We are very excited to invite you to our FREE virtual webinar series, ‘Lessons from COVID-19: Reflections, Resilience and Recovery‘. For five Wednesdays between 2 June to 28 July 2021, 5-6:30pm (GMT) we’ll have a chance to share and discuss our findings with you on how COVID-19 has impacted our livelihoods, health and relationships. Importantly, we’d love the opportunity to hear from you! Want to learn more?
This webinar series will feature speakers from across 6 institutions from Italy (University of Trento), Singapore (Nanyang Technological Univeristy), USA (University of Pennsylvania, University of Massachusettes Lowell), China (Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences) and the UK (University College London) and experts working in the field.
2. Who are these talks for?
Anyone and everyone! Given that the pandemic has affected all of us in differing ways, your input is as good as any. We would really value your participation in the interpretation and understanding of our findings and as always, the sharing of your experiences of the past year. In these challenging times, we’d like to bring people from all walks of life to reflect on the past year, engage in discussion about the lessons from COVID-19 in order to assess the ways in which we can recover better. We hope you will join us!
Our 5 webinars cover a range of topics including COVID’s impact on mental health in the general population across different countries, family relationships and social trust in others, postgraduate student wellbeing in higher education and what kinds of support we need to recover. We hope there is something for everyone!
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption for education and the wider world. With the end of the Easter holiday seeing the return of the last secondary school pupils in Scotland and Northern Ireland, most children in the UK have now returned to the classroom for at least the second time. Although the emotional impact of not being in the classroom has roused considerable debate, less attention has been paid to the emotional impact of their return to schools.
Some argue the pandemic has had a widespread and potentially permanent negative impact, while others believe we should not be promoting a victim mentality among children. A recent article in The Times questioned how much concern is too much concern for the ‘Covid generation.’ While the pandemic has not been an ideal nor enjoyable experience for most, the author claims the current sense of doom is demoralising and preventing the development of resilience. Equating the experience of today’s children to children during the Blitz, which saw the evacuation of over 3 million children from London under Operation Pied Piper, has been argued by some to be melodramatic, while others have claimed that the need to find the balance between safety and calm is not dissimilar.
One rule for them, another for us?
The rapid changing and often incongruent rules at the country level can be a real cause of stress, as observed in our UCL-Penn Global COVID Study. This is even truer of the rules pertaining to school closures and COVID safety guidelines, as reported by pupils. For example:
‘Assembly has been cancelled for today: they’re trying to limit large gatherings. They can’t stop the crowds in the stairwells and hallways though. If we’re going to spread the virus anywhere, it’s there… So much for no physical contact.’
Pupils are clearly aware that many of the rules of the outside world do not apply at school but were assured they were less likely to spread the virus. Any reassurance this gave in the first return to the classroom was obliterated by Boris Johnson’s January lockdown announcement: schools are safe for children but “act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.”
These ‘mixed messages’ left teachers and parents befuddled as they had to grapple with the uncertainties on their own, with a narrow miss of a revolt. The potential re-opening of schools saw head teachers taking legal action against the UK Department for Education and teaching unions advising their members not to return.
Are they ‘All in the same boat’?
Anecdotes from secondary school pupils suggest feelings about returning to school are mixed, for example:
“It’s exciting because you haven’t seen your friends in a while, and you get to learn more things, easier.”
“I, for the first two weeks or so, was stressed and scared on every way. Of course for others they may have enjoyed it. But I was fearful and stressed.”
A similar lack of uniformity can be observed among their views about how the pandemic has impacted their families:
‘It hasn’t really effected me.’
‘It has made me more anxious and reclusive to some extent. However, it’s given me the opportunity to see my family more and grow closer to them, which is nice.’
‘Have had a parent completely shut down mentally.’
‘Less patient with each other.’
‘Higher stress and tension in my family. I’ve become much more anxious.’
‘More stress and anxiety. There are way more anger explosions and it’s harder to control our anger.’
Their accounts suggest all children are not ‘in the same boat’ in terms of the emotional impact of the pandemic. This appears to be true both in terms of individual experience and the exacerbated wellbeing issues amongst those already disadvantaged. While some will be relatively unaffected, treating some children ‘as though their granny had just died’ may be entirely appropriate, because for many that has been their reality.
So what support do pupils need to thrive?
At a recent public engagement event, 14–18-year-olds from a secondary school in the US told us how they would like to be supported:
‘More patience and grace from others.’
‘More understanding from everyone.’
‘Time away from school and understanding.’
‘I feel like schools should provide an outlet for students to possibly vent. I also believe there should be a lot more understanding with others.’
