Strategies for Reducing Student Test Anxiety (and General Mid-Semester Stress)

As we approach mid-semester, students (as well as faculty) are likely to feel the effects of stress. Our highly engaged students often feel mentally and physically pushed to their limit, especially at exam time. Here are some strategies for reducing student stress.

General Relaxation and Stress Management Strategies

Students appreciate help in managing their time and their lives. An excellent book on this topic is:

Doyle, T., & Zakrajsek, T. (2013). The new science of learning: How to learn in harmony with your brain. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Doyle and Zakrajsek’s book is written for students but is highly useful to instructors as well. It provides advice on managing time, conquering the myth that effective multitasking is possible, and getting proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise.


Some of the teaching and learning literature supports that smaller, more frequent assessments tend to be better for learning as well as lower the perceived stakes for any one test (thus relieving test anxiety to some degree) rather than only one or two midterms and a final.

The Use of Humor

Humor in the classroom has been shown to reduce student stress. One book that shows how to put humor techniques into practice is this:

Berk, R. (2002). Humor as an instructional defibrillator: Evidence-based techniques in teaching and assessment. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Also see Berk’s article in the Journal on Excellence in College Teaching (

Berk, R. A. (1996). Student ratings of 10 strategies for using humor in college teaching. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 7(3), 71-92.


Mindfulness training is being used in a variety of higher education contexts to help students deal with a wide variety of stressful situations, including exams.

Some resources on mindfulness are as follows:

The Association for the Contemplative Mind in Higher Education

Bellinger, D. B., DeCaro, M. S., & Ralston, P. ((2015). Mindfulness, anxiety, and high-stakes mathematics performance in the laboratory and classroom. Consciousness and Cognition, 37, 123-132.

Respond to the Seminar: Test Construction and Assessment

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Date: September 29, 2016
Time: 2:00-3:30 pm
Location: 320 Laws Hall
Presenters: Jennifer Blue, Marianne Cotugno and Beth Dietz

We will begin this workshop by exploring the question: Why test? From there, attendees will have the opportunity to learn and practice strategies for designing “tests” that assess student learning outcomes. Attendees will receive resources that will help them construct tests and evaluation rubrics. This workshop will be interactive, and attendees are encouraged to bring a test they’ve used in the past as well as the student learning outcomes for a course they teach.

Respond to the Seminar: Navigating NY Times Content to Aid in Student Learning Outcomes

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Day: September 29
Time: 12:00-1:30 pm
Location: 320 Laws Hall
Presenter: Navid Ladha, Education Engagement Manager, The New York Times

Take an in-depth tour of with Navid Ladha, Education Engagement Manager, The New York Times. Full online access to Times is now available to the Miami University community, provided by the Miami University Libraries. This access enables students and faculty to engage with The Times’ world-class journalism anytime, anywhere.

Respond to the Seminar: It’s On Us: Title lX Reporting and Supporting

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Location: 320 Laws Hall

Date: September 27, 2016

Presenter: Becca Getson, Student Health Services

Sexual and interpersonal violence is an unfortunate reality on every campus and in every community. In a shifting landscape of laws, policies, and guidance, the realities of sexual and interpersonal violence can be confusing and lost among the regulations. This seminar will provide an overview of relevant laws and policies for reporting, information for supporting victim/survivors, and available resources. Title IX, Clery, and MUPIM will be discussed, with an emphasis on faculty and staff requirements, options, and involvement. A focus on victim/survivors will provide information and resources for how we can support and assist individuals. It’s on us to understand and support those individuals affected by violence.

New Issue of JECT Focuses on Students’ Views of Effective Teaching

Journal Cover shrunkA new issue of the Journal on Excellence in College Teaching is now available online at the Journal website:

Volume 27, number 3 (2016) focuses on Students’ Views of Effective Teaching and Learning. The editors of the issue describe it in this way:
“According to Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) classic work, effective teaching embodies seven principles that are based in the research: student-faculty contact, cooperation, active learning, feedback, time on task, communication of expectations, and mutual respect. From a faculty perspective, these are time-honored, research-supported cornerstones of learner-centered teaching. But how do our students view effective teaching and learning? What needs do they feel they have as learners, and how do they believe learning occurs best? The authors in this issue of the Journal explore some of the ways that students perceive what learning is and when it is most effective..” (From “A Message From the Editors,” p. 1).

The articles in this issue are:

An Examination of Teaching Award Support Letters: What They Reveal About How Students and Faculty Perceive Teaching Excellence
K. L. Jackson et al.

Assessing Graduate Teaching Assistants’ Beliefs and Practices
J. Douglas et al.

Do College Students Notice Errors in Evidence When Critically Evaluating Research Findings?
F. Rodriguez et al.

Education Student Research Paradigms and Emerging Scholar Identities: A Mixed-Methods Study
P. D. Hales et al.

What Students Want You to Know: Promoting Achievement in Postsecondary Students With Anxiety Disorders
L. Sokal & N. Desjardins

Creating a Community of Learning Through Classroom Discussion: Student Perceptions of the Relationships Among Participation, Learning, Comfort, and Preparation
E. J. Dallimore et al.

Graduate Students’ Poster Session Experiences: Do Levels of Academic Self-Efficacy and Individual Characteristics Play a Role?
A. A. Filipova

Residual Effects on Students of a College Poverty Immersion Experience
M. W. Firmin et al.

