Hurricane Madness: Teaching, Learning And The Importance Of Flexibility In The Wake Of Disaster

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Daniel Gutierrez
Debra Hollister
Anthony Beninati

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Abstract

The present study examines stress among college students (N=107) that were exposed to natural disasters at the start of the 2004 Fall Semester after Hurricane Charley and Frances battered Central Florida within three weeks of each other. The study also examines adjustments made by two faculty members during the semester in attempts to reduce student stress while maintaining high academic standards in the wake of disaster. Findings indicate that students experienced a substantial amount of stress as a result of the storms.  Of the students surveyed 50 percent indicated they suffered lost wages or income, 65 percent sustained some damage to their residences, and 63 percent experienced moderate to extremely high levels of stress. Concerning the adjustments implemented by the instructors, 84 percent of the students agreed or strongly agreed that the academic quality of their education was not compromised. While educators must have well-designed and planned courses, when disaster strikes, it is imperative that they incorporate creative and flexible teaching methods and policies in their classrooms.

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