Policy Implementation in Higher Education: The Dynamics of a Fall Break


  • Kelly A. Pilato Brock University
  • Madelyn P. Law Brock University
  • Shannon A. Moore Brock University
  • John A. Hay Brock University
  • Miya Narushima Brock University


policy implementation, fall break, mental health, policy evaluation, higher education


A case study using mixed methods that critically appraises the implementation of a mental health policy in higher education in the absence of evidence to inform the policy using an exemplar case from one mid-sized post-secondary institution was the motivation for this research. Explanation building was used to iteratively analyse data on rival explanations of the implementation of the fall break policy. Analyses from the surveys revealed that overall, only 36.9 per cent of students perceived an increase in workload before the break and only 29.6 per cent of students perceived an increase in workload after the break. However, the focus groups and professor interviews revealed that the timing of the fall break had an impact on how students and professors experienced the break and their perceptions on its impact on student mental health. If baseline data regarding the implementation of the fall break would have been collected prior to its implementation, we could have possibly avoided the implementation issues that arose. While this research provides an exemplar case of a fall break policy at one post-secondary institution, the policy learning is universal.

Author Biographies

Kelly A. Pilato, Brock University

Kelly A. Pilato is a Post-doctoral Fellow in the Department of Health Sciences at Brock University. Her current research examines the creation, implementation and impact of an educational policy change to institute a fall break on post-secondary student stress.  Kelly’s research interests include mental health focused policies and programs in education, gender and mental health in youth, spirituality as a health asset in curricula, and continuous quality improvement in public health.  She has experience in both quantitative and qualitative research methods, scoping reviews and systematic rapid reviews.

Madelyn P. Law, Brock University

Madelyn P. Law is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Sciences and Associate Vice-Provost, Teaching and Learning at Brock University.  Dr. Law’s work is focused on organizational culture and change as it relates to the improvements of health services.  She is also engaged in extensive experiential education course development and delivery in the health sector.

Shannon A. Moore, Brock University

Shannon A. Moore is a Professor in the Department of Child and Youth Studies at Brock University. Dr. Moore’s scholarship is rooted in transdisciplinary social justice. Her scholarly focus includes the intersections of restorative justice, mental health, well-being and human rights in theory, policy, practice and through university-community partnerships.

John A. Hay, Brock University

Dr. John A. Hay is Professor Emeritus, Health Sciences, Brock University. Dr. Hay's research interest lie in an interweaving of why children choose to be active or inactive, the implications of activity for the health of children with chronic disease, and the measurement of physical activity/inactivity - particularly among children and adolescents with chronic illness. Dr. Hay's research has led to the development of clinically useful tools to measure activity and to develop an understanding of why children choose to be inactive from a social learning perspective.

Miya Narushima, Brock University

Miya Narushima is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health sciences at Brock University. Dr. Narushima’s research interests include aging and well-being, community-based education for health promotion, lifelong learning and development, voluntarism and community capacity building, the social determinants of health and equity, and cross-cultural studies between Canada and Japan. She is an avid qualitative researcher whose teaching areas include health promotion, qualitative research, social gerontology, and diversity and health.


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