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Look at heritage to overcome test stress

Published:Monday | April 16, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Revisiting Jamaica's powerful history is key to helping local students ease their anxiety before tests.

That is the opinion of American psychologist, Dr Mark Bolden, who was speaking to education stakeholders on the topic 'Roots of Student Testing Anxiety' at the Shortwood Teachers' College in St Andrew last Friday.

The workshop, organised by the United States Embassy in Kingston, provided practical approaches to reduce stress and anxiety associated with high-stakes testing for Jamaican primary and secondary students.

Powerful heritage

Bolden, who holds a doctorate in counselling psychology with a concentration in African psychology, encouraged teachers to restore the communal history of resilience and resistance to all traumas. He showed a link between children who felt they came from a powerful heritage and having feelings of empowerment. He also suggested that if the media destigmatised failure and poor performance, it would lessen the anxiety of children.

Bolden pointed out that students who identified themselves with groups which consistently did poorly in tests would internalise that and would be more likely to fail when it was their turn. The reverse applies for students who identified themselves with successful test takers.

Bolden introduced the gathering to mindfulness techniques such as embracing their own parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the involuntary nervous system that slows the heart rate. He said he felt this calm in the educators would have a ripple effect.