Get Ahead Kids Logo Get Ahead Kids Facebook Page Get Ahead Kids Twitter Page Get Ahead Kids Blog Maria Charlton Maria Charlton  

Get Ahead Kids® Feature Article
Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 3, No. 5 - September/October 2011

« Back to Articles

Exams & Assessment

By Rev. Dr. Kim Miller

My son once said that his favourite vegetable was brussels sprouts. I had to stop and check for a smile to see if he was joking. Similarly, some people enjoy exam time at school. That can only be a joke, right? Exam time for me was always stressful, but then came report card time. A double whammy. It was like struggling up a hill of stress, and then struggling down the other side.

And here we find one of the ironies of education. Exams can cause stress in the student, but the 'hill of stress' I have just described is a principal element of learning. The uphill and downhill of stress, the steady rise and fall of tension, are key learning times. A wise teacher will create this tension to enhance learning.

I don't mean tension that keeps kids nervous and on edge. I mean a rising and falling tension that focuses attention and enhances the capture of new information. It is on the uphill and the downhill of that tension that our kids learn best, not how long they are at the top of the hill.

A creative teacher can build times of tension through the day by signalling a test or a prize or a competition, by pausing a story at the right moment, by holding eye contact. The effect of such tools in the teacher's toolbox is to create a 'hill of stress'. The students are taken up one side and down the other. And it is in the rising and falling of the tension, in the stressing and the relaxing, that the brain is most open to learn something new.

This does not work if stress rises quickly and stays up too long. The goal is not high levels of stress, but a gentle rise and fall. We do not learn well if we are under constant stress.

Some people speak of 'eustress' (pronounced 'you-stress'). The 'eu' comes from the Greek word for good. Eustress is good stress as opposed to bad stress which can make us fearful and close us down.

A runner who is coasting will never win a race. Add a competitor and something changes. That is eustress. The student who is coasting does not learn anything new. Add some eustress and learning will happen.

A teacher who can put suitable levels of eustress into the classroom will encourage learning. The eustress has to rise and fall gently and steadily through the day.

When we cram for an exam we take ourselves to the top of the stress hill too quickly. We are still at the top in the exam room and we forget what we read in the cramming. We do not learn well on the top of the stress hill, that is the lesson of the cramming style of exam preparation.

In my teen novel, They Told Me I Had To Write This, the main character, Clem, is in school. The teacher says it is time to do a test but instead of setting an exam each student is to set his own question and then respond to that in front of the class. Clem chooses something that he thinks he knows. The trouble is, Clem gets lots of things wrong and in this test he finds out that he had the whole topic back to front. He learned it right way round on that day. The teacher was creating a stress hill and taking the students up it. What a great teacher.

Your children's teachers will sometimes aim at creating a gently sloping hill of eustress in the classroom. It is one place where kids learn well. But exam time can bring higher levels of unproductive stress. If you understand the 'hill of eustress' concept you will be in a better situation to help your kids along the learning path.

More Information

Rev. Dr Kim Miller
P: 02 5962 4774


Share |

Get Ahead Kids Magazine

Advertisement Label

Fantastic Reader Giveaways!

Get Ahead Kids Giveaway

Fantastic Family Giveaways!

2 x LeapPad3 Tablets
3 x 'What's up with Eleanor? Medikidz Explain JIA' Books

Click here to enter!

Get Ahead Kids Giveaway Family Facebook Giveaways!

3 x Googly Eyes Board Games

Click to LIKE Get Ahead Kids!

Activity Zone

Get Ahead Kids Giveaway Crosswords, Scrambles, Colouring In fun for everyone.

Click here for fun

Advertisers Directory hey dee ho music I Can Read System InParenting Newcastle Grammar School

About Get Ahead Kids

About Get Ahead Kids Magazine®
Press Room
Advertise in Get Ahead Kids Magazine®
Advertisers Media Kit
Article Contribution Guidelines
Contact Get Ahead Kids Magazine®
Privacy Policy
Internet Policy
Site Map

Get Ahead Kids Magazine

Spotlight Celebrity Interviews
Book & Product Reviews

Stay Connected

Share |

© . All Rights Reserved.