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Thursday, December 10 • 3:00pm - 3:50pm
One Week, Many Ripples: Measuring the Impacts of the McMaster Fall Break on Student Stress Physiology (Poster)

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Over the past decade, universities and colleges across Canada have introduced a fall break into their term calendars with the goal of reducing student stress and increasing student retention and success. Such effects could be expected to allow students to be more active and enduring participants in their university community and experience. In 2015, a full-week fall break was introduced at McMaster University. In spite of the increasing adoption of a fall break in post-secondary institutions across Canada, there is no published research investigating whether implementing a fall break successfully meets the goal of decreasing student stress. In this study, we are evaluating student stress through surveys, focus groups, and cortisol levels. Here, we report on the pattern of results in cortisol, which is a physiological marker of stress that can be extracted from saliva. Undergraduate students at McMaster were asked to collect saliva in the week before the fall break and the week after the fall break. To provide a control group, students at McGill University, which does not have a fall break, were asked to do the same. Levels of cortisol were compared to measure stress levels between and within each group. If the fall break is effective at lowering student stress, cortisol levels should be a) lower after the fall break than before the fall break in McMaster students, and b) more consistent in McGill students than McMaster students. Results could support future evidence based decision-making regarding the fall break, both at McMaster and at other Canadian post-secondary institutions.

avatar for Michael Agnew

Michael Agnew

Postdoctoral Fellow, McMaster University
Michael Agnew is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning (MIIETL) at McMaster University. He received his PhD in Religious Studies from McMaster University in 2015.

Bismah Basharat

McMaster University

Elliott Beaton

University of New Orleans

Sean Beaudette

McMaster University

Nathan Cooper

McMaster University

Ayesha Khan

McMaster University

Arpa Modi

McMaster University

Heather Poole

McMaster University
Heather Poole is a postdoctoral fellow at the McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Heather's background is in experimental psychology.

Jeremy Sandor

McMaster University

Signy Sheldon

McGill University

Joshua Wiener

McMaster University

Thursday December 10, 2015 3:00pm - 3:50pm EST
McMaster Innovation Park Atrium

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