed the grounded theory approach of Glaser. The analysis revealed that peer support and sense of belonging were essential protective factors for university student’s mental health and well-being, particularly during off-campus work terms or when transitioning to the labor market after graduation. Data suggested that participating in a WIL program can exacerbate students’ perceived barriers to accessing peer support resources and, in turn, lead to poor mental health.

McBeath, M., Drysdale, M.T.B., & Bohn, N. (2018). Work-integrated learning and the importance of peer support and sense of belonging. Education + Training, 60(1), 39-53.

Motivation, self-efficacy and learning strategies of university students participating in work integrated learning


Maureen T.B. Drysdale & Margaret McBeath

This study examined differences in the psychological constructs of motivation, academic self-efficacy, and learning strategies between higher education students who participated in a work-integrated learning (WIL) programme and those who did not. Undergraduate WIL (n = 1048) and non-WIL (n = 656) students in all years of study and from several academic faculties, completed the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ), which measures the constructs of motivation, academic self-efficacy and use of learning and study strategies. Results revealed that students who do not gain practical work experience while pursuing their studies have lower grade-point averages, are more likely to use shallow learning strategies, and are more extrinsically motivated compared to students who do gain work experience through a WIL programme. Differences in academic self-efficacy as a function of WIL were not found, however, significant relationships between self-efficacy, motivation, learning strategies, academic performance and anxiety did emerge. Implications and recommendation for future research are provided.

Drysdale, M. T. B., & McBeath, M. (2018). Motivation, self-efficacy and learning strategies of university students participating in work-integrated learning. Journal of Education and Work, 31(5-6), 478-488.

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