NEW HAVEN — Did anyone ever ask you how you felt about high school?
We’re guessing that scenario was unlikely, given that researchers at Yale decided they needed to study how kids feel at high school.
The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the Yale Child Study Center decided, in a nationwide survey of 21,678 high school students in this country, to ask them how he or she typically feels at school.
The results? Researchers from found that nearly 75 percent of the students’ “self-reported feelings related to school were negative,” a Yale release said.
That results means — answers to the question about self-reported feelings included is “tired,” closely followed by “stressed” and “bored,” according to the release.
The study appeared in the January edition of the Journal of Learning and Instruction. It “also involved a second, ‘experience sampling’ study in which 472 high school students in Connecticut reported their feelings at distinct moments throughout the school day,” the release said. “These momentary assessments told the same story: High school students reported negative feelings 60% of the time.”
“It was higher than we expected,” co-author and research scientist Zorana Ivcevic said in the release. “We know from talking to students that they are feeling tired, stressed, and bored, but were surprised by how overwhelming it was.”
“Overall,” said co-author Marc Brackett, “students see school as a place where they experience negative emotions.”
- Students were recruited for the survey through email lists of partner schools and through social media channels from nonprofits (such as the Greater Good Science Center and Born this Way Foundation.
- Students represent “urban, suburban, and rural school districts across all 50 states and both public and private schools.”
- Researchers found “all demographic groups reported mostly negative feelings about school, but girls were slightly more negative than boys.”
Students were asked to “think about the range of positive and negative feelings you have in school” and provide answers in three open text boxes.
They were also asked to rate on a scale of 0 (never) to 100 (always) how often they felt 10 emotions: happy, proud, cheerful, joyful, lively, sad, mad, miserable, afraid, scared, stressed and bored.
In open-ended responses, “the most common emotion students reported was tired and 58 percent and the next most-reported emotions, all just under 50 percent, “were stressed, bored, calm, and happy.” “The ratings scale supported the findings, with students reporting feeling stressed (79.83%) and bored (69.51%) the most.”
Ivcevic said, also in the release, that when the feelings are examined with more granularity the finding is “interesting”: The “most-cited positive descriptions — calm and happy — are vague.”
“They are on the positive side of zero,” Ivcevic said in the release, “but they are not energized or enthusiastic.” Feeling “interested” or “curious,” she said, would reveal a high level of engagement that is predictive of deeper and more enduring learning.
Ivcevic also said “many of the negative feelings may be interrelated, with tiredness, for example, contributing to boredom or stress.”
“Boredom is in many ways similar to being tired,” she said. “It’s a feeling of being drained, low-energy. Physical states, such as being tired, can be at times misattributed as emotional states, such as boredom.”
The researchers noted the way students “feel at school has important implications in their performance and their overall health and well-being.”
“Students spend a lot of their waking time at school,” Ivcevic said in the release. “Kids are at school to learn, and emotions have a substantial impact on their attention. If you’re bored, do you hear what’s being said around you?”
- Yale noted: “Public attention has turned recently to early start times for high schools in the U.S. and how that contributes to sleep deprivation among students, which is associated with a number of other health risks — including weight gain, depression, and drug use — and poor academic performance.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later, but the vast majority start earlier.
“It is possible that being tired is making school more taxing,” Ivcevic said in the release. “so that it is more difficult for students to show curiosity and interest. It is like having an extra weight to carry.”
Decisions about school start times are often not made with students’ health and wellbeing in mind, Ivcevic said in the release. “There has been a movement in recent years to move school start times later,” she said. “The reasons for not moving it have nothing to do with students’ wellbeing or their ability to learn.”