Ever thought how an experience has improved your practice? Ever felt stressed because things aren’t working out as expected?

Managing Expectations

Being involved in teaching and learning often presents challenges to both students and staff. This is because both processes inevitably bring in new ways of doing things which may be unfamiliar and uncomfortable. However, we always have a choice as to we respond to changes - positively or negatively; constructively or destructively; enthusiastically or defensively. How we respond can significantly affect the degree of personal and/or professional growth that we experience. Five principles for coping effectively with the daily stress and tension that can be associated with teaching and learning in the clinical setting are:

  • Keeping things in perspective
  • Making sure your expectations are realistic
  • Remaining solution, rather than problem, focussed
  • Monitoring your feelings and emotions
  • Using available help and/or support

Read more about these principles

Five principles for coping effectively with the daily stresses and tensions that can be associated with teaching and learning in the clinical setting

  • Keep things in perspective. When things are not going as well as expected, it’s easy to start focussing on the negatives and lose sight of the positives. The more stressful, frustrating or confusing a situation gets, the harder it is to stay focused on what you are trying to accomplish.
    • Don’t allow yourself to get so caught up in the process of coming to a resolution that you forget that finding a resolution is the primary goal.
    • Set about, quite deliberately, to identify strengths and weaknesses, positives and negatives etc. relevant to the particular situation.
    • See the issue or problem within the context of the whole, eg. overall performance, and prioritise it in terms of how critical it is to success. This will help to facilitate a more balanced view of the issue or problem which is more likely to maintain clear direction/purpose and lead to the identification of useful solutions.
  • Make sure your expectations are realistic. Not everyone learns at the same rate. Some people adjust rapidly whilst others take more time.
    • Part of dealing positively with ‘road bumps’ is to make sure that your expectations are reasonable and that what you are expecting is realistically attainable. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress.
    • Set reasonable standards for yourself and/or others, and learn to be okay with “good enough, adequate, satisfactory etc.”
  • Remain solution, rather than problem, focussed. Take the opportunity to think around a problem, exploring different ‘angles’, trying out different boundaries.
    • An important part of this is the ability to explore and take seriously the points of view of the other people involved, trying out their perspectives and incorporating their insights.
    • Use your interpersonal and problem solving skills to help you work through solutions that lead towards win-win outcomes, even if these don’t result in what was desired/expected at first.
  • Monitor your feelings and emotions. In stressful situations it’s easy to lose sight of how you are feeling and have your emotions build up to the point where they ‘get you down’.
    • Emotional mastery can be facilitated by simply using what you’ve learned works well for you.
    • Keeping your emotions under control will not only help to avoid things ‘blowing out’ unnecessarily, but will also enable productive problem solving that will carry you towards what you are striving for.

Use available help and/or support. Don’t be afraid or reluctant to seek out assistance.

  • Use your network of friends, colleagues, academic staff and/or other contacts - they can serve as a sounding board as well as a safety net.