Remaining sane during paradoxical learning experiences: Postgraduate Psychology students' coping strategies

[Speaker] Groenewald, Johann P:1
[Co-author] Van Tonder, Christian L:2,3, Henn, Carolina:2, Abadi, Hossein A:3
1:Edith Cowan University (Australia), 2:University of Johannesburg (South Africa(Republic of South Africa)), 3:Curtin University (Australia)

Consistent with the established view of postgraduate psychology training as substantially challenging, students on an intense Masters IO Psychology program reported various factors that tested their resolve to complete the course. This included paradoxical experiences of pressure, fatigue and negative affect, but also stimulation, excitement, learning and growth. This study consequently explored students' sense-making and coping, using semi-structured interviews. Narrative secured from 24 students (two cohorts - 2014, 2015), subjected to content analysis, surfaced several meaningful themes. Firstly, the central role of self-determination and self-regulation in the sense-making and motivation of achieving students (guided by a clear focus on superordinate goals e.g. professional attainment). Secondly, stress and sacrifice are justified by felt achievement and mastery, perceived self-efficacy and personal growth. Thirdly, a supportive context, balanced lifestyle, reflective practice (and metacognition) among other, aid coping and wellbeing. Implications for learning design and psychology training are discussed.
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