How can schools help children deal with academic anxiety related to performance and transitions?

Many students struggle with academic anxiety. Educators often observe that performance anxiety can interfere with the learning process as these students tend to shut down and not ‘hear’ what is being presented. They also need sustained guidance for assignments and tests. Additionally, some students struggle with academic anxiety with regard to transitioning from one task to another. Educators often characterize such students as being ill-prepared for class and unable to begin the class period. 

Effective teaching strategies and an open line of communication between the home and the school is essential to lowering the anxiety of these children. Parents need to be forthcoming with their understanding of their children’s profiles, and educators need to be responsive to the angst that their students feel. Differential instruction will go a long way in helping students perform to their potential while reducing their anxiety.

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With regard to performance anxiety, educators can create a structured setting where students are able to independently negotiate their academic work by seeking out assistance and utilizing specific learning strategies. They can lower the level of uncertainty of their students by providing an academic framework and by offering direct instruction to students before beginning independent writing assignments. Educators who provide detailed outlines from which to study and to refer to when completing assignments and preparing for tests give these students a visual framework to refer to.

For students who display academic anxiety with regard to transitions, educators can state clear expectations of the class lesson and the assigned work, making sure that directions are both verbally and visually presented. If students understand what is expected, it greatly assists them in dealing with anxiety-producing situations. For younger children, class charts on the wall stating rules of behaviors and academic expectations provide parameters and a framework.

Empower your children by reminding them to be proactive and self-promoters in their classroom and to develop and hone specific strategies that they can incorporate into their assignments.  This is an excellent way to build students’ self-confidence and increase their sense of control over their anxiety. Parents also need to remain supportive while their children complete assigned tasks at home as stress is frequently associated with academic anxiety.

There are numerous ways in which students can negotiate and navigate their school day with decreased anxiety. Parental understanding of their children’s profiles, effective teaching strategies and a concentrated effort on the part of these students can blend together in a positive and effective manner, allowing the school to help students lessen academic anxiety with regard to performance and to transitions.

Readers can write to Dana at dana@educationalalternativesllc.com. Dana will respond to one reader’s question a month. Dana hopes that her response will alleviate parents’ concerns and offer useful educational advice. Dana’s educational consultant practice focuses on assessment, advocacy and school placement for students with learning disabilities and social-emotional challenges (educationalalternativesllc.com).