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Applying Technology to Learning
among adult learners served by the
Unlimited Learning Center (ULC)

Volume 3, Issue 5
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Test Anxiety - Can Anything Help?

testtest anxiety

by Dr. Ryan DeMares

What do Adult Education students have in common with high-stakes athletes and conference speakers?

If the words “Performance Anxiety” popped immediately to mind, you already understand that when the stakes are high for anyone, stress can interfere to create a less than optimum outcome.

In education we call it Test Anxiety, but the same principles and remedies apply. Motivational experts report—conservatively, we suspect—that about 20% of students suffer from test anxiety, but the rate in Adult Education is at least 80%. In part, that's because our students arrive in our  classrooms and computer labs hauling along mental and emotional baggage around their prior educational experience or lack of it. This baggage often includes such negative labels such as dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, or some other learning disability. Such obstacles make goal-setting, study, learning and test performance all the more challenging.

That having been said, who hasn't had the jitters before an important test? For starters, learn more about the practical aspects of Test Anxiety in the following link, which also references the use of relaxation as a good test-taking tip:


Curious about just how severe jitters can become? The GAF (Global Assessment of Functioning) Scale, a numeric scale of 1 to 100 used by mental health practitioners and physicians to rate the social, occupational, and psychological functioning of adults, is a useful resource as well as an interesting read:  https://www.msu.edu/course/sw/840/stocks/pack/axisv.pdf

An online TV news interview by Florida station Fox 35 features a performance coach who gives seven tips for reducing test stress—ideas that can be put to good use whether you are an adult student, instructor, or parent. Notably, Counselor West asserts that when it comes to tests, “Stress is a good motivator:”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeCpYVt8t7Q

Emphasis on positive reframes is important to developing a winning scholastic approach. As an example, for the adult student whose goal is the GED, a positive reframe for existing negative self-talk along the lines of “I couldn't make it through school the first time,” might be “If it's possible for others, it's possible for me.”

You can get more mileage out of this approach by inviting students to experiment with a hands-on routine that has a solid track record of leaving performance bejibbers behind in the dust. We know that what we feel is what we project, and what we project is what we become. Click Here to download a short visualization technique on helping students reach their goals. The goal statement might be to pass the Math Section of the GED exam by the end of summer!

The following visualization script has also had proven success in helping students pass exams that they previously feared or failed:http://tinyurl.com/bqzyll7.

Of course, along with the best mind preparation, a student must also practice and study test-related content. The relaxed mind cannot access what isn't there!


Ryan DeMares, Ph.D., CHt., CP-AMT, has recently joined the staff at the Unlimited Learning Center. She presented a one-day training this month to ULC and other adult ed faculty and staff on applying simple techniques to help students overcome test anxiety. Dr. DeMares earned her Ph.D. toward the end of her 40-year career as a writer/editor, which followed her Master’s degree in Journalism, earned in 1972. Her eventual doctoral work delved into the fields of Consciousness & Cognition, and also Transpersonal Psychology, the psychology of Wholeness. In addition to her dissertation, her research was published in two peer-reviewed journals and presented at several international conferences. She also published a book written for general readership. Post-doctoral, she returned to her publications career for another decade, then retired from it to focus on working with the Mind-Body connection.


Brains! Can They Change to Serve Us Better?


As discussed above, research and experience provide ample evidence that we can change how we behave by changing the way we think and by practicing effective techniques that transform the way our brains function.

"Over the last few decades, researchers have discovered that the brain can fundamentally reorganize itself when confronted with new challenges, and that this can occur regardless of age. Evidence suggests that the brain, when given the right exercise, can actually reshape itself to become more efficient. This ability, known by scientists as “neuroplasticity”, has far-reaching implications." (http://www.lumosity.com/the-science/research-initiatives)

Lumosity, http://www.lumosity.com/, is a site dedicated to training students, athletes, educators and many different professionals to redesign how they respond to stress and to tasks that they consider challenging in their lives. The site has games and activities that engage learners as they focus attention, sharpen memory, reach peak performance, and enhance creativity. To find out more about the key concepts that guide the exercises promoted on the site, go to http://www.lumosity.com/the-science/key-concepts.

Is there a catch? Only one that I can see: it's not free. But then it's not expensive, either, and you can try out the activities for a free trial period. Once that's over, you can select a plan. I got a two-year plan for $119.95 or $59.50 a year. After playing with the site options, you'll be able to see how you and your students might use the resources. Maybe you'll need only one license. What a deal!