‘Others to be more understanding and patient due to everybody being in the same situation.’
‘I think emotional support is needed to thrive and recover from the pandemic as there should be time and patience given to others when they are not feeling emotionally stable.’
‘Period of time in the day where one can get away from the computer and refresh.’
The dominant theme of their responses is the need for understanding. It is clear that whilst pupils will have had very different individual experiences of the pandemic and learning from home, preceding with understanding and patience appears to be the favoured strategy to help pupils settle back into the classroom.
In sum, there are many factors that should be acknowledged when considering how the return to the classroom has impacted pupils. Mixed government messages on the safety of schools have caused confusion and concern; children have had contrasting experiences during the past year with mixed feelings and thoughts about what schools should do to best support them here onwards. One universal strategy for aiding this return is increasing understanding of others, a mindset that everyone should adopt on returning to the classroom.
A year since the first coronavirus cases were reported in the UK – some of you reading this have now received not one but perhaps two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination. We hope you are recovering well. We would love to hear your experience of the jab too, as many of us continue to wait patiently.
While vaccine rollouts continue around the country and the world, we have completed and closed our second wave of data collection. There will be just one final survey in April to look out for – as this will be the 12 month point in which we can compare your responses from last year. Again, we’d like to say a huge THANK YOU for returning your survey – we really appreciate all of your support! The survey has now closed. Should you need more time, do get in touch with us and we’ll try and reopen your survey. Meanwhile our team are processing the data. We will shortly be contacting our winner for the £50 Amazon voucher and making an announcement.
As some of you may know, this project is unfunded. Our research team thus far have been operating on zero funding, yet we continue to pursue this work because we recognise the importance of conducting this timely piece of research now. It’s vital that studies like ours are gathering data now to help us understand and inform policy responses now and in the future. As we continue to apply for larger grants to support the running cost of our study, we wanted to share two pieces of good news from yesterday:
2) Our team was successful in receiving funding from the UCL Global Engagement Fund 2020-21!
This is fantastic news to our study as it will enable us to run a themed webinar series this summer to share our study findings with the wider public. Importantly, YOU and all those interested are invited to this free event as we want to hear your thoughts on the findings in co-designing solutions as well. More details to come.
Meanwhile, we do have a few virtual events coming up where we will be presenting some of our findings as well. We sincerely hope to see you at some of our events below. Recordings will also be uploaded to our website wherever possible, so you may wish to catch-up on the study in your own time. If you are a researcher interested in learning more about this study – study variables and on-going preprints/publications – please visit our Open Sciencepage.
9 February Tuesday 12-1pm: Lunchtime seminar series at the UCL Department of Psychology and Human Development. Join via Zoom:https://bit.ly/2N5gI32
18 February Thursday 5-6pm: XXI International Congress for Educators 2021: Post-COVID Recovery: Education, Resilience & Mental Health. Recording available after the event.
June-July 2021(TBD): UCL Global Engagement Fund Webinar Series on with study partners on Global COVID study findings.
As always, we value your continued support and would love to hear from you on any topics you would like to discuss or suggestions on things you would like to hear from us. Please follow us on twitter for more regular updates and to access helpful resources for lockdown/working from home @GlobalC19Study. As always, please stay healthy and be kind to yourself.
Six months since the launch of our survey on 17 April, we are now following-up participants with our second survey. We are very pleased to have received 500+ returns in our first week – thank you! So if you took part in the first wave, you should have now received a personalised follow-up link. If you didn’t get to take part last time, or know someone who would like share their experience on the impacts of COVID-19, you can join here. We’d love to hear from you!
So, with the start of the new wave, the Research Assistants from our team (who are also the authors behind the fantastic blogs that you have read) would like to first share their experiences surrounding COVID-19. In particular, what are their personal worries, lessons learned working on the study, where they are headed next and their advice for students going into university/work today.
Q1: What inspired you to get involved with the study?
