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The Relationship between Reported Workload, Stress and Employment Levels in First-year Engineering Students

Australasian Journal of Engineering Education
Volume 16 Issue 2 (2010)

Abstract: Engineering degree programs are notorious for placing considerable demands upon their students. Balancing study and work is a challenge faced by an increasing number of undergraduate students, and this balancing act can be stressful. This paper presents data gathered from first-year engineering students regarding their perceptions of their levels of stress and workload throughout a semester of study. Stress is investigated both as an absolute measure, and also as a measure relative to the students' perception of 'normal'. These data show that there is considerable variation in the perceptions of the cohort. There is a proportion of the cohort that are always highly stressed; similarly there is a proportion that never find themselves stressed at all. More importantly, the data shows that while stress and workload are linked, they are not equivalent. Relative stress does not always match absolute stress - there are students who are very stressed, but for whom this is normal; similarly there are students who are only slightly stressed, but for whom this is an increase on their usual non-stressed state. Students' reported levels of workload were more variable than the measures of stress, suggesting that the relationship between stress and workload is more complex than simply 'more work equals more stress'. Their self-reported levels of workload and stress are compared to each other and to the number of hours reported for study and paid employment. This comparison shows that while in general workload and stress are indeed linked, there is a substantial proportion of the cohort for whom these factors appear to be independent. In particular the link between absolute stress and workload appears weaker, suggesting that the issue may not be the actual level of stress, but rather the students' perceptions of what constitutes a 'normal' workload at a university level.

To cite this article: Lindsay, ED and Rogers, H. The Relationship between Reported Workload, Stress and Employment Levels in First-year Engineering Students [online]. Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 16, No. 2, 2010: 167-179. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=634230057300632;res=IELENG> ISSN: 1324-5821. [cited 29 Apr 17].

Personal Author: Lindsay, ED; Rogers, H; Source: Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 16, No. 2, 2010: 167-179 DOI: Document Type: Journal Article ISSN: 1324-5821 Subject: Stress (Psychology); Engineering--Study and teaching; Students--Psychology; Engineering students--Employment; Peer Reviewed: Yes Affiliation: (1) Senior Lecturer, Mechatronic Engineering, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia, and President, Australasian Association for Engineering Education, and Fellow, UK Higher Education Academy
(2) Communication Skills Coordinator and Lecturer, School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts (MCCA), Curtin University, Western Australia, and Unit Coordinator, Engineering Foundation Units, School of Engineering, Curtin University

Database: Engineering Collection