A psychology professor on Vancouver Island will conduct research on the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on learning and mental health of students. (Stock photo)

A psychology professor on Vancouver Island will conduct research on the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on learning and mental health of students. (Stock photo)

B.C. prof researching pandemic’s long-term effects on grade schoolers

Researcher hopes to ask 100 families about their experiences over time

With virus exposures in schools and changing education models due to COVID-19, a university instructor in Nanaimo is interested in examining effects of the pandemic on student learning and emotional well-being.

Marla Morden, a Vancouver Island University psychology professor and developmental psychologist, received $6,000 in B.C. Ministry of Health COVID-19 research grant money and wants to hear from families, particularly with kindergarten to Grade 4 students, about impacts of home-schooling, distance learning and classroom environments during the pandemic.

Morden and her team will be asking if distance-learning students experience more isolation from their peers, and if there will be related behavioural and mental health impacts. If another suspension of in-class instruction occurs, would that disruption cause mental health issues for those students and how long would that last, researchers wonder. Morden also hopes to hear about positive experiences and unexpected benefits of education models that families have selected.

“I think we will see some behaviour and some mental health impacts for children because that’s what studies and parents are telling us, but I’m not sure how long-lasting it will be,” Morden said. “I’m hoping that we’ll see even as early as next fall, or the following year, that children who are resilient will be back to normal, but it’s hard to say.”

Information will be gathered through “standard psychological-type surveys,” such as ones to determine parents and caregivers’ stress levels, and open-ended questions to both children and caregivers.

“We’re just giving them prompts and then we’re asking them to share their experiences about going to school this year…” said Morden. “We might ask, ‘How have your social relationships been? How have the teachers been? Have you found that there have been enough supports?’ and then just letting them share their experiences in a more open-ended way.”

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district has seen an increase of distance education enrolment in 2020-21, with K-9 registration recently halted due to demand. Denise Wood, teachers’ union president, said while she hasn’t heard from K-4 teachers about students expressing fears about coronavirus, that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

“There’s high anxiety levels throughout the schools, at all levels,” said Wood.

RELATED: ‘Unprecedented’ rise in distance-ed students due to COVID-19

Students might not be explicitly expressing fears about the virus, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned, added Susan Riordan, junior school principal at Aspengrove School, an independent school in Lantzville.

“The age group I work with, they’re not likely to come and say, ‘Oh hi Mrs. Riordan, I’m really worried about COVID-19,’ but we might see anxious behaviours a little bit more…” said Riordan of her primary students. “They’re asking to wash their hands when they might not normally have been the type to do that. They might get upset if someone gets too close to them.”

Subjects will be tracked for five years, and while it may be hard to isolate the effects of the coronavirus, there could be other benefits to the research, Morden said.

“It could help us to see if there’s any difference between the behaviour of mental health of children who are home-schooled and who go to [bricks-and-mortar] school,” she said. “We could see that there’s no difference there, so that would be really great, or we could see that one group has an advantage.”

Anyone wanting to take part in the research can e-mail Morden at marla.morden@viu.ca. She’s hoping to get in contact with somewhere between 90 and 120 families.

“I know a lot of families are really excited about this research and think it’s really important, so I want them to be aware that it’s happening,” she said.

For more information, visit wordpress.viu.ca/mordenlab.

RELATED: SD68 distance-ed registration on hold for now

RELATED: VIU faculty look at COVID-19 impact on community



reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Karl on Twitter and Instagram

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Interior Health reports 2 more deaths, 83 new COVID-19 cases

Health authority also identifies new virus cluster in Fernie

Scamsters target Montrose resident. File photo
Fraudsters strike again in Montrose

A Montrose resident was taken for thousands in a COVID-related scam

(Black Press file photo)
Trail RCMP fine event organizer for flouting PHO order

Twenty-nine people attended an event at a place of worship in Trail

Violin Lake last fall. Photo: City of Trail
City of Trail applies for grant to decomission dams

Adaptation, Resilience and Disaster Mitigation grant to restore Cambridge Creek and Violin Lk system

South Columbia Search and Rescue called in the Nelson Search and Rescue and Kootenay Valley Helicopters to provide a long line rescue. Photo: BCSAR submitted.
Long-line rescue needed for injured hiker near Trail

Members of South Columbia and Nelson SAR and Kootenay Valley Helicopters did a long-line evacuation

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kamloops hospital grows to 66 cases

A majority of cases remain among staff at Royal Inland Hospital

Most Read