Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Test Anxiety, Academic Achievement, and Self-Esteem among Arab Adolescents with and without Learning Disabilities

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Test Anxiety, Academic Achievement, and Self-Esteem among Arab Adolescents with and without Learning Disabilities

Article excerpt

Abstract. The aim of the current study was twofold: (a) to explore differences in test anxiety and self-esteem between adolescents with learning disabilities (LD) and those without them; (b) and to study the relationship between test anxiety and academic achievement. This research is the first to consider these relationships among Christian Arab adolescents living in Israel as an Eastern collectivist minority. Before the final examination of the first semester of the school year, 102 Christian Arab students completed Friedman and Bendas-Jacob's Test Anxiety Questionnaire (1997) and Rosenberg's Self-Esteem Inventory (1965), and teachers reported their academic grades. A series of one-way analyses of variance were run to check for differences between the two groups. On the whole, students with LD reported higher levels of test anxiety and lower levels of self-esteem than their nondisabled peers. Their intense distress can be expected to impair their academic performance.

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Research over the last two decades has documented the emotional difficulties encountered by many students with learning disabilities (LD) (e.g., Bryan, 2005; Fisher, Allen, & Kose, 1996; Huntington & Bender, 1993; Rourke, 1991, 2005; Rourke & Tsatsanus, 1996; Shalev et al., 2001; Siegel, 1998, 2003; Siegel & Ryan, 1989; Silver, 1988; Stanovich, 1986; Stone & La Greca, 1990; Valas, 1999; Vaughn, Elbaurn, & Schumm, 1996, 1998; Winer & Tardif, 2004). Individuals with LD often report depression, low self-esteem, and so on, which become increasingly serious as the student gets older, indicating that the LD may be creating emotional problems (Siegel, 2003). Such emotional problems may also be related to educational placement; that is, whether students attend a separate special education school.

The antecedents of test anxiety experienced by students with LD have not been fully explicated. Moreover, due to the paucity of empirical data, there is no general consensus on the recommended placement of adolescents with LD in general, and in Israel in particular. In most of the schools in Israel, the idea of inclusion is still not fully implemented, and many adolescents with LD attend special education schools or general education classes without the help of professional teachers.

A better understanding of the emotional outcomes of children with LD attending special education schools is in order. Studies continue to point to the influence of LD on students' levels of anxiety (e.g., Mazzocco & Myers, 2003) and self-esteem (e.g., La Greca, 1987; Valas, 1999), which in turn impact their academic performance and achievement (e.g., Thompson, Marcal, & Marcal, 1992). These emotional problems may continue into adulthood if not addressed and treated during childhood and adolescence (e.g., Hoffman et al., 1987).

In the Arab sector, students with LD may encounter more problems due to budgetary restraints. Most Israeli Arab children with LD do not study in inclusive classes, and those who do fail to receive suitable academic help from professionals. Recent studies yielded higher levels of test anxiety (Peleg, 2005; Peleg, Klingman, & Abu-Hanna Nahhas, 2003) and trait anxiety (Peleg, 2002) among Israeli Arab adolescents than their Israeli Jewish counterparts. However, levels of anxiety have never been examined among Israeli Arab students with LD.

The present study is a replication of earlier research with an emphasis on the Arab sample. It is also a preliminary study expanding on those studies: It is the first attempt to explore the emotional well-being of Arab adolescents with LD studying in a special education school along three parameters--test anxiety, academic achievement, and self-esteem. The present results may contribute to a better understanding of the emotions of students with LD, specifically those attending special education schools.

Learning Disabilities

The term learning disability has been defined variously by many researchers (e. …

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