Effects Of Academic Anxiety On The Performance Of Students With And Without Learning Disabilities And How Students Can Cope With Anxiety At School

Special Education Project and Seminar Material

Effects Of Academic Anxiety On The Performance Of Students With And Without Learning Disabilities And How Students Can Cope With Anxiety At School


Abstract


This research paper explores the relationship between anxiety, student achievement, self-concept, and self-efficacy for students with and without disabilities. Anxiety can have negative effects on all students. Students with anxiety problems tend to show lower levels of academic achievement, self-efficacy, and self-concept. Anxiety reduction requires the work of students, teachers, and parents.

Mindfulness Meditation, metacognition, coping, teacher involvement, and test question order are anxiety reduction strategies explored. Problem based learning is a teaching method proven to increase students’ levels of positive metacognition. Ideas for further research involving anxiety and students with learning disabilities are explored.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

Anxiety is a subjective feeling of tension, apprehension, nervousness, and worry associated with arousal of the nervous system (Spielberger, 1983). The high level of anxiety causes a persons normal life being difficult such as interfered activities and social life. Anxiety is one of the wide varieties of emotional and behaviour disorders (Rachel and Chidsey, 2005). Students with anxiety disorder exhibit a passive attitude in their studies such as lack of interest in learning, poor performance in exams, and do poorly on assignments. The anxiety’s psychological symptoms among students include feeling nervous before a tutorial class, panicking, going blank during a test, feeling helpless while doing assignments, or lack interest in a difficult subject whereas the physiological symptoms include sweaty palms, cold, nervousness, panic, fast pace of breathing, racing heartbeat, or an upset stomach (Ruffins, 2007). The prevalence of anxiety among university students has been acknowledgement by students and educators. However, study anxiety is a real phenomena, the importance of study anxiety is particularly related to the sources of anxiety and how to handle them. Anxiety while studying is a major predictor of academic performance (McCraty, 2007 and McCraty, et al., 2000) and various studies have demonstrated that it has a detrimental effect. Little is known that there exist a possible association between high level of anxiety and low academic performance among students. Researchers revealed that high levels of anxiety influence on the decrease of working memory, distraction, and reasoning in students (Aronen et al., 2005). Tobias in Ibrahim (1996) has been recognised that anxiety plays significant role in student’s learning and academic performance, moreover anxiety has been known to have both facilitating and debilitating effects on academic achievement.

Researchers have been looking at the correlation of anxiety and the effect of academic performance among school students, they found that among high school students with higher level of anxiety have lower academic performance (McCraty, 2007) and greater anxiety would be associated with poorer academic achievement (Luigi et al., 2007). All students are entitled to an education in a positive environment. Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is part of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) that assures students with disabilities receive an appropriate and individualized education (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). FAPE also assures that students with disabilities participate in the general education classroom. Students with and without disabilities can suffer from anxiety when faced with certain academic tasks. It is important for teachers to be aware of the signs of anxiety, and what can be done to ease students’ anxiety. Anxiety is a normal reaction to certain situations. Everyone feels anxious at some time or another. Fear and worries are common in children, teenagers and adults. This is a normal part of development. For example, it is normal for a child to be afraid of the dark or monsters, but when the fear continues and the severity augments, there is reason for concern (Chansky, 2004). Some people experience more anxiety than others, over events or things that may not realistically deserve an excessive amount of worrying. Anxiety is a normal reaction to stressful situation (Connolly, Simpson, & Petty, 2006). It allows people to react quickly and thus prevents people from becoming hurt in dangerous situations or perceived threats. Some people misinterpret events and tend to linger on their misinterpretation of those events, thinking them through over and over again. In the school setting, anxiety is experienced often by students when being evaluated, such as when taking a test or giving a public performance. When test anxiety is severe, it can have significant negative effects on a student’s ability to perform at an optimal level. Huberty (2009) asserts that text anxiety overtime, tends to contribute to more pervasive underachievement. He describes the consequences of chronic test anxiety including lowered self-esteem, reduced effort, and loss of motivation for school tasks. Stowell and Bennett (2010) studied the effects of online testing on student exam performance and test anxiety, they found that students who experience high anxiety while writing tests in a classroom, were found to be less anxious when taking an exam online. Thus, online testing and examining may be a great alternative. A typical classroom consists of students from diverse families and cultures. Each family has diverse problems and issues that they are dealing with and each student has a distinct way of dealing with stress and emotions. Many times, anxiety initiates with such situations, within the home.

