Seminar offers instructional strategies to support science students’ mental health

image shows a class in the Curtis Lecture hall

An increasing number of post-secondary students are experiencing emotions such as anxiety in response to academic and non-academic stressors. On Oct. 19, a special seminar presented by the Faculty of Science will discuss anxiety and other emotions in learning.

The role of psychological stress in learning and cognition is an active area of investigation in neuroscience, psychology, medicine and education. Stress influences attention, decision speed, memory formation and recall. It is well established that worrying thoughts and feelings that present as test anxiety serve to reduce students’ cognitive capacity that is required to show what they know on tests.

Jaclyn Stewart
Jaclyn Stewart

Jaclyn Stewart, associate professor of teaching in the Department of Chemistry and the deputy academic director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at the Vancouver campus of the University of British Columbia (UBC), will present a special talk on the topic of stress and students. Her talk will be delivered online on Tuesday, Oct. 19 at 2 p.m. All are welcome to attend this presentation, which will be held via Zoom at

Stewart’s research with organic chemistry learners indicates student anxiety correlates strongly with increased feelings of shame and hopelessness, and weakly with decreased grades, strategic learning behaviours, perceptions of homework value and persistence. Encouragingly, supportive teaching practices can promote students’ emotional health and quality of life. Her talk will discuss strategies to foster social connection, learning motivation, and perceptions of learning in large and small science classes. Designing courses with emotions in mind allows for students to remain hopeful in the face of challenges and persist in working toward their learning goals.

Stewart has a BSc degree in honours chemistry, a MSc in wood science and a PhD in educational psychology. She is passionate about helping students learn to use research-tested study strategies and supporting faculty to adopt evidence-based instructional methods. Her current research interests include investigating how emotions influence learning from feedback, learning assessment, and equitable and inclusive teaching. She is a member of the inaugural UBC Equity and Inclusion Scholars Program.