“I was inspired to get involved in this study because I felt like the voice of our generation was not really being heard in the midst of the pandemic. I felt that university students, specifically, were being under-represented and not given enough consideration regarding how this was affecting our mental health and life trajectories.” – Reina, Year 3 BSc Psychology with Education, University College London
“As part of my master’s Thesis, I was planning on studying the differences in levels of mistrust between children in the UK and Lebanon, but due to the pandemic, I could not visit schools and had to modify my research topic. My supervisor and the PI of the Global Covid Study research, Dr. Keri Wong, suggested that I get involved with the study. At least I can help collect data while benefiting from the responses obtained on the survey.” – Laetitia, MSc Child Development, University College London
“My degree at UCL was largely foundational and theoretical so I was very excited to engage with current research and apply the skills I’d acquired to it. In addition, the start of the pandemic in particular had resulted in the propagation of misinformation; I felt privileged to work within a legitimate research team that was going to generate valid conclusions.” – Keya, Psychological Assistant at Catch22
“My final year of undergraduate study came to an abrupt end and I was struggling coming to terms with it and saying early goodbyes to friends and colleagues. While in lockdown, I was diligent in encouraging my peers to continue to be inspired by research in psychology and education by founding the UCL Psychology with Education Society. Dr. Keri Wong asked me to share the study on the society’s platforms and I asked her whether she was looking for assistance. I thought that this would be a meaningful way to support not only students at UCL, but students all over the world in sharing psychological knowledge and concepts that can help us cope with COVID-19.” – Kyleigh, MEd Psychology and Education, University of Cambridge
Q2: Have your worries surrounding COVID changed since March?
“My worries have changed since March. I think in the beginning I was very worried about personally getting sick, but as I came to understand more about COVID-19, my concern shifted to being about social responsibility. I started to become more and more worried about how some lacked awareness for how much each of our individual actions are affecting those around us and essentially, every other individual.” – Reina
“Since the pandemic erupted, the way media fed us information influenced greatly how we acted and responded to the crisis. Initially, a lot of people were scared and took great precaution while a few months later people showed little compliance to the rules. Personally, I wasn’t worried for myself as much as I was worried about the vulnerable population including some members of my family. I still follow social distancing rules and wear masks and wish more people would too, especially in London considering the increase of death due to the Covid-19 virus.” – Laetitia
“My worries have shifted. Initially, I was very concerned that I wouldn’t find a job after graduating because of the Covid triggered recession but I became more and more optimistic as time went on. I think I realised the pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon and I had to just roll with it.” – Keya
“Initially, I was very worried that my returning home would put my family at risk of getting sick, particularly my father who has underlying respiratory issues. I was also worried for my friends and family overseas and whether they were staying safe. A silver lining that came from these intense worries is that I got into a routine to call or message them at least once a week, which is something I rarely did before COVID-19. Now that the UK is seeing an increase in cases, I’m worrying whether citizens will be as compliant to safety precautions when they are out in public spaces and on public transport. I live with a friend who is asthmatic and I commute every day to work … I have nightmares of bringing COVID back to my flat and getting her sick.” – Kyleigh
Q3: What have you learned from your time as a Research Assistant?
“I have developed several skills as a research assistant. I believe the most important one is the capacity to write a blog post. I had no previous experience with writing something intended to benefit others and spread important information in an accessible way. Furthermore, it has been an brilliant experience getting to apply the skills and knowledge I have developed during the course of my Psychology degree.” – Reina
“As a research assistant, I developed a more in-depth understanding of the process of conducting a study, which will significantly facilitate pursuing a doctorate program in psychology. It also allowed to work better in a group setting as well as enhancing my writing skills in both the academic setting (Research paper) and a more casual settings (Writing blog-posts).” – Laetitia
“The main skill I’ve learned is definitely how to write a blog post. Not only had I never written a blog post before, but I found it quite bewildering to write a piece that wasn’t going to be graded. I have grown to love the literary freedom that comes alongside this!” – Keya
“Being a research assistant for the study has only strengthened my passion for research and discussing psychological concepts with others. I have learned that writing for the general public is very different to how you write for a university assignment, and it was very enjoyable to conduct research and write blog posts on topics surrounding COVID I personally connected with (e.g. how playing Animal Crossing and technology has kept my spirits up when in lockdown). I was also responsible for creating the graphics for the study’s social media platforms. I was very happy to hear that my graphics were getting such positive feedback from students and academics alike, and how they were informative as well as pleasing to look at. I am excited to see if the study’s findings will inform the government on how to support students in the COVID era.” – Kyleigh
Q4: What’s in store for you this coming year?
“This year I will be completing my undergraduate degree as I am a third year student. As all my learning for first term (at least) has been made virtual, I will be living in Ghana with my family. I hope to finish my year in London with my peers and continue on to do a Master’s Degree.” – Reina
“I’m a student enrolled in the M.S. Child development program at the University College London. I’m currently writing up my thesis and I am aiming to get into a doctorate program later on.” – Laetitia
“I have just started a job working with deprived young people in Camden. My job is intense but incredibly rewarding and draws upon my two main interests, Psychology and Criminology, perfectly. I hope to go on to pursue a masters in Criminology and then a career in clinical psychology.” – Keya
“I am starting my MEd in Psychology and Education at the University of Cambridge. Alongside my studies, I’m working as a Special Education Needs (SEN) Teaching Assistant in a primary school in Wandsworth and private Applied Behavioural Analysis tutor for a family in North London. I will also be singing in the London Youth Chamber Choir (over Zoom until guidance tells us it’s safe to sing together in person!).” – Kyleigh
Q5: Do you have any advice for students going into/continuing university or going into work in the COVID-19 era?
