The Connection Between Anxiety, Test-Taking and Math
Put the tracking of results for formative learning in students’ hands and engagement in learning increases. This is the finding of a research study conducted by Upper School teacher Samantha Pena and learning support specialist Candace Harrison in Pena’s Grade 11 math class. Students tracked their progress on a variety of skills in daily formative quizzes and end-of-unit practice tests. Students who self-scored “satisfactory” or “needs improvement” on any skill were given class time to build that skill before the final test.
“We were surprised to find that students still exhibited high levels of stress during formative assessments even though the stakes were low,” says Pena. “The competitive nature of self-correcting drove many students to try harder.” When the emphasis shifted to learning and not results, students began to feel more confident.
“We came to the conclusion that not all stress is bad,” says Harrison. “Practice tests and formative quizzes allow students to live in the discomfort of test writing. They can practice coping strategies such as deep breathing and starting with questions they know before a high stakes test.”