Families go through events that may cause children a lot of pain and uncertainty. Children may not express themselves accordingly, which is when anxiety may show its first sign and presence. Anxiety occurs amongst many, yet children have the extra burden of carrying stress and confusion and not being able to express themselves properly or not feeling as if they are able to voice their feelings. Causes of anxiety can be a result of biological and psychological factors that are intertwined in a complex manner. Academic anxiety is also associated with other emotional or behavioral disorders (Smith, 2009). Regardless of the cause or the type, academic anxiety can be managed. Teachers must be aware of the management strategies available such as positive reinforcement, clear directions, with examples, etc. will help students with academic anxiety perform better. Academic anxiety is often learned, which means they can be “unlearned”. For example, a child may learn to be afraid of something because his or her parent is afraid of that thing, thus a phobia may develop. Parents frequently pass their anxiety to their children (Weiten and McCann, 2007). Therefore, it is vital that teachers, parents, and caretakers are knowledgeable and prepared to help students with academic anxiety overcome their challenges. Interesting, academic anxiety is not just experienced by students, Tummala-Narra (2009) found that anxiety is felt both by students and instructors. To enhance learning effectiveness, teachers are encouraged to identify anxiety-provoking situations and provide a supportive learning environment so that the learners can devote their complete working memory resources to the learning tasks. Anxiety consumes the resources of working memory, thus impeding on an individual ability to perform effectively. A small level of anxiety is normal, but severe anxiety can be a serious problem. Academic anxiety can become more detrimental over time. As a student’s academic performance suffers, the anxiety level related to certain academic tasks increases (Huberty, 2012). Most teachers will have students with social anxiety and/or academic anxiety. Social anxiety can also affect a student’s academic performance. If a student has social anxiety, the student might not be able to complete group tasks or might not feel comfortable asking for help in class. Social anxiety can go along with or even lead to academic anxiety. Teaching students self-regulation can reduce anxiety and increase academic performance (Ader & Erktin, 2010).


1.2 Statement of the Problem

Many students suffer from anxiety when facing difficult academic tasks. Students with learning disabilities often face more anxiety than general education students (Nelson & Harwood, 2011). Different students respond differently to anxiety. Teaching self-regulation in early childhood is important to reduce the development of school related anxiety at an early age (Zelazo & Lyons, 2012). Anxiety can have a negative effect on the information processing system. People with anxiety have difficulty storing and retrieving information (Nelson & Harwood, 2011). Some students are very difficult to formally or informally assess because of anxiety. Not all teachers understand the signs of anxiety and the effects on their students. If teachers can recognize the signs, they can help the students cope with academic anxiety. Because all students are different, understanding multiple methods for coping with anxiety can be beneficial for more students.


1.3 Objective of the Study

The main objective of this study is to access the effect of academic anxiety on the performance of students with and without learning disability and how student cope with anxiety in schools; but to aid the completion of the study, the researcher intends to achieve the following specific objective;

  1. To examine the effect of academic anxiety on the performance of students with learning disabilities
  2. To examine the relationship between academic anxiety and the academic performance of student with and without learning disabilities
  3. To examine the coping strategies adopted by student with anxiety and disabilities
  4. To examine the effect of academic anxieties on student without learning disability

1.4 Research Hypotheses

The following research hypotheses is formulated by the researcher to aid the completion of the study;

  1. H0: Academic anxiety does not have any effect on the performance of students with learning disabilities
    H1: Academic anxiety does have an effect on the performance of students with learning disabilities
  2. H0: There is no significant relationship between academic anxiety and the academic performance of student with and without learning disabilities
    H2: There is a significant relationship between academic anxiety and the academic performance of student with and without learning disabilities

1.5 Significance of the Study

It is believed that at the completion of the study, the findings will be of great importance to the management of learning institutions, as the study seek to explore the mechanism that can be put in place to manage academic anxieties among students with and without learning disabilities. The study will also be of importance to the student of learning institutions as the study seek to examine the effect of academic anxiety among student. The study will also be useful to researchers who intend to embark on a study in a similar topic as the study will serve as a reference point to further studies.


