Implementing Strategies to Assist Test-Anxious Students

Article excerpt

Teachers can implement effective strategies to assist test-anxious students. By being aware of the types of student with these traits, they can develop, modify, and implement various strategies into their teaching repertoires. Furthermore, teachers who employ formative factors, habitual prudence, purposeful learning experiences, and test-wise guidelines can help students with their academic performance levels while significantly diminishing their levels of test anxiety.

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With the increase of testing in our schools, teachers need to recognize the role test anxiety plays in student performance and then implement effective strategies to assist students who are overshadowed this trait. Teachers are responsible to enhance and measure student learning within their classrooms; they are also responsible to prepare students for testing, whether it is high-stakes testing (state-developed) or low-stakes testing (teacher-developed). The federal legislation, No Child Left Behind, "requires states to administer reading and mathematics assessments at least once a year to students in grades 3 through 8 (and once more in grades 10-12) by 2005-06. In addition, science assessment must be administered at least once in each of three grade spans by 2007-08" (Lissitz & Huynh, 2003, p. 1). While states scurry to submit their plans and proficiency levels, "researchers discover the impact of test anxiety on students' performance is often influenced by the evaluation practices of the classroom teacher" (Hancock, 2001, p. 1 ; Stipek, 1998; Pintrich & Schunk, 1996). Testing of students is occurring at a time when schools are being scrutinized by federal and state policy makers based on student scores (Snyder, 2004). Therefore, teachers must examine, develop and implement strategies to help students obtain educational gains that may increase their test scores. Strategies to assist students are: (1) ascertainment of test anxiety, (2) formative factors, (3) habitual prudence, (4) purposeful learning experiences, and (5) test-wise guidelines.

Ascertainment of Test Anxiety

Students of all levels of academic achievement and intellectual abilities can be affected by test anxiety (Sarason et al., 1960). Test anxiety occurs in varying degrees and is characterized by emotional feelings of worry, fear, and apprehension. It can be exhibited differently by individuals (McDonald, 2001). As students progress through the educational system with additional testing required by states, abundant pressures can negatively impact their performance.

To facilitate higher levels of performance, Nitko (2001) urged teachers to be cognizant of three types of test-anxious students. The first type is one who lacks the proper study skills and the ability to organize or comprehend the main ideas for the content being taught. Perhaps the fear of testing results from a lack of competence. The second type of test-anxious student possesses proper study skills, but also possesses "fears of failure" (p. 309) when experiencing assessment. The third type believes he or she possesses quality study skills but, in reality, does not. Hence, this type continues to be anxiety ridden when assessments are administered. Furthermore, at-risk students and ESL (English as a Second Language) may have even higher levels of test anxiety. Beidel et al. (1994) ascertained that test anxiety existed in similar prevalence between African American students and white school students.

Teachers need to consider how they will address the competence levels of these types of students before implementing an assessment. When teachers determine the existing competency level of test-anxious students, they become more aware of strategies they can develop or modify when implementing their assessments. Moreover, with this knowledge they can assist their students, of all types, to attain higher levels of performance and achievement.

Formative Factors

Teaching encompasses various forms of assessment. …