Impacts of stress on the Reading Comprehension Achievement of students of Ebonyi state university



Background to the study

            Stress is said to be the state of psychological and physiological imbalance resulting from the disparity between situational demand and the individual’s ability and motivation to meet those needs. Stress affects individual activities as well as his academic achievement.

            Stress is defined by Igbaji (2012) as one’s body’s way of responding to any kind of demand. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences. When people feel stressed by something going on around them, their bodies react by releasing chemicals into the blood. These chemicals give people more energy and strength, which can be a good thing if their stress is caused by physical danger. But this can also be a bad thing, if their stress is in response to something emotional and there is no outlet for this extra energy and strength. This study will discuss different causes of stress, how stress affects students, the difference between ‘good’ or ‘positive’ stress and ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ stress, and some common facts about how stress affects people today.  Selye (2003) also defined stress as a non-specific response of the body to any demand for change. This definition was based on the outcome of his laboratory experiment where he used animals as his subjects. He subjected these animals to acute but noxious physical and emotional stimuli such as blaring light, deafening noise, extreme heat and cold and perpetual frustration. According to AIS, (2008) observed that these animals exhibited the same pathological changes such as stomach ulceration, shrinkages of lymphoid tissue and enlargement of the adrenal. He further demonstrated that persistent stress could cause these animals to develop various disease and rheumatoid arthritis. He concluded that disease was caused by specific but different pathogens.

Stress could be positive or negative:

  1. Stress is positive when the situation offers an opportunity to a person to gain something. It acts as a motivator for peak performance.
  2. Stress is negative when a person faces social, physical, organizational and emotional problems.

How stress affects a learner’s performance is a factor worth considering; for instance, a teacher simply standing behind a student during an examination can induce stress. Stress occupies part of one’s attention. Therefore, it is expected that the effects of stress on a student’s performance are likely to depend on the difficulty of the task and the student’s working memory capacity.

            A range of linguistic, conceptual and contextual features have been identified as contributing to comprehension difficulty. Examinations are a source of stress in various ways, and there is considerable evidence in the literature that stress affects task performance, often negatively. One simple form of stress, which is relatively easy to manipulate (and relevant to the examination context) is time.

Gerrig (2006) stated that a student’s ability to understand a text and the questions relating to it will inevitably affect his performance on these questions. The reader has to carry out processing at several levels – at the individual word level, at the sentence level, at the groups-of –sentences level, and at the text level. Reading a comprehension and answering questions may be difficult for a number of reasons. Bell (1995) noted that the accessibility of the linguistic, contextual, and conceptual features in the text may cause difficulties in comprehension. For example, there may be unfamiliar words, complex syntax, temporal complexity, unclear or delayed identification of the referent, and the causes and/or intentions in the text may not be explicit, requiring the reader’s ability to make inferences. These are aspects of the text and/or questions that impede assessment of what the questions are intended to test. The primary function of a question is to instruct the students on what to do; it should not itself be a source of serious difficulty.

In addition to linguistic, contextual and conceptual features that may cause difficulties in text comprehension, there is a sizeable body of research on the role of working memory in reading. Oakhill and Cain (2007) opined that it has been proposed that those readers who have difficulty comprehending a text may be less efficient at storing and processing information at the same time in the working memory system; consequently, it will be relatively more difficult for these readers to form a coherent model of the text.  There have also been a number of studies suggesting that there is a strong relationship between comprehension ability and working memory capacity, but a causal link has not been established. (In fact, differential reading experience may lead to the relationship between working memory capacity and comprehension ability.)

            Incomplete knowledge may also pose a problem for readers in their attempts to comprehend a text. In order to make inferences, the reader should be able to use knowledge stored in memory, referred to as a schema (Bartlett, 1932). Abelson (2012) went further to state that schema theory proposes that information is gathered together into meaningful units, and that we have schemas for most things that we have experienced or encountered. A script is a memory structure that is composed of a sequence of actions that occur in a given stereo typical situation.

Computers are now widely used both at school and at home in the development of reading, with a variety of programs. In the work of Singleton (1997) such programs are ones that provide practice for improving speed and fluency of word recognition, or practice for learning phonic skills). However, there has, as yet been relatively little research on using the computer for the assessment of reading comprehension.

From the forgoing, this study is set to investigate the impact of stress on the reading comprehension achievement of students of Ebonyi State University.

Statement of Problem

            Ebonyi State University students have many obstacles to overcome in the reading comprehension achievement. A number of researches have been carried out which looked at the correlation of many stress factors that university students experience on the reading comprehension and the effects of stress on their CGPA. A review of literature indicates that not much have been prioritized on the stress-related research. There is not much research conducted to examine these particular findings in Ebonyi State University, therefore, it is timely to conduct research to examine this particular issue as findings from the present study would benefit various departments in Ebonyi State University in planning and conducting necessary programmes for the students so that stress-related factors could be reduced and better academic performance could be achieved by the students.

            Psycho-socially, stress is well known to negatively affect performance of students on a variety of real-world tasks, ranging from mathematical, problem-solving, to verbal reasoning, narrowed down to reading comprehension. If stress affects students’ achievement on reading comprehension, it would be important to understand how it does so to potentially counteract such problems. The problem of this study is: what is the impact of stress on the reading comprehension achievement of students of Ebonyi State University?

Purpose of the Study

This study is geared towards ascertaining impact of stress on the reading comprehension achievement of students of Ebonyi State University. Specifically, the study sought to:

  1. Ascertain the impact of self-Inflicted Stress on the reading comprehension achievement of students of Ebonyi State University.
  2. Determine Parent-Induced Stress on the reading comprehension achievement of students of Ebonyi State University.
  3. Ascertain how Construction of the meaning in a comprehension affects students’ achievement.
  4. Find out how motivation affects students performance.

Significance of the Study

            This study will be of immense help to the students, parents, school administrators as well as researchers.

            To the students, it will help them to know how stress affects their reading comprehension achievement and ways of managing stress as well as make positive achievements in reading comprehension.

            To the parents, it will help to proffer solution to assist their wards in so as to achieve positive results.

            The study will direct the school administrators on what need to be done and implemented to manage stress and enhance students’ readiness to handle reading comprehension.

Research Questions

            The following research questions guided the study:

  1. What is the impact of self-Inflicted Stress on the reading comprehension achievement of students of Ebonyi State University?
  2. What are the Parent-Induced Stress that affect the reading comprehension achievement of students of Ebonyi State University?
  3. How can construction of meaning in a comprehension affect students achievement?
  4. How does motivation affect students’ performance in reading comprehension in Ebonyi State University?

Scope of the Study

            This study is set to ascertain the impact of stress on the reading comprehension achievement of students using Ebonyi State University as a study.


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