Let's help students stop beating themselves up, hiding in shame, and sabotaging their best intent, and start redefining the engine that dictates how they react to their environments.

Among the activities, you might enroll in ADHD course, which focuses on developing sustained attention and working memory. Or try the TBI course, designed in collaboration with UCSD neuroscientist Douglas Johnson, PhD, for the rehabilitation of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and combat-related cognitive deficits. Or how about Cancer Recovery? This course was designed in collaboration with Stanford neuroscientist Dr. Shelli Kesler to improve flexible thinking and executive function in cancer patients, and people recovering from chemotherapy. You get the idea. Enjoy and help your students thrive. You might even hear a student say, "Math is easy! What was I thinking?"

You can check out the list of courses and games at http://www.lumosity.com/courses. Add a few online activities to reinforce your contact with students!

Microsoft Logo

If we ran our cars or our bodies the way many of us run our computers, they would soon shut down, too! Following are sites with advice on how to maintain your PC's so that they keep humming right along, well, as smoothly as technology allows over time.

http://www.microsoft.com/atwork/maintenance/speed.aspx#fbid=whk50Bi6gYD - The advice given covers most recent Windows versions, up to Windows 7.

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifehack/26-tips-to-keep-your-computer-up-and-functioning.html - Skip all of the adds and scroll directly down to the list of "to-dos" on a weekly and monthly basis.

I use both a PC and a Mac. If you want to be relatively maintenance free, I strongly recommend that you pay the extra $ and invest in a Mac. Now don't jump to conclusions on that statement since I'm not going to argue over which system is better; I might argue over which is more maintenance-free! I don't like thinking of myself as a Mac person or a PC person. I'm my person, and I use both operating systems for different purposes. I've had my Mac for four years, and it has never frozen. Now that's an achievement! It took me a couple of weeks to get used to the Mac's different way of dealing with files, but once that was over, I've enjoyed the virus-free and low-maintenance environment.

Regardless on your choice of systems, keep the following in mind as you operate your computers:

1. Organize your files into folders and keep your folders in places that make sense to you. I have a huge folder called My Documents. That's where I archive all of the folders with files that I use pretty regularly on a yearly basis. I also have two folders on my desktop: Active and Briefcase. I keep files in my Active folder that I tend to use regularly on a weekly basis. I keep folders in my Briefcase that have miscellaneous information that I might have to access on different occasions: hotel and other reservations; articles of interest that I have nowhere else to store, receipts, recent photos, letters I just sent out, stuff like that. When I'm working on projects, I create folders right on my desktop so that I can see them and work with them everyday, such as courses I'm teaching, grants I'm writing, and similar project. Once the course closes or the grant is entered, I move that folder to My Documents under a folder called Courses or Proposals. My desktops also have shortcuts entered in the easy-access bars on both systems.

2. Back Up your files at the very least on a monthly basis. If you don't have an automatic back-up program going, do it manually. Buy yourself an external drive with lots of memory, plug it into your USB port, and drag. (I currently use an external drive that is the size of my palm but has a capacity of one terabyte, or 1TB!) So here's why organization is important. When you are ready to back up files, you only have four items to drag into your drive unless you want to save all of your email folders. That's an item for a future issue. So open your external drive, create a back-up folder with a date, and drag, in my case, the My Documents, Briefcase, Active, and Desktop folders. Done. Everything I do in saved in those places. My Mac has an automatic Time Machine that regularly saves all new data on a daily basis, so I don't have to back up items manually there.

3. Erase files that are not in use. If you have everything backed up, now erase what you don't need immediately after backing up your folders. Keep your machine clean and free as well as organized. Go into those folders and delete items you are not using to your heart's content. Do a cleanse! It will refresh you for continuous action. If you find you need something after all, go get it! It's all easily accessed from your PC in your external drive!

4. Empty Your Trash. After erasing older files, you want to empty that trash. Also,why not go to your browser and trash all Temporary files, History, and Cache while you are at it! Give your browser some breathing room, too!


(You might want to post these on a wall for students to interpret! Encourage them to develop their critical-thinking skills. Post riddles and other puzzles on walls, too.)

What phrases do the images represent?

1. Home stretch

2. pig latin

Welcome New ULC Staff!

Welcome new team members Ryan DeMares, Melissa Watters, and Mary Fuller, and returning Mary Gay Bahlinger! You are welcome additions to our creative, competent, and caring adult ed community in the Four Corners!


Send us your ideas, contributions, and requests! We want to meet your "tech-knowledgy" needs! Use the Contact information below.