Date of Award

Winter 12-29-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Philip Pendley, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Tamerin Capellino, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Alan Enomoto, Ed.D.


Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of high-achieving 11th- and 12th-grade high school students participating in International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Placement (AP), or Honors courses. An additional purpose of this study was to identify the academic and social stressors experienced by students and the coping strategies used to overcome them.

Methodology: This study used a phenomenological research design to describe the lived experiences, academic and social stressors, and coping strategies of high-achieving students. For this study, in-depth interviews were conducted to understand the academic and social experiences of students participating in IB, AP, and Honors courses. This data provided insight into the perspectives and thoughts experienced by students and helped to identify coping strategies to support academic and social stressors. The combination of purposeful and convenience sampling was used to identify a small group of students in IB, AP, or Honors courses.

Findings: Analysis of the data revealed that students identified IB, AP, and Honors course expectations, participation in extracurricular activities, and time preparing for courses as causing stress. Academic stressors for participants were related to workload, test anxiety, consistency in expectations, and stress related to course and personal success criteria. Social interactions, peer relationships, social media involvement, and extracurricular activities caused increased stress. Additionally, participants identified v time and curricula management, support resources, and activities for addressing stress as methods for coping with academic and social stressors affecting high-achieving students.

Conclusions: To support students, four conclusions were identified. First, the structure of courses combined with the competitive nature of students creates a stressful situation. Second, although family, friends, and teachers provide support for student achievement, they also contribute to stressful situations encountered by students. Third, the demands from participation in IB, AP, and Honors courses limit time with peers and social activities for students. Finally, high-achieving students require support in managing time, prioritizing, and coping to reduce stress.

Recommendations: Based on the findings from this study, eight recommendations were put forth for further research to advance the understanding of how to address student stress.

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