Technique for objective assessment of current mental state and personality traits to determine adaptation level of foreign students



PhD, Associate Professor O.E. Piskun
Dr.Med., Professor N.N. Petrova
Dr.Med., Professor B.S. Frolov
I.L. Bondarchuk
Peter the Great St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University, St. Petersburg

Keywords: adaptation, mental state, objective evaluation method for mental state and personality traits, risk groups.

Introduction. One of the most important pre-conditions for freshmen’s successful learning activity is their timely adaptation to the university educational environment, new requirements, relationships with their fellow students and teachers, independent living in an urban setting, adaptation to the university work principles, which is especially significant for foreign students.

The position of foreign students is complicated by the fact that they reside in a foreign country being exposed to the foreign culture, and they either do not speak the new language or have a loose command of it; some of them keep to their native language, and so find it difficult to communicate with their fellow students, who come from different countries and regions.

There are many things these young people of 18-22 years of age are not used to: climate, cuisine, customs, and traditions. Thus, they find themselves in a situation that requires them to deploy all of their adaptation resources.

As has been pointed out on numerous occasions, a well-designed and well-structured physical education lesson with foreign students contributes to the improvement of their health, tonus and enhancement of their mood [2].

The assessment of the adaptation reserves and efficiency of recreation activities, their impact on the adaptation level was complicated by the fact that the overwhelming majority of first-year foreign students do not speak Russian.

In this regard, it was necessary to use the non-verbal techniques for objective assessment of the adaptation reserve and mental state [3, 1].

Objective of the research was to select the most effective techniques for monitoring of mental states of foreign students, their levels of adaptation to the new living conditions.

Methods and structure of the research. We examined a group of foreign students enrolled into a one-year program of the Institute of International Educational Programs (IIEP) of SPbPU, whose main task during the first year of study was to learn Russian. The group consisted of 121 students aged 18-22 years, who came from 28 countries - North and South America, Europe and Asia.

The methods of gathering of information on the current mental state of foreign students and their adaptation level included: the psychophysiological technique “CMS”, realized in the form of the software-hardware complex - SHC CMS (Current Mental State) [3].

The monitoring provides an objective assessment of various features of mental state based on the cardiorhythmographic data. The American authors called this approach and assessment technique which was based on the cardiographic data electropsychocardiography (H. Sabelli, L. Carlson-Sabelli, M.K. Patel, J.P. Zbilut, J.V. Messer, 1984) [3].

The technique allows to make a real-time assessment of the current mental state basing on the psycho-physiological characteristics, monitor the changes occurring in different periods of time and evaluate various aftereffects on the mental state.

The functionality of the CMS software-hardware complex was widened using the “Polar Team System” sports watch and cardiosensors (Finland). In future, we plan to use this system to assess various effects of recreational sports in a group of students at a time, as well as monitor their state for a longer period of time, up to monitoring of the level of adaptation for several days [5].

The foreign students' data obtained using the CMS SHC were compared to the normative data. The study group was made of the survey students of similar age - 18-22 years.

Results and discussion. Fig. 1 depicts the results of the comparison of the surveyed groups on one of the main scales of the technique - adaptation level. It can be seen that the mean scale values ​​in foreign students are significantly lower than the normative ones, both in the superstandard sampling (normative data - standard), which was obtained when selecting students from different universities after specifying special requirements (this group included foreign students who have achieved academic excellence and success in respect to all social dimensions; they were selected on medical ground by somatic specialists, and examined by psychologists and psychotherapists) and population norm, on which less heavy demands were imposed.

Fig. 1. Comparison of the mean group indices of the surveyed sampling of foreign students and normative data

However, the general mean group indices in foreign students do not reflect the structure of the group due to the wide spread in values, their inhomogeneity as opposed to the normative data. In order to study the internal structure and characteristics of the sampling of foreign students we used the Q-means cluster analysis.

After the clustering, the sampling of foreign students was divided into three clusters of varying sizes, but equal, homogeneous in their content.

Fig.2. Comparison of the three clusters of the sampling of foreign students and normative data according to the "adaptability" scale

According to the data in Fig. 2, the mean value of the adaptability scale varies depending on the cluster. In terms of this indicator, the values in the representatives of the first cluster (Cluster 1) exceed the population norm and approach the reference one, while those in the representatives of the two other clusters are characterized as low, which may indicate a decreased level of adaptive capability and unwillingness to change and accept different stressful situations.

Conclusion. According to the data received, foreign students’ adaptation reserve is severely limited compared to the normative sample data obtained among Russian students of similar age. It was found that foreign students typically feel stressed out and require separate health monitoring, as well as organizational measures that would increase their adaptive capabilities.


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