Testing! Testing! Helping Students Overcome Test Anxiety and Prepare for Tests" DAY 1, Post 1

Hello, and welcome to the first discussion topic of our two-day event! Please join me in welcoming Daphne Atkinson! You'll have the opportunity to learn from and add to discussion with both Daphne and your peers as we discuss testing, assessment strategies, and more.

Daphne Atkinson is Managing Director of Daphne Atkinson & Associates, LLC, a consulting practice designed to serve the strategic and tactical needs of the adult education community. Ms. Atkinson brings more than 20 years of experience creating content about thinking styles, learning preferences, generational characteristics, and research-based classroom strategies for administrators, trainers, and instructors.

Let's begin with our first question for the day:

In students' minds, there is often a disconnect between what happens in the classroom (in terms of topics) and what they see on the tests.  How can instructors reduce or eliminate the disconnect?


Who hasn’t had the experience of having adult learners insist that there were questions on a test that weren’t covered in class? Why does that happen?  It involves adult learners’ expectations about—and to be fair—the baggage about learning that occurs in the classroom setting. Without a clear connection to real life or a passion for learning for its own sake, many learners may conclude that the academic content has little relevance to real life. 


Let’s talk about how to reduce this disconnect.  Knowles’ findings about the characteristics of adult learners shed light on this phenomenon.  Ultimately, learning is the province of the learner (self-directed and autonomous)—a fact that is sometimes challenging to remember.  Learners choose what learning to let in and what to screen out.  The task for instructors is to find a way in.


Post a few of your own go-to strategies.  In the meantime, a few suggestions:  One way in is to link all lessons to the adult learners’ goals and to make the connection by demonstrating both the relevance and practicality.  Here are a few things to try:

  1. Bring real life into the classroom with relatable examples—knowing your students, their goals, and interests will drive the topics you choose.
  2. Demonstrate how the concept relates to real life—in other words, make your thinking visible—the actual  thinking process that connects the concept and the real-world example.
  3. Find a video that illustrates the real-life connection.
  4. Encourage learners to offer additional examples (discussion) and have them write a brief paragraph about the example. 
  5. Then, conclude by discussing the ways that this concept could appear on tests and how learners might recognize the concept (and connect it with prior learning).
  6. The big takeaway for learners should be that there are many ways to present the same content; by giving students the experience of looking beyond the obvious ways that a test question might be packaged, instructors are helping adult learners develop an important set of life skills.


This is wonderful, Daphne! We hear all the time about how crucial it is for adult learning to be real-life centered to increase engagement in the classroom, but I'm not sure I have heard it connected to testing. That makes perfect sense. Helping students not see assessment as "something I have to do that is separate" but rather connected via life skills should certainly help to mend that disconnect. I now wonder if, as an instructor, I have helped to fuel the idea that tests are somehow different and disconnected from skills. 

Great food for thought!

Thanks Susan for bringing this great topic to life in this discussion! Thanks Daphne for adding your expertise!

In creating assessments in class, we certainly want to avoid situations like this:

Cartoon with Sally asking why anyone would buy 60 cantaloupes without someone asking what was wrong with them in the attempt to create a word problem.

I am reflecting on an article I read some years ago about instructor's attempts to create realistic workplace math problems for class. They concluded:

In real workplace math:

  • All problems are word problems
  • All problems are realistic on-the-job situations
  • None of the problems has explicit math
  • No “find the common denominator”
  • No written formulas - you are told to rearrange or solve
  • You must interpret the English in terms of math and you must choose the correct math tools to solve the problem

Their conclusion was: "In summary, workplace math is critical thinking applied to math."

Source: http://curriculumredesign.org/wp-content/uploads/Paris-Workplace-Math-MMayo.pdf


Thanks again for having this discussion,

Steve Schmidt

Great ideas Daphne. We are all being tested every day in many ways and don't even realize it!

I remember bringing in pizza and fruit pies for Pi day (3/14) and a lesson on circumference, radius, and diameter and as mentioned in #1 I chose pizzas and pies my leaners had an interest in and the authentic materials made the lesson fun and concepts memorable. I reminded the learners at the time that the GED test could involve some questions on circumference, but I didn't make the whole focus of my lesson about the GED test. It allowed them to see that yes they needed to know this for a test, but they might use it in real life too. What does it mean if an online menu says an 18 inch pizza??? Or thinking about pie sizes and correct size paper plates to fit the slices for a party or event.