Do teachers and parents influence a students’ tendency to perceive examinations as threatening?

D. Putwain, K. Woods, W. Symes

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Recent models of evaluation anxiety (e.g. Zeidner & Mathews, 2005) suggest that the appraisal of an examination as threatening depends upon self-knowledge beliefs, but no route is theorised for situational or interpersonal influences. Negative self-knowledge beliefs contributing to the appraisal of an examination as threatening include avoidant motivations (e.g. fear of failure, fear of incompetence) and perceptions of lower subject competence and/ or examination and test-taking skills. Although no direct route is theorised for situational or interpersonal influences, the achievement goals promoted by teachers in the classroom have been demonstrated to influence the student’s personal achievement goals (Greene et al., 2004; Tapola & Niemivirta, 2008) and parental pressure has been demonstrated to influence a negative academic self-concept (Campbell, 1994; Ketsetzis, Ryan & Adams, 1998). The aim of this study is to investigate whether situational or interpersonal factors exert an indirect influence on a student’s appraisal of examinations as threatening through personal knowledge beliefs. Self-report data was collected for test anxiety, personal knowledge beliefs (personal achievement goals, academic self-concept and perceived test competence), teachers’ achievement goals and parental pressure/ support in 175 sixth-form college students. Data were subjected to hierarchical regression analyses to establish whether the relationships between the test anxiety and teachers’ achievement goals/ parental pressure and support were mediated by personal knowledge beliefs. In this approach, the mediating variable is forced into a regression equation. A reduction in the direct relationship indicates a mediating effect, the significance of which can be established with the Sobel test. Results indicated that parental pressure could exert both direct and indirect effects on test anxiety depending on which component of test anxiety was being accounted for. Parental pressure exerted a direct effect on the worry and tension components of test anxiety and an indirect effect on test-irrelevant thinking component by increasing a student’s personal performance-approach goal. Teacher’s performance-avoidance goals exerted an indirect effect on test anxiety by increasing a student’s personal performance-avoidance goal and in the case of the bodily symptoms component of test anxiety also through a performance-approach goal. In conclusion, teachers who promote motivation through a fear-of-failure in the classroom increase examination anxiety in students who also adopt a fear-of-failure. Parental pressure may directly influence examination anxiety, but also lead to an indirect increase in particular aspects of examination anxiety (headaches, muscle tension and so forth) through students adopting a motivation to demonstrate achievement. These findings suggest that models of test and anxiety and require modifying to account for the influence of parents and teachers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2009
EventBritish Educational Research Association (BERA) Conference - University of Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Sept 20095 Sept 2009


ConferenceBritish Educational Research Association (BERA) Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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