Stress and Learning in Pupils: Neuroscience Evidence and its Relevance for Teachers

Author: Sue B Whiting1, Sam V Wass2, Simon Green1, Michael S C Thomas1,3
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup> Department of Psychological Sciences Birkbeck, University of London, London, UK. <sup>2</sup> School of Psychology University of East London, London, UK. <sup>3</sup> Centre for Educational Neuroscience Birkbeck, University of London, London, UK.
Conference/Journal: Mind Brain Educ
Date published: 2021 May 1
Other: Volume ID: 15 , Issue ID: 2 , Pages: 177-188 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1111/mbe.12282. , Word Count: 175

Our understanding of how stress affects primary school children's attention and learning has developed rapidly. We know that children experience differing levels of stressors (factors that cause stress) in their environments, and that this can influence how they respond to new stressors when they occur in educational contexts. Here, we review evidence showing that stress can increase children's attention and learning capacities in some circumstances but hinder them in others. We show how children differ in their attention and learning styles, dependent on stress levels: for example, more highly stressed children may be more distracted by superficial features and may find it harder to engage in planning and voluntary control. We review intervention research on stress management techniques in children, concentrating on psychological techniques (such as mindfulness and stress reappraisal), physiological techniques (such as breathing exercises) and environmental factors (such as reducing noise). At the current time, raising teachers' awareness of pupils' differing stress responses will be an important step in accommodating the differing needs of children in their classrooms.

PMID: 34239601 PMCID: PMC8248342 DOI: 10.1111/mbe.12282