1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study

The scope of the study covers the effect of academic anxiety on the performance of student with and without learning disability and how student cope with anxiety at school but in the cause of the study, there are some factors that limited the scope of the study;

a) Availability of Research Material:

The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study

b) Time:

The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.

c) Organizational Privacy:

Limited Access to the selected auditing firm makes it difficult to get all the necessary and required information concerning the activities.


1.7 Operational Definition of Terms

Coping

Coping is the different responses a person uses to get through a stressful situation (Ader & Erkin, 2010)

Metacognition

Metacognition is “the self-regulation of cognition” (Ader & Erkin, 2010. p 315). Students using metacognition think about the learning process.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a technique of being aware of your physical and mental states. Mindfulness is similar to keeping an on-going mental log of a person’s mental and physical activities (Zelazo & Lyons, 2012). Students using mindfulness are more likely to understand when they are experiencing anxiety

Anxiety

Anxiety is defined as “a painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind usually over an impending or anticipated ill” (Merriam-Webster, 2012). Students experiencing academic anxiety feel apprehensive over academic tasks. Students can feel anxiety related to every academic task. Some may only feel anxiety related to test taking or other specific tasks. Anxiety is not always negative. Some students can be motivated by anxiety.

Stress

Stress is how a person mentally and physically reacts to circumstances that are considered difficult or challenging (Beckner, 2004).

Self-regulation

Self-regulation is “the self-control of thought, action, and emotion” (Zelazo & Lyons, 2012, p 154).

Learning Disability

Learning disability is a classification that includes several areas of functioning in which a person has difficulty learning in a typical manner, usually caused by an unknown factor or factors. Given the “difficulty learning in a typical manner”, this does not exclude the ability to learn in a different manner


1.8 Organization of the Study

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows

  • Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study.
  • Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature.
  • Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study.
  • Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.
  • Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study

Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain the effect of academic anxiety on the performance of student with and without learning disability and how student cope with anxiety at school.
In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the challenges of academic anxiety among student with and without academic anxiety.


5.2 Summary

Academic anxiety can negatively affect the achievement and performance as well as social and psychological development among children and adults. The road to recovery is a team effort. Teachers must be aware of academic anxiety and how it may affect their students. Students can experience academic and social success, provided that good supports are in place, whether in schools or at home or both. It is absolutely crucial that teachers, parents, guardian counselors, social workers, and health professionals are knowledgeable about academic anxiety and prepared to help students who suffer from them overcome their challenges and live happy, full lives. Teachers can be part of the healing process, and students with academic anxiety can not only perform better academically but also socially, physically, and mentally.


5.3 Conclusion

Academic anxiety is not limited to students with disabilities. Students of all academic achievement levels suffer from academic anxiety. Even students who do well on classwork and homework can suffer from test anxiety and do poorly on tests (Bensoussan, 2012). Frequent poor academic performance can increase anxiety levels. Gifted students who are perfectionists can suffer from high levels of anxiety, however, perfectionists are not necessarily gifted. Even if perfectionist students are high achievers, perfectionists can still suffer from a fear of failure that can cause high levels of stress (Fletcher & Speirs, & Neumeister, 2012). Anxiety can negatively affect academic performance (Owens et al., 2012). Students who report higher levels of anxiety show lower levels of academic achievement. However, not all levels of anxiety are bad. Low levels of anxiety may be helpful to some students. According to the Attribution Theory, students need to feel in control over the outcome of academic tasks (Lim, 2007). Students will not feel that success and change is possible without a feeling of control over the causes, whether internal or external (Vockell, n.d.). Problem based learning, discussing test procedures with students, and teaching study and test taking skills are methods to help students feel more in control of the outcome of academic tasks. Teachers and parents can teach students the skills they need to feel in control of learning. By helping students understand the learning process and how they can control it, parents and teachers will help students control their anxiety


5.4 Recommendations

Haven completed the study, the researcher recommends that learning institutions should pay special attentions to students with learning disabilities and at the same time conducive learning and relaxation center should be made available in the school environment and should be accessible to both student with disabilities and without disabilities.


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