Date Presented 04/01/2022

The purpose of this research was to determine whether grit and anxiety are related to the academic performance of OT graduate students during the cross-sectional period of seismic change in higher education due to the emerging coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The expected contribution of this study includes how the prevalence of grit and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic affects academic performance in a predominately virtual learning environment.

Primary Author and Speaker: Ann Potter

Additional Authors and Speakers: Cara Crawford, Brooke Gasper, Amanda Rowlands, Rachel Saquing

PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to explore the relationship between anxiety, grit, and academic performance of graduate-level occupational therapy students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Grit is a contributing factor to academic success and anxiety may negatively impact academic performance. The original intent of this study was to determine if grit served as a protective factor during the massive change in learning that occurred in the spring of 2020.

DESIGN: This exploratory research study used a cross-sectional survey with non-probability convenience sampling.

METHOD: Participants were recruited from full-time entry-level Master and Doctorate programs across the USA. Participants completed an online survey in which they reported their GPA for Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 semesters, completed the Patient-Reported Outcome Measure (PROMIS) Anxiety Short Form, the Grit Scale Short (GS-S), and a demographic questionnaire. Descriptive statistics, a correlation matrix, and multiple regression analysis were used to determine associations between the variables of grit, anxiety, and academic performance.

RESULTS: Sixty-eight participants completed the survey. The sample consisted of 68 women, 2 men, and 1 non-binary individual. 52 participants were enrolled in Master’s programs and 15 were enrolled in Doctoral programs. No significant correlations occurred between the variables. The mean PROMIS anxiety score was 61.41, 1 SD greater than the norm for the general population.

CONCLUSION: The results of this study were not consistent with previous studies where high scores from the grit scale were an identifiable characteristic among graduate students who have a 3.5 or higher GPA. almost half, forty-seven percent (N = 32) of participants reported having been clinically diagnosed with anxiety. The majority of participants (N = 67) were highly anxious at the time the survey was taken as evidenced by high PROMIS T-scores. There was no significant change in GPA from the semester prior to the pandemic and the semester of the onset of the pandemic.

IMPACT STATEMENT: Occupational therapy educators need to be aware of the high levels of anxiety experienced by occupational therapy graduate students. Additional research is needed to explore the impact of anxiety on academic performance and clinical practice.


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