Sunday, October 28, 2007
Law students and stress . . . that was the topic of the second concurrent presentation that I attended. Professor Martha Peters and doctoral candidate Andrea Flynn talked about a model for stress intervention and developing an instrument to measure the stressors in law students' lives.
Professor Peters discussed the different stressors in law students' experience based on their year of study (e.g., 3-L's worry about getting jobs) and how there is an optimum range of stress--too little stress doesn't maximize performance, while too much decreases performance. She also described a 3-step sequence: one first perceives a potential stressor; next, one evaluates it. If the evaluation determines that there is no danger, then there's no problem and no stress response. But if the evaluation indicates uncertainty or danger, then there is a stress response. Too high a level of stress response can impede learning, and long-term stress, even if managed successfully in the short term, can cause deterioration of performance over the long term.
Stress intervention includes reframing the initial evaluation, developing psychological coping strategies, identifying resources, and creating a social support network.
Ms. Flynn's research focuses on her development of a valid instrument to develop a measure of law school stressors. The three-phase project, in its first phase, seeks to identify a list of stressors that go to the law school experience (that is, are not general stressors such as a family issue, but that are part of law school, such as exams or grades). She observed that law students start out in a normal range on evaluations of stress and psychological health and rapidly decline (get more stressed and demonstrate more psychological problems) as they go through their first semester of law school.