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 (www.miamioh.edu/ject/):
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.