Helping Students Learn Despite their Anxiety

Helping Students Learn Despite their Anxiety

Hand-in-hand with cell phone addiction comes a dramatic rise in depression, loneliness, and anxiety among Emerging Adults.  Anxiety in particular affects nearly 60% of our students. Our job as teachers is to create an environment where students can become connected, feel successful, formulate intrinsic values, and ultimately learn. How can we accomplish this seemingly impossible task?

According to Jean Twenge, student anxiety is approaching 60%, which roughly translates into about 1 out of every 2 students who walk into our classrooms.  While the effects of anxiety on the brain are becoming better researched and documented, one thing is clear: anxiety at any level reduces the brain’s ability to learn. So, how can we help students to learn, in spite of their anxiety levels? 

  1. Pace Setting – Writing on Board
  2. Wait time / Wait Phrases
  3. Christian Practices
  4. Reflection Activities / Exercises
  5. Visible Expectations
  6. Give Feedback Early & Often
  7. Give the “Why” Behind Your Expectations or Policies
  8. Emphasize Learning Over Grades – See Article Below on “Too Smart to Fail”
  9. Use a Positive Tone in Your Syllabus and in Your Rapport with Students
  10. Be Consistent
  11. Writing About Text Anxiety
Professor writing on whiteboard Helping Students Learn Despite their Anxiety

Article: Writing on the Board Versus PowerPoint: What Do Students Prefer and Why?

By Brandl, Schneid, and Armour.

Abstract Quote: “Undergraduate biology students and second-year pharmacy students were surveyed about whether they prefer lectures taught by “writing on the board” or using PowerPoint. The students were also asked to explain their preferred teaching method. Data was collected over four years with 900 students participating.  Results: Over 85% of the students indicated the preference for “writing on the board” compared to PowerPoint. Common themes in favor for “writing on the board” included (1) more active engagement, (2) more appropriate pace, and (3) presentation of less extraneous material.”

Young student working in library looking into camera Helping Students Learn Despite their Anxiety

Article: Too Small to Fail

by Joseph Holtgreive, Inside Higher Education (2016)

Quote: “[Students] are simply focusing their attention on the wrong outcome. It’s understandable why so much emphasis is placed on the measurement of their performance, GPA. Without an exceptional record in high school, their chances of getting accepted into an elite university are slim. With so much at stake, they can’t afford to not focus on reaching the main goal. Yet while these students think they’re keeping their eyes on the ball, they are actually just staring at the scoreboard.”

PRofessionals talking around a table with superimposed speech bubbles in multicolor Helping Students Learn Despite their Anxiety

Article: Seven Keys to Effective Feedback

By Grant Wiggins, ACSD: Educational Leadership (2012)

Quote: “Whether feedback is just there to be grasped or is provided by another person, helpful feedback is goal-referenced; tangible and transparent; actionable; user-friendly (specific and personalized); timely; ongoing; and consistent.”