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Assessing "Low-Intensity" Active Learning
Unformatted Document Text:  • H5 – Students in the experimental group will have higher quiz scores than the control group. • H6 – Students in the experimental group will have higher subjective ratings of the readings than the control group. • H7 – Students in the experimental group will have higher interest and involvement in the reading than the control group. Experiment 3: Relaxation There have been a number of studies that link relaxation techniques with improving test anxiety (Cassaday, Bloomfield and Hayward 2002). Another survey of studies looked at the use of humor on tests to put students at ease, with the hope of also reducing test anxiety (McMorris, Boothroyd, and Pietrangelo 1997). What this study intends to do is to see if a number of short term relaxation factors result in better test scores of students. The distinction between this and most of the previous relaxation studies is the limited scope of the relaxation exercises. Most studies have involved students in months-long meditation, physical exercise or some combination of therapies to reduce acute test anxiety. This is intended to simply put students who probably do not have very high levels of anxiety, but are likely nervous about taking an exam, at ease. At the beginning of the class, I collected answers from a brief questionnaire using a Likert-scale on initial feelings about test-taking (see Appendix 1). The question asked students “how anxious are you about taking tests in this type of class?” where 1 is very anxious and 5 is not anxious at all. This was used to assess the student’s baseline levels of anxiety about testing and the material. For section 1, their self-reported anxiety was: 3.37, for section 2 it was 2.82. Thus, section 1 was a little more nervous about tests, but not much, and neither class was really all that nervous at the beginning of the class. Experimental design: Two classes of international relations were randomly assigned an exam with relaxation and one without. The experimental relaxation group was treated to the following conditions before the test: five minutes prior to class starting, soothing music was played and a light snack (pretzels) offered, students were also invited to help themselves anytime during the exam. When offering the snack, I noted that studies have shown that low-blood sugar levels have been associated with poor performance on exams and that I hope everyone had a healthy meal, but if not, to help themselves to a snack. Two minutes prior to class starting, I asked everyone to put their books away and stand up if they want. I then lead them in a short (two minutes) stretching and flexing routine focusing on flexing muscles and relaxing them, stretching their backs, shoulders and necks, and breathing deeply. While leading the stretching exercise, I tell them that studies suggest that this helps to relax students and when they are relaxed they do better on exams. When some laugh at the stretches (students invariably giggle when asked to do these voluntary exercises), I encourage more laughter saying that it also helps to get the blood flowing to the brain and has been shown to increase test scores. All of this, I conclude is to help you do well on your test, because I want everyone to do well, because everyone can do well. I end the stretching with a big self-hug, noting that they are obviously loved. Then I hand out the test. On the test at the bottom of several pages are short (one or two sentences) “Deep Thoughts” that are silly statements like: Instead of having ‘answers’ on a math test, they should just call them ‘impressions,’ and if you got a different ‘impression,’ so what, can’t we all be brothers? 6

Authors: Van Inwegen, Patrick.
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H5 – Students in the experimental group will have higher quiz scores than the control
group.
H6 – Students in the experimental group will have higher subjective ratings of the
readings than the control group.
H7 – Students in the experimental group will have higher interest and involvement in the
reading than the control group.
Experiment 3: Relaxation
There have been a number of studies that link relaxation techniques with improving test
anxiety (Cassaday, Bloomfield and Hayward 2002). Another survey of studies looked at the use
of humor on tests to put students at ease, with the hope of also reducing test anxiety (McMorris,
Boothroyd, and Pietrangelo 1997). What this study intends to do is to see if a number of short
term relaxation factors result in better test scores of students. The distinction between this and
most of the previous relaxation studies is the limited scope of the relaxation exercises. Most
studies have involved students in months-long meditation, physical exercise or some
combination of therapies to reduce acute test anxiety. This is intended to simply put students
who probably do not have very high levels of anxiety, but are likely nervous about taking an
exam, at ease.
At the beginning of the class, I collected answers from a brief questionnaire using a
Likert-scale on initial feelings about test-taking (see Appendix 1). The question asked students
“how anxious are you about taking tests in this type of class?” where 1 is very anxious and 5 is
not anxious at all. This was used to assess the student’s baseline levels of anxiety about testing
and the material. For section 1, their self-reported anxiety was: 3.37, for section 2 it was 2.82.
Thus, section 1 was a little more nervous about tests, but not much, and neither class was really
all that nervous at the beginning of the class.
Experimental design:
Two classes of international relations were randomly assigned an exam with relaxation
and one without. The experimental relaxation group was treated to the following conditions
before the test: five minutes prior to class starting, soothing music was played and a light snack
(pretzels) offered, students were also invited to help themselves anytime during the exam. When
offering the snack, I noted that studies have shown that low-blood sugar levels have been
associated with poor performance on exams and that I hope everyone had a healthy meal, but if
not, to help themselves to a snack. Two minutes prior to class starting, I asked everyone to put
their books away and stand up if they want. I then lead them in a short (two minutes) stretching
and flexing routine focusing on flexing muscles and relaxing them, stretching their backs,
shoulders and necks, and breathing deeply. While leading the stretching exercise, I tell them that
studies suggest that this helps to relax students and when they are relaxed they do better on
exams. When some laugh at the stretches (students invariably giggle when asked to do these
voluntary exercises), I encourage more laughter saying that it also helps to get the blood flowing
to the brain and has been shown to increase test scores. All of this, I conclude is to help you do
well on your test, because I want everyone to do well, because everyone can do well. I end the
stretching with a big self-hug, noting that they are obviously loved. Then I hand out the test. On
the test at the bottom of several pages are short (one or two sentences) “Deep Thoughts” that are
silly statements like:
Instead of having ‘answers’ on a math test, they should just call them ‘impressions,’ and
if you got a different ‘impression,’ so what, can’t we all be brothers?
6


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