Coping diversity: Guide

Dr Marlize Malan van Rooyen| View as single page | Feedback/Impact

How to use this guide

This Guide provides information to help teachers work more effectively with their local communities. While the research was undertaken in South Africa, it is expected that many teachers will find that the advice about how to understand and work with local communities is transferable to their context.  

Throughout your use of the MESHGuide remind yourself of the following:

  • People cope in different ways.
  • A person’s environment informs his/her way of coping.
  • Coping goes beyond the individual.
  • Coping can either be adaptive or maladaptive.
  • Continuous use of adaptive coping behaviours forms an important part of resilience.
  • The MESHGuide includes a South African example of socio-culturally influenced coping behaviours to showcase diversity in coping.

Why is it important for teaching professionals and educational psychologists to improve their knowledge and understanding of coping? A deeper understanding of coping has both professional and personal benefits mentioned below.

Professional benefits for teaching professionals

Learner support forms part of any teaching professional’s daily work. Learner support usually involves developing coping behaviours to overcome an array of adversity which could be emotional, social, scholastic or physical in nature.

A deeper understanding of coping diversity will enable teaching professionals to:

  • Be sensitive towards different ways learners cope.
  • Be informed of how culture plays a role in how diverse learners cope.
  • Be able to align student support with a learner’s culturally meaningful coping behaviours.
  • Be aware that it is necessary to distinguish between adaptive and maladaptive coping behaviour.
  • Be aware that promoting adaptive coping could contribute to learners’ resilience.

Professional benefits for educational psychologists

Learners and their families often end up at educational psychologists because they are finding it challenging to cope with adversity. A deeper understanding of coping diversity will enable educational psychologists to:

  • Be aware of important differences in coping behaviour.
  • Be sensitive towards cultural forms of coping.
  • Adapt their interventions to accommodate clients’ unique coping behaviours.
  • Be aware of the difference between adaptive and maladaptive coping and use this insight to facilitate therapeutic processes that support resilience.

Personal benefits for teaching professionals and educational psychologists

The demands of being educational professionals can often be experienced as stressful and overwhelming. Continuous experience of high demands has been associated with career related adversity such as job burnout. A deeper understanding of adaptive - and maladaptive coping might enable teaching professionals to become more aware of their own coping behaviour and enable them to adapt their coping behaviour in a way that contributes to their well-being.