Food for Thought Friday: Why Reducing Test Anxiety in Students May Be Counterproductive

by Kristie Burk

Do you remember that scared or anxious feeling you had before a test? As a teacher or a parent, have you often tried to calm down a child before a test?  In her article called “Use Stress to Your Advantage: To Perform Under Pressure, Research Finds that Welcoming Anxiety is More Helpful Than Calming Down,” author Kelly McGonigal discusses research that shows anxiety may help people perform better on tests and other performance situations. She argues that we should be telling students that their stress can help them perform well on an exam and that it doesn’t necessarily have a negative effect.

“Students who viewed their anxiety as helpful, not harmful, reported less emotional exhaustion. They also did better on their exams and earned higher grades at the end of the term. Critically, the effects of mind-set were strongest when anxiety levels were high. A positive mind-set protected the most anxious students from emotional exhaustion and helped them to succeed in their goals.” – Kelly McGonigal

It’s a fascinating article if, like me, you assumed that it’s better to calm yourself down before a test.  Of course, none of these studies were done on young children…still, some food for thought.

Check out the article and let us know what you think!


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