Teachers, Here's a Tip: Don't Scare Your Students About Tests

Remember the last time you were terrified to take a test because the teacher threatened you might fail and your future was over?

Research is now showing that that's not, well, a great way to warm students up for the exercise, says a new study.

Seems like common sense but research has found that teachers may want to avoid reminding students of the bad consequences of failing a test because doing so could lead to lower scores.  And in our test-score-crazy world, OMG.

Even my son, who's a straight A student (no thanks to me) is nervous about the upcoming Common Core test that's about to be administered at his middle school, even though it won't count and won't even be scored. (So why are the kids taking it? Beats me.)

“Teachers are desperately keen to motivate their students in the best possible way but may not be aware of how messages they communicate to students around the importance of performing well in exams can be interpreted in different ways,” said lead author David Putwain, PhD, of Edge Hill University in Lancashire, England at newswise.com.

Students in the study who said they felt threatened by their teachers’ messages that frequently focused on failure reported feeling "less motivated and scored worse on the exam than students who said their teacher used fewer fear tactics that they considered less threatening, the study found," according to newswise.com.
A message such as, “If you fail the exam, you will never be able to get a good job or go to college. You need to work hard in order to avoid failure,” was an example of attempting to motivate by fear. Know what works better? “The exam is really important as most jobs that pay well require that you pass and if you want to go to college you will also need to pass the exam,” according to the study (though that reeks of intimidation, too, in my mind).
“Both messages highlight to students the importance of effort and provide a reason for striving,” the Web site quotes Putwain. “Where these messages differ is some focus on the possibility of success while others stress the need to avoid failure.”
I guess it's all about positive thinking.  Or seeing the glass as half-full.  Although if you were me taking the math SAT many years ago, nothing other than a bomb (closing the classroom) would have helped.  



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