A recent study published by researchers from the University of Chicago was brought to my attention yesterday that discovered allowing students a few minutes to write about their anxiety before a test will enhance their performance. According to the study, after students had written for ten minutes prior to completing a high-stakes test, their grades were improved by nearly one grade point.
As a writing center tutor, this is a wonderfully empowering notion. Writing can make a true difference in academic performance when it is reflective, self-focused writing. Perhaps this is an idea that we can put in to practice, either ourselves, or as a suggestion to the writers that we work with. Before midterms, maybe we could all take a moment to write about the anxiety that we are feeling (the consequences of not performing well, for example) and see if we do better than we expect! This is also an excellent argument for keeping a personal journal to get a better handle on anxiety that we face everyday.
The study states, “Other research has shown that pressure-filled situations can deplete a part of the brain’s processing power known as working memory, which is critical to many everyday activities.” By taking the time to reflect and write on the pressure and anxiety that we are feeling, our academic performance will be enhanced.