Saturday, April 12, 2008

Anxiety and Timed Writing

Megan Murphy

For this research paper, I chose to study student anxiety in timed writing assessments. The reason for studying this topic is to gain insight in how much anxiety plays a part in the way a student performs on writing assessments when they are timed. This research would benefit students, teachers and writers alike because almost everyone has experienced some aspect of participation in a timed assessment, whether teaching or taking one. Through gathering this research, I found it beneficial to see the different aspects that go into causing student anxiety and why it affects them through taking a timed test. I think that this research would also be useful to any teacher or parent struggling with a child who has anxiety towards tests. For this research, I only used scholarly journals that related to the topic and were dated back to the early 1970’s up until the most recent, in 2002.

Hill, Kennedy T. and Allan Wigfield. “Test Anxiety: A Major Educational Problem and What Can Be Done About It”. The Elementary School Journal. (1984): 105-126. JSTOR.
Roesch Lib., U of Dayton, Dayton, OH. 29 Mar 2008.

In this article, the authors begin with an overview of what anxiety is, who it affects and what can be done about it. The authors also generally focus on anxiety in children and how this relates to specific school settings, along with test taking. The researchers became interested n the topic because they wanted to know what caused this anxiety in children and how they could help them turn this anxiety into something positive. The researchers also focused where this anxiety could have originally stemmed from and they found that it could occur in children as young as preschool age and it emerges more in elementary school. They found that this anxiety can start at such a young age because parents put too much pressure on their children to perform unrealistically for their age and this only carries over to middle school and then eventually to high school. This article also recognizes that as children get older, they not feel pressure to perform well in school from their parents, but they also sense a need for competition against their fellow classmates. Too many of them have unfair evaluations in from on the class, which in turn only makes them feel more nervous to perform well on tests so that they are doing as well, if not better than their other classmates. The information that the authors described about anxiety and how it pertains to the classroom and test taking supports the main point of my research. I also think that the general definitions of anxiety they offer and how it affects students will also help.

Petroskey, Anthony. “Research Roundup: Apprehension, Attitudes and Writing”.
The English Journal. (1976): 74-77. JSTOR. Roesch Lib., U of Dayton, Dayton, OH.
29 Mar 2008.

Anthony Petroskey discusses in this article how apprehension is an anxiety trait and how it plays a part in test taking and also communication in general. Petroskey argues that when this apprehension is present in the classroom, it is harder for students to learn how to write and for the teachers to teach the act of writing. Because of this, he found that when students have this apprehension, and aren’t even taking the writing section of SAT’s but are actually being scored in the verbal section, their perception of success is being lowered. Because of these findings, Petroskey developed a “writing apprehension instrument” that teachers can use in instructional settings that can help both teachers and students have a better guide of who needs help with their writing and who does not. If the teachers used this instrument and then realized who needed more help, the students would feel less anxiety about their writing and would have a better attitude about it. If the students get enough instruction about their writing before taking the standardized tests, they would be able to perform better and feel less stress. This article is important to my research because it identifies students who feel anxiety about their writing and therefore have trouble performing well on both the verbal and written section of the SAT’s. The results of the study also pertain to my main research goal.

Powers, Donald E. and Mary E. Fowles. “Effects of Applying Different Time Limits to a
Proposed GRE Writing Test”. Journal of Educational Measurement. (1996): 433-452.
JSTOR. Roesch Lib., U of Dayton, Dayton, OH. 30 Mar 2008.

In this article, the researchers did a study on three hundred volunteers who were prospective graduate students. In the study, the volunteers had to write two essays, both of which were timed. The first essay they had to write they were only given forty minutes, while in the second they were given sixty minutes. Through this study, the researchers were trying to see if the time had anything to do with the way that the volunteers performed. They discuss the background of tests often given to college students and differentiate between “power tests” and “speed tests”. Through the discussion of these two kinds of tests, the researchers found that although strict time limits may negatively affect a student’s performance, most people feel that standardized tests are only fair if every student had to perform within the same time limitations. The researchers found that although standardized tests seem fair to everyone, they are not a good representation of how well that person writes. Through their findings, the researchers realized that although the examinees had a better test performance when they were give sixty minutes instead of forty, there was “no detectable effect of different time limits on the meaning of essay scores”. This study is important to my research because it exemplifies the correlation between timed writing assessment and the way students perform on them.

Shavelson, Richard and Gail Baxter. “Sampling Variability of Performance Assessments”. Journal of Educational Measurement. (1993): 215-232. JSTOR. Roesch Lib., U of
Dayton, Dayton, OH. 29 Mar 2008.

In this article, the author describes general performance assessments and the wide range they are used in multiple fields. They begin by recognizing that performance assessments are something that have been used as political instruments for a very long time but have moved into school districts as a measurement of performance and success. The authors discuss how the curriculum could be raised if these assessments were used, and therefore the student’s achievements would be higher. The authors also recognize factors going against these performance assessments. For example, the cost of the tests and how much time it takes out of the school year for the teachers to give them to the students. They also bring up the issue that judging the answers has become a problem of discrimination. Different student disabilities have become a problem in allowing who should take these tests and whom they are appropriate for. Through differentiating between the two, they then have to find a new way to judge the tests depending on the disability. Although some of this article deals with test anxiety and the pressures that go alone with performance assessments, the second half of the article deals with a separate study. I would use the beginning of the article that is useful in understanding how these assessments affect children.