For those who are not aware, the Journal is a peer-reviewed venue published four times a year at Miami University by and for faculty at universities and two- and four-year colleges to increase student learning through effective teaching, interest in and enthusiasm for the profession of teaching, and communication among faculty about their classroom experiences. It answers Ernest Boyer’s (1990) call for a forum to present the scholarship of teaching and learning. The Journal provides a scholarly, written forum for discussion by faculty about all areas affecting teaching and learning, and gives faculty the opportunity to share proven, innovative pedagogies and thoughtful, inspirational insights about teaching.

We invite you to use the Journal as a resource for teaching and learning. On the website, click “Issue Archive” to access all issues of the Journal published since its inception in 1990; to locate teaching and learning topics you wish to research, click on “Search Archive.” This electronic version of the Journal is provided by funding from the Committee for Teaching Excellence for all Miami faculty and staff.

For information about submitting manuscripts or other inquiries, click “Submitting Manuscripts” on the website ( or contact Gregg Wentzell, Managing Editor, at the Center for Teaching Excellence, 317 Laws Hall, on Miami’s Oxford campus (telephone: 529-9265; e-mail:

Enjoy reading, and watch for the next issue of the Journal (volume 27, number 4), due out in late fall 2016.

Nominations for E. Phillips Knox Distinguished Teaching Award Now Being Accepted

Nominations are now being accepted for the E. Phillips Knox Distinguished Teaching Award. Nominations are due to by October 15, 2016

Established by Miami alumnus E. Phillips Knox, a 1968 graduate, the award recognizes creative, innovative and engaging teaching methods at the undergraduate level. This award is conferred upon faculty members whose achievements unequivocally merit the recognition for excellence in teaching. Award winners receive a professional expense allocation of $3,000 in support of their teaching and for professional activities related to the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Faculty who are nominated and are eligible will be invited to submit an application by February 1.

To read more about the Knox award and requirements, visit

Respond to the Seminar: Teaching Large Classes

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Date: September 22, 2016
Time: 10:00-11:00 am
Location: 320 Laws Hall

Presenters: Mary C. Henry, Geography, and Yasmin Jessa, Chemistry & Biochemistry

This workshop will allow participants to explore a few different strategies for teaching large classes. The session will be divided into three parts: The first two parts will discuss examples from two faculty, in Chemistry and Geography, and the last part will be a group conversation where attendees are encouraged to share strategies from their own courses.

Miami Recognized for Its Outstanding Faculty Commitment to Teaching

Miami University has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as the No. 1 public university for commitment to teaching.

Carole Johnson, University News and Communications, writes that “Miami is No. 2 on the specialty list following only Princeton (a private university) with Yale at No. 3 and Brown at No. 4 in this specialty list in U.S. News’ Best Colleges rankings released today.” In addition, she writes, “For the past eight years, Miami has ranked in the top five by U.S. News & World Report’s list of universities with “unusually strong commitment to undergraduate teaching.”

The article continues, “Miami faculty put their hearts and souls into teaching – it’s where we truly excel. We hear it every day from our students and graduates of every campus, that how professors teach and mentor is what makes Miami such a special place to learn,” said Miami President Gregory Crawford. “This consistent recognition year after year is testament to their passion, commitment and genuine compassion for our students, and being here and seeing it on a daily basis is truly inspiring.”

To read the full article, go to

Some Strategies to Save Time in Grading Writing

Responding to student writing can be incredibly time consuming. Strategies that reduce the amount of actual writing on student papers can greatly reduce this time investment. Some strategies that may help are listed below.

• Use techniques that reduce/eliminate writing on the student’s paper (for example, grading features in CMS ( has a system for giving feedback that encourages student revision of writing, which is essential for writing improvement).

• Develop a list of short codes for common feedback phrases you use (for example, WYE – Where’s Your Evidence?).

• Consider peer review: Student majors can be recruited to peer review for first-year students.

• Use a rubric for all writing assignments that not only outlines the expected criteria but also includes collected examples of student work that earned a particular score.

One strategy that can save substantial time in responding to student writing is audio feedback. Below are several resources for those who wish to try or expand this approach:

Sara Bauer’s article, “When I Stopped Writing on Their Papers: Accommodating the Needs of Student Writers With Audio Comments,” may be useful to those considering a shift to audio feedback:

The Council of Writing Program Administrators has published a research bibliography on using audio response:

Finally, Julia Metzker has a Pedagogy and Practice webinar on audio commenting:

Respond to the Seminar: The Global Miami Plan

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Seminar: The Global Miami Plan
Presenter: Rich Taylor, Director of Liberal Education; Chemistry & Biochemistry
Date: September 15, 2016, 2:00-3:30 pm
Location: 320 Laws Hall

The Global Miami Plan for Liberal Education is the common curriculum for all Miami undergraduate students. It is more than a general education program and extends throughout the undergraduate career. The Plan was revised for the class entering Fall, 2015 and later in order to be compatible with the broader university 2020 goals. It emphasizes student competencies with ongoing assessment. A brief outline of the revised Miami Plan will be presented, along with a discussion of the challenges and opportunities it presents to new faculty. Course revision, course development, assessment and advising will be discussed.