Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Monograph

Degree

Master of Arts

Program

Education

Supervisor

King, Colin

2nd Supervisor

Stewart, Shannon

Co-Supervisor

Abstract

The purpose of the current study was to examine how teachers identify and provide supports for students with anxiety as well as their perspectives on implementing strategies informed from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in the classroom. Data was collected from 11 classroom teachers in London, Ontario through virtual focus group sessions and an online demographic questionnaire. Thematic analysis revealed three key themes: opportunities to implement CBT-informed strategies, barriers to implementing CBT-informed strategies, and current knowledge and resources. The findings revealed that teachers perceived that they are facing increased demands to support the mental health needs of students without appropriate resources and training. The findings also outlined potential opportunities and barriers that teachers identified with regards to implementing CBT-informed strategies in the classroom. These insights could be used to develop CBT-informed programs for teachers that are both practical and effective in the classroom setting. Providing teachers with the necessary knowledge and support is important to improve overall identification and intervention supports for children and youth with anxiety.

Summary for Lay Audience

Due to increasing demands for mental health services in the community, schools play an important role in supporting the mental health needs of students. Specifically, classroom teachers spend the most amount of time with students. As a result, classroom teachers are often the first to identify when students are experiencing potential mental health concerns. This is important as mental illness tend to become more severe the longer that they are left untreated. Therefore, classroom teachers must be aware of the key signs and symptoms of common mental health problems and how to refer students to mental health professionals for support. This ensures that students with potential mental health concerns are identified and receive the appropriate treatment. Teachers also work together with mental health professionals to support strategies that promote mental health in the classroom. This is important as classroom teachers can reach a large number of students, and have an important role in tiered intervention supports for mental health difficulties. Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses among children and youth. Fortunately, research consistently demonstrates that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for anxiety. CBT involves simple strategies that are used to challenge negative thinking, feeling and acting patterns. However, limited research has examined teachers’ perspectives about utilizing strategies from CBT in the classroom setting. The purpose of the current study was to examine how teachers identify and provide intervention for students with anxiety and their perspectives on implementing strategies from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in the classroom. Virtual focus groups were conducted with 11 classroom teachers from London, Ontario. Focus groups are group discussions about a particular topic or issue. Thematic analysis was used to identify key themes and patterns that were discussed in the focus groups. Three key themes were discussed: opportunities to implement CBT-informed strategies, barriers to implementing CBT-informed strategies, and current knowledge and resources. These findings could be used to develop CBT-informed resources for teachers that are practical and effective in the classroom. These steps are required to improve teachers’ ability to identify and support students with anxiety in the classroom.

Available for download on Friday, April 28, 2023

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