Shepard, Lorrie and Carribeth Bliem. “Parent’s Thinking About Standardized Tests and
Performance Assessments”.
Educational Researcher. (1995): 25-32. JSTOR. Roesch
Lib., U of Dayton, Dayton, OH. 29 Mar 2008.

The two researchers open this article by discussing opinions of standardized tests and assessments. The article then goes on to explain how a group of parents in Colorado are opposing these tests and their reasoning for their opposition. They begin by explaining how their board members decided to change their way of testing and are going “back to the basics” way of testing because of the large amount of negative feedback that they have received by parents in their school district. The parents argue that the standardized tests are not fair because it is hard for their children to be positive about what is going to be present on the test and whether or not their teachers are preparing them correctly for the exams. They also argue that the standardized test board has unrealistic expectations for what students can learn on a year-to-year basis. This just puts added pressure on the school, the teachers, and the students. Through this study, the researchers asked a wide range of parents how they think their children should be assessed in school. Only 13% of the parents felt that standardized testing was important representation for them to understand how well their children are doing in school. While 77% of the parents felt that talking to their child’s teacher is the most helpful and insightful because they get to hear how their child has progressed throughout the year, and not how they did one morning, on one test. This article is very important to my research because it analyzes what actual parents feel is necessary in assessing their children and it also gives an example of an actual school district fighting against the typical standardized tests.

Simmons, John. “Testing on Both Sides: A Comparison”. The English Journal. (1987): 27-29.
JSTOR. Roesch Lib., U of Dayton, Dayton, OH. 30 Mar 2008.

In this article, the author discusses when the statewide testing first came into affect in the United States. The tests first came into affect in the 1970’s and teachers and students alike have been struggling with them ever since. The teachers don’t agree with having to spend time in the classroom teaching the students how to take these tests when they barely have enough time to teach what they already have planned. One state that Simmons focuses on in the state of Florida and how they originally began this testing mechanism and that many other states just followed in their footsteps. The state of Florida originally felt the need to put these tests into motion because of the way their State Department of Education responded to the legislative Accountability Act that was created in 1972. The original setup for the tests was multiple choice and a writing section. But linguists or rhetoricians did not judge the writing section, they were judged by a simple writing team. Simmons goes on to explain how the tests haven’t only made the students more competitive, but they have made all of the school districts competitive against each other, displaying their students scores like a national scoreboard. This article is very beneficial to my research because it explains when and where standardized tests first came into place. It also has a large amount of background details on why this state testing was needed according to the legislative act that was passed.

Trentham, Linda. “The Effect of Distractions on Sixth-Grade Students in a Testing Situation”.

Journal of Educational Measurement. (1975): 13-17. JSTOR. Roesch Lib., U of Dayton, Dayton, OH. 29 Mar 2008.

Throughout this article, the author studies whether or not distractions in the classroom affect the grades students receive on exams. In the study, Trentham exposes a classroom to two different kinds of test taking conditions. In the first group, the students took a test in the most “ideal” environment for test taking, in a very quiet room. Then they were placed into a room with many distractions such as pencils breaking and loud arguing going on in the hallway. In the researcher’s results, it was found that there were no differences in the student’s scores between the two groups. Trentham goes on to give several more examples of different age groups who were placed in these same kinds of settings. She explains that only with elementary children were they much more distracted by the other things that were going on in the room. But in all of the studies done with high school and college students the results were the same; the distractions didn’t affect their scores. Because the distraction level changed somewhere between elementary school and high school, Trentham decided to do another study seventy-two sixth graders who were randomly selected from three different schools in Kentucky. She included eight distractions ranging from kittens being dropped into the room to a radio being played for thirty seconds. She found that it was true that students who were in the room with the distractions performed worse than the subjects in the non-distraction room. Therefore, the change in the level of distraction has to occur later than middle school. These studies are very important to my research because it gives a wide variety of examples of how students are affected by distractions in the room when they are taking exams. These distractions can cause anxiety and therefore could cause them to receive a lower score.

Walen, Sharon B. and Steven R. Williams. “A Matter of Time: Emotional Responses to Timed
Mathematics Tests”. Educational Studies in Mathematics. (2002): 361-378. JSTOR.
Roesch Lib., U of Dayton, Dayton, OH. 29 Mar 2008. .

This study focuses on the emotional responses to three different individuals to timed mathematics tests. The authors examined two adult women who reflect on their experiences “taking skills-tests” and a third grade girl who is currently taking these tests. The authors found that their negative emotional responses didn’t have everything to do with the specific course (mathematics) or to the fact that they were being assessed, but more towards the timed nature of the tests they had to take. The authors also found a direct correlation between the anxiety the students felt about doing well on the assessment and their achievement. The authors also incorporate many other studies don’t by past theorists who have found the same kind of results. These other studies also support the authors main point that timed writing assessment anxiety can occur as early as grade three because the students recognize the competition they have with their peers.

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