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Test Anxiety From the Perspective of a Teacher and Parent

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Our E-Learning Expert, Mason New, takes a look at test anxiety and provides some tips to help parents and students work together to conquer it.


Mason New
Founder, NewVia: e-Learning Design Solutions

Throughout my 15-year teaching career, I witnessed many students paralyzed by fear when I handed them a test or quiz. In some cases, just the mere mention of an impending graded assignment could trigger the same reaction. In its purest form, these assessments were meant to gauge the student’s learning and allow me to adjust my instruction. But, to many of my students, the grade was the only important measure, an obstacle to overcome or a torpedo targeting the ship of their self-esteem.

Despite my best intentions, I couldn’t eliminate the angst these tests produced. According to my friend, Kristin Hosmer, M.S.W., Director of Counseling at Episcopal High School, when students' anxiety about tests and quizzes takes over, the brain's natural “Fight, Flight, Freeze” response occurs. She said, 'It doesn't make logical sense, but it's the way students feel, so it's real.'" And since it’s real, it cannot be ignored - neither by teachers nor parents nor any adult responsible for a child’s learning.

Theories and anecdotal evidence abound that we are now living in a more charged, more anxiety-ridden culture. Some blame social media, others smartphones. Texting. Snapchat. Perhaps the news cycle and its continuous messages about violence and division. Whatever the cause, we the parents, guardians, and teachers have to step in and help.

At Trilogy Mentors, we mitigate some of the angst around assignments and assessments through timely and consistent preparation. Some children just need the reassurance that they can succeed, and in order to do so, they must review the work with a mentor who has the time and concern to review the material before the test occurs.

As a parent or guardian, here are some actions you can take to help your student prepare for quizzes and tests.

  1. Chunking

    Great teachers know that they must break down the information in small “chunks” to string information together. But, students often become overwhelmed with the totality of what they have to know to succeed on the test. Ask a few questions about just the basics and ask your student to teach you how the fundamentals are done. These chunks build on one another towards mastery of a concept.

  2. Combat negative thoughts

    Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” We all know negativity never helped anyone. Students who make negative thinking, pessimism, or self-defeat the default reaction cannot learn anything. Emphasize what the student can control, which is how much time and attention he or she can dedicate on the task at that precise moment. Avoid stressing “hours of study” in favor of smaller bursts or productive work.

  3. Collect the mobile device

    Look, we know there are a million reasons to let kids have their devices and all the utilitarian functions that could help them learn, but plenty of scientific research out there confirms there is no such thing as “multi-tasking.” Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time. So, help your student- take away the distraction (at least for some period of time) to allow his or her brain to focus. Set limits on screen time 1 and 2 nights before a big test.

School should be a place of learning and growth, and the best teachers work hard to deliver on this mission. The school years, however, can be difficult and trying for students and their caregivers. Trilogy Mentors remains dedicated to providing academic support to all students of all abilities at a time and place convenient for them, so that all students can grow and succeed and overcome testing anxiety..

Disclaimer: Trilogy’s mentors are not licensed medical practitioners and do not make medical recommendations about anxiety. Some children require professional help. If your child suffers from severe anxiety, it may be beneficial for you to seek out a licensed medical practitioner for support and recommendations.

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After 20 years of working in two technology companies and two schools, Mason New launched NewVia: e-Learning Design Solutions because he saw the need within all organizations to solve learning problems using technology. He holds a Master of Science in Education from Purdue University, a Master of Arts in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College, a Bachelor of Arts in English from Washington and Lee University, and an honorable discharge from his toughest school, the United States Marine Corps.

See Mason’s previous post on Distance Learning

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