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An examination of mindfulness interventions to reduce graduate student anxiety related to advanced statistics and research methodology courses

1 January 2016


Advanced statistics and research methodology courses are required by the majority of universities offering psychology degrees, and understanding statistics and how to do research is essential to professional competency as a psychologist. Studies have consistently demonstrated that graduate students have negative attitudes and high anxiety toward statistics and research methods. Past researchers have identified a negative relationship between statistics anxiety, research anxiety and course performance. The purpose of the current study was to determine if mindfulness participation during the curriculum will decrease the statistics and research anxiety and negative attitudes of graduate students enrolled in a graduate statistics and research methods course. Also, the study examined whether intentional mindfulness and specific traits of mindfulness increased in the participants over time. A quasi-experimental pretest-posttest control group design was used to assess the outcomes. Active treatment participants (n = 53) and no treatment control participants (n=39) were first year PsyD, PhD, and Master’s graduate students enrolled in a required advanced statistics/research methods course. The sample participants were largely female (67%), White American (83%), and the median age was 27.38 (SD= 5.63). The Statistical Anxiety Rating Scale (STARS), The Attitudes Towards Research Scale (ATR), The Current Statistics Self-Efficacy (CSSE) measure, The Five-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (MPQ), and the Mindfulness Process Questionnaire (MPQ) were all administered at 4 time points across the academic semester. Multilevel models were used to assess both between-group as well as within-group intervention effects. To test study hypotheses a two-level multilevel model was utilized with repeated measures across the four time points in the first level and students in the conditions in the second level. Outcomes examined include: statistics anxiety, attitudes toward statistics, statistics self-efficacy, attitudes towards research, research anxiety, and mindfulness (i.e., both intentional practice and mindfulness traits). Analyses indicated that weekly mindfulness participation significantly decreased statistics anxiety, significantly increased positive attitudes towards statistics, and significantly increased participants’ statistics self-efficacy. Additionally, mindfulness participation significantly increased positive attitudes towards doing research. Further investigation of the role mindfulness can play to prevent and even decrease statistics anxiety, research anxiety and negative attitudes towards statistics and research can influence curriculum and enhance essential learning in these subjects.


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