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Research & Publications

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.

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)

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

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.

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.

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.

Pathways to mental health and wellbeing: Understanding and supporting students during critical school-to-work transitions


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

Mental illness amongst students in higher education has increased in recent years.  Several contributing factors have been identified, including the growing number of students with pre-existing problems who are pursuing university and the fact that emerging adulthood is a time of developmental vulnerability to social pressures. Other key factors include academic pressure, the financial burden of student debt, and increasing uncertainty around making a successful transition to the workplace. These pressures are often more pronounced for minority students – in particular ethnic and sexual minority students. Peer support and connectedness to school have been identified as key areas for building protective factors for positive mental health outcomes and lower rates of health-risk behaviours. Many higher education institutions also offer work-integrated learning programs (WIL) to help ease students’ financial burden and increase their level of employability. However, participation in WIL may impact on students’ academic and social support networks. For instance, programs in which students participate in off-campus work placements (i.e., co-operative education) can cause disruption in students’ connectedness to school and their perceived level of social support. This chapter examines the intensification of mental health problems on campus and explores the importance of sense of belonging and social support as protective factors. Furthermore, the chapter explores how WIL can both protect and hinder students’ mental health and wellbeing and examines current evidence for interventions that can help students prepare for their school-to-work transition. 

In "Work-integrated learning in the 21st century: Global perspectives on the future" (T. Bowen, & M. T. B. Drysdale)

Learning attributes, academic self-efficacy and sense of belonging amongst mature students at a Canadian university


Sandra Erb & Maureen T.B. Drysdale

The current study investigated learning attributes, academic self-efficacy and sense of belonging of mature adult students in higher education. Undergraduate students of all ages at a large Canadian research intensive university were recruited to participate in an online survey. Mature and traditional age students were compared on their motivation and learning strategies, test anxiety, academic self-efficacy and sense of belonging. Results revealed that mature students possessed significantly higher levels of overall academic self-efficacy and lower levels of test anxiety than traditional age students, boding well for their success in higher education. However, significantly lower levels of sense of belonging reported by mature students provide cause for concern considering the relationship between sense of belonging, persistence in higher education and well-being. Implications, limitations and recommendations for future research are provided.

Building multi-target commitment through work-integrated learning : The roles of proactive socialization behaviours and organizational socialization domains


Antoine Pennaforte, Maureen Drysdale, & T. Judene Pretti

This research tested the relationships between 2905 newcomers’ proactive socialization behaviours and two outcomes – organizational socialization domains and unidimensional target-free commitment – in the particular context of short-term contracts prior to graduating. The short-term contracts were four-month work-integrated learning work terms built into a student’s degree requirements. Results from multiple regressions supported the direct relationships between proactive socialization behaviours and two outcomes of organizational socialization domains and unidimensional target-free commitment. In addition, a mediating effect of socialization domains in the relationship between proactive socialization behaviours and commitment (to the team and to the work) was revealed. Findings indicated that even in temporary short-term employment, individuals mastered socialization in organizational domains and developed multiple paths to nurture several links between themselves and their organizations with respect to commitment. The discussion focuses on the theoretical and practical implications of the findings and provides recommendations for future research.

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