Test Anxiety: An important issue in teacher education

Sarit Segal, Sara Shimoni, Levinsky College of Education, Tel Aviv,  Israel

Tests are an inseparable part of daily life: school achievement tests, intelligence tests, admission tests and advancements tests etc.  Success in Western society often depends on test scores.  Our culture attaches high value to tests, therefore test anxiety and fear of failure are common among students at every age.  Some children begin to develop test anxiety from their first encounter with the educational system .  A system that places a very high emphasis on grades.

In the last 20 years, a great body of research has been accumulated on the issue of test anxiety, from sarason, (1980) to Eysenck, (1992).  During the same period, most studies in the area of learning have been focused on the cognitive factors involved in the learning process.  Currently, with the growing interest in the affective aspects of learning due to the EQ concept and its implications to education, there's a renewed interest in test anxiety and related phenomena such as achievement motivation and their influence on learning.

The Mofet Institute in Israel which caters for teachers educators, issued a programme of studies "tailored" for teacher training on the subject of test anxiety.  The programme covers the issue of test anxiety from five angles.

1.  Systems and characteristics

2.  Causes

3.  Diagnosis and measurement

4.  Treatment models

5.  Implications for education

The programme has been successfully implemented in the Levinsky College of Education in Tel Aviv.

Anxious students have difficulties in preparing for tests.  They experience anxiety before the test begins, and when they have to actually take the test they sometimes feel completely paralysed and unable to remember what they need in order to demonstrate their true level of knowledge.

Many teacher fail to notice  the symptoms of test anxiety among their students, often because they are trying to avoid these "bad" feelings due to similar experiences they have had as students or as new teachers.  Teachers, who do know how to detect test anxiety symptoms don't know how to deal with their implications.

The programme aims at clarifying the phenomena of test anxiety and especially "teaching" teachers how to create a class atmosphere that minimises test anxiety.  How to help their students learn to prepare for different kinds of tests and behave during tests .

The programme is based on a pluralistic approach which regards the classroom as a complex and heterogeneous sub culture where different students study differently, and every teacher has his or her own ways of teaching.  Therefore we present diverse ways of approaching test anxiety as well as dealing with it in the classroom.

The significance of the programme lies in its being uniquely directed to teachers and teaching trainees.  It uses "Teachers' language" and is grounded in the "teaching culture" as the main idea is to make teachers understand that test anxiety is a part of their students life and has to be a part of their pedagogical considerations.

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