“As I am only a third year undergraduate student, I am not sure I am in the best position to be dolling out advice. However, I would advise Freshers to take every opportunity available. Three (or four) years is not long and the opportunities universities offer (even virtually) are unbeatable.” – Reina
“One piece of advice I would personally give is to keep a critical mindset, ask lots of questions and read a lot while conducting research. And another thing would be to try connecting as much as possible with your peers; everyone has a different background which allows them to bring so much to the table through their experiences and culture, embrace individual differences.” – Laetitia
“Get involved with uni life as much as you can. London can be a daunting place to be a student but if you keep putting yourself out there you will eventually find your place. And if you don’t, that’s ok too! It’s ok to rethink things and change your mind about what you want to be doing.” – Keya
“This is a very challenging time we’re all experiencing. My advice would be to take it day by day and be kind to yourself. COVID has shown me there really is no point in stopping yourself from doing the things you are passionate about and for spending time with the people you love. COVID has made the world come to a standstill but once it starts moving again, be ready to make the most of the opportunities that come your way.” – Kyleigh
Although many things have changed fairly dramatically for all of us, some opportuities have also arisen as a result of this pandemic. We are grateful for the opportunities that have presented itself and hope you enjoyed our blog!
This post was co-written by Ms Laetitia Al Khoury (@LaetitiaAK), MsKetki “Keya” Prabhu (@kkprabhu), Ms Reina Kirpalani (@rkirpalani), and Ms Kyleigh Melville (@MelvilleKyleigh) – former and current students on the BSc Psychology with Education degree and MSc in Child Development at UCL. Minor edits were made by Dr Keri Wong (@DrKeriWong).
In a post-coursework, mid-lockdown world, university students may find themselves lacking productivity in daily life. Our recent Instagram poll found that nine out of 15 voters said that they felt de-motivated since the beginning of lockdown.
How do you stay motivated to succeed given these uncertain times? Setting goals has been found to be critical to increasing motivation and success in many areas of life. Not just any goals will do; setting the right type of goals is necessary. Here are three types of goals that can help you:
Set specific goals
The more specific your goals, the better. This will enable you to detail exactly what intermediary steps must be taken and how much time and effort may be required for each step. For example, instead of setting out to learn French by the end of the summer, set yourself a daily goal to complete 10 minutes a day on an online programme such as Duolingo. By focusing on specific tasks, you will likely feel a greater sense of satisfaction that will motivate you to complete the next task – this known as positive reinforcement. This is especially key when lockdown restrictions feel never-ending!
Set short-term goals
Setting goals that are attainable in the near future, also known as proximal goals –have been found to result in greater motivation toward attainment than those that are distant. These goals can be short-term and can build toward an eventual long-term target. For example, setting yourself a goal of reading a new book on a topic of interest is more effective than simply setting your goal to learn more about said topic. By completing one task (i.e. one book) at a time, you will be able to gain a sense of accomplishment about your own capabilities. This will drive you forward and help you evaluate your progress more reliably and regularly. Being able to cross-off tasks on a calendar or to-do-list may help you to maintain motivation. There are many digital options for these tools as well.
Set challenging goals
Set challenging goals! Paradoxically, if you set goals that feel too ‘easy’, your perception of the time and effort necessary will promote procrastination and reduce your motivation to complete the task. Setting challenging tasks (that are still attainable and measurable) increases your motivation towards the attainment of the goal. The more engaged you are with a task, the more intrinsically motivated you will be towards completing it. For example, your motivation may increase if you set yourself the challenging goal of exercising four times a week for 30 minutes. This is more effective in achieving the eventual goal of fitness as opposed to aiming to exercise only once a week or seven days a week; both of these extremes will reduce your motivation towards the goal.
Whatever your goals may be during this quarantine period, prioritize your mental health. Celebrate the attainment of all goals – big or small – and allow yourself the space and time to adjust to new circumstances.
This post was written by Ms. Reina Kirpalani (@rkirpalani) a second year student on the BSc in Psychology with Education degree at UCL with minor comments from Dr Keri Wong (@DrKeriWong).