“Tis the season for summative assessments. As report cards go out and the holidays approach, it is time for teachers to think about testing kids on their skills. Here are some thoughts to consider. ~EMP
Summative assessment is just as important as formative assessment, as both are necessary for effective instruction and planning. Although summative assessment (testing) is your way to measure student learning, it’s stressful. Test anxiety effects up to 40% of students, and 26% of them are affected all of the time (http://www.jefflazarusmd.com/test_anxiety.html). It interferes with information storage and retrieval and can give you false results. Here are some signs of test anxiety and ways that you can help students to overcome it.
Signs of test anxiety—
• weeping (in young students)
• nail biting or finger-chewing
• rocking, leg-shaking, foot tapping or fidgeting
• lack of concentration or time-wasting
• hair twisting
• headaches and/or nausea
Making sure that your students have mastered the content is the most effective way to help them alleviate test anxiety. Check consistently for understanding and explain what will be on the test. Once your students know the content, help them visualize it on the test and answering the questions correctly. You’ll feel pressured by the clock on the wall, but don’t move on until everyone has a grasp of the content.
Many at-risk students experience test anxiety. Many are from low-income or single-parent families, they may have little academic support from home and peers, have disabilities and/or behavioral issues or a poor testing history. These students are very capable of learning and you can help them by making sure that they have extra academic and emotional support.
Teach your students how to take tests more effectively. Many students suffer from an “over/under” complex: they overestimate the challenges while underestimating their own abilities. It’s really a matter of perception. Explain to your students that being a little nervous is fine, as it helps them focus and “get in the zone.” Prepare them for what will be on the test. Teach them test-taking skills such as:
• Avoid reading a question too quickly or not reading/following directions carefully. If using a scantron, erase any stray pencil marks and make sure every bubble is filled.
• Answering the questions they know first, coming back to the difficult ones.
• Deduction, such as eliminating two answers that say the same thing.
• Using information from previous questions to answer other questions.
• Double-checking answers.
• Ruling out obviously incorrect answers.
Students as test scores—
Be aware that high stakes testing can cause students a great deal of trauma and stress. Sometimes it’s difficult to escape teaching to the test, especially during testing season. There’s an observed link between teacher behavior and student behavior during testing time (Landry, 2006), but you can help students by setting a calm and confident atmosphere. Make it clear to your students that they are not being judged. Those with poor testing history have a fear of the evaluative aspect of testing and how they’ll be perceived (Ormrod, 2008). Also explain to them that there’s no need to panic when others start to hand in their tests, because it’s not a race.
When you help your students conquer test anxiety, everyone wins. During testing time, your students are looking to you for calm confidence. Remember that YOU are the thermostat in your classroom, so set it well!
Landry, D. (2006). Teachers’ (K-5) perceptions of student behaviors during standardized testing. Curriculum & Teaching Dialogue, 8(1/2), 29-40.
Ormrod, J.E.(2008). Educational Psychology: Developing Learners. (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice.
This article was written by DJ Sweetin for the team at kendall.edu. Teaching is a very noble profession; for those interested in teaching Kendall can assist with their Illinois teacher certification programs.
The professional psychologists are lining up for this new area of need…children suffering from test anxieties. Bewildering notion.
First sign of something wrong in our lives?> Anxiety. Clearly, we are overdoing the obvious…robbing childhood from children. Shame.
Bitter shame. One day we will rue the day anyone thought this would motivate learners and create positive outcomes. I weep for
students today. Where is THEIR voices?
The only ‘tests’ that I have incurred in adult life are tests of character, perseverance, tolerance, gratitude, work ethic, practice, honest….etc.
Never once has my life hinges on whether I got enough answers correct. When I failed or received a low grade in school, I found ways to
bring it up by doing extra credit, writing a well composed essay or directly negotiating a way to overcome my failure. Anxious, yes.
But that’s part of learning…it was never the ultimate outcome.
Having taught for 40 years, I never thought I’d see this kind of student/family abuse become acceptable. We have lost our way, folks.
The good news? We will find it again one day. Hopefully, sooner than later. That pendulum is always in motion.
Sandy, You are right about that pendulum. It is ever swinging. In the meantime, these test are our reality. It is a shame. While I understand we need to assess our students in their basic knowledge, I worry that there is too much hinging on these tests and therefore pressure on our students.
One major issue of the few I have with the standardized tests is that they are being used to evaluate teachers. When that happens, teachers will tend to put even more emphasis on the tests in their classrooms.
And then, of course, there is the fact that not all students are built to test in a standard manner. We have so many talented and smart kids who simply may not test well.
However, the tests right now are a reality and we need to look out for these signs to make sure we are taking care of our students.