Contrary to popular belief, high achievement isn’t merely testing gains and testing results. In fact, the product of talent comes down to our internal belief about our own abilities, skills, and overall potential for succeed. While foundational skills and standard knowledge plays a significant factor for our student’s achievement, we also have to be aware of how confidence plays a role within the day-to-day operations within our classrooms.
During the wake of testing season, everyone feels some type of nervousness and anxiety about their own personal performance on an exam. Much of this can be attributed to the rising expectation and standards for the new 2016 Common Core state examination. For some schools, this isn’t a big deal. But for a majority of public and charter schools across the United States, these exams, especially their outcomes, are strong indicators for the overall success rate for the students, the teachers, and finally, the schools themselves. As much as we can press on the idea that data can have a significant impact on student achievement, we also have to be cognizant about the negative ramifications testing, especially testing anxiety, can have on our students today.
When we talk about testing anxiety, we are essentially talking about performance anxiety. Performance anxiety, by definition, this type of nervousness is the feeling someone has in a particular situation where the pressure for performing well negatively hinders his or her ability to execute. While we usually associate performance anxiety with situations like public speeches or ‘big’ athletic games, testing, especially with state mandated examinations, can also fall within this category. For many extreme situations, testing can lead children to endure negative physical and mental stressors such as lack of confidence, depression, and other various breakdowns like anxiety, crying, or worse. Because of this, it is our jobs to recognize the ever-growing problem testing can have on our student and their future.
To alleviate the pressures, we first and foremost need to understand what the pressures of testing can do for our students. Think about it. A person with a fixed negative mindset will and will always believe that his or her intelligence is static. In comparison, a person with a growing and optimistic mindset will believe that their intelligence, and performance, can develop into something greater. Understanding the distinction between these two extremes can have a tremendous implication for motivation and confidence, especially during test day.
So how can we boost the morale of our students, especially for those future leaders of tomorrow who have focused on the negative ramifications of not performing?
To prevent your students from derailing their own success, it is imperative that you continue to cultivate a positive and safe working environment within your classroom. Even if it is days before the exam, you as an educator have the power to change the overall atmosphere of how they can approach the exam. To better prepare them, be sure to plan a well-executed study review session. For many students, they automatically feel that anxiety because they feel ill prepared for the topics on the test. To ease that tension, make sure you consolidate an entire review plan that hit the main points for the state test (Note: this may require multiple days). Be sure to provide them plenty of time to review. One of the biggest mistakes you can do for your students is to try and cram every bit of material before the examination. Rather than do this and build more anxiety, try and focus on the main points. Go as far as to combine relatable Common Core standards that can be leveraged within just one lesson.
In addition to a study review, make sure you can leverage the stress of the test as a motivator for success. While stress can have damaging affects on our student’s performance, we as educational leaders can utilize that feeling as a positive motivator. For some schools they hold rallies. For others, the teachers themselves use positive speeches and optimistic discussions to build up each student’s confidence. Whatever you do, make sure you are showing your students that you are rooting for them. That support can go a long way.
Last but not least, constantly remind your students to eat well, sleep, and relax before the exam. For any test, inopportune situations such as an empty stomach or lack of sleep can directly impact a student’s performance. Reiterate to your students to get a good night’s rest and have a healthy filling breakfast.