22nd October 2015

High-stakes testing doesn't have to push students to gamble away their future careers, with a QUT education expert suggesting schools could do more to instil values that help children deal with exam stress.

Dr Judy Smeed from QUT's Education Faculty, School of Professional Learning, said with the end of school year fast approaching children should be equipped with coping skills.

"Children will face anxious situations and it's whether they have the confidence and are equipped to deal with high-stakes tests," she said.

"My research asks schools if their students are prepared enough in terms of how they emotionally deal with the pressures of exams."

She said change had become so rapid in schooling that over the course of 12 years of education, students could experience enormous challenges and they needed appropriate skills to cope.

Dr Smeed's preliminary research investigated 24 schools in Queensland, based on the schools' mission and values statements.

The statements were then compared against core values identified to help deal with challenges in the future.

"Values that deliver on coping mechanisms include resilience, receptiveness, criticality, humility, thoughtfulness, carefulness, stillness and courage," Dr Smeed said.

She said out of the 24 schools only a handful of schools identified courage, criticality, resilience and receptiveness with other values such as humility, thoughtfulness and stillness left out.

"Schools can run the risk of trying to do too much and cater for every demand when it should be much simpler," Dr Smeed said.

"Try telling students to put their hands down and stop to think about what they're answering to encourage thoughtfulness and criticality."

Dr Smeed said implementation of a Christian meditation program in the Catholic Diocese of Townsville had significantly improved outcomes in some of the region's Catholic schools.

She said current students faced challenges including bullying, anxiety, peer and social media pressure, school and personal and parental expectations as well as extra educational demands.

"Children now entering the higher years of schooling were born after September 11, 2001 and with that they are dealing with dramatic changes in society," she said.

Dr Smeed is involved in intensive, extended consultations with schools across eastern Australia on the use of data to track students' results with a focus on social justice and improving student learning outcomes.

"We don't want students who have no cares in the world but also we don't want students who can't handle the pressure and become overwhelmed."

Her research was recently published by the Australian College of Educators about the role of pastoral care in schools.

Media contacts:
Debra Nowland, QUT media officer (Mon/Wed/Thur), 07 3138 1150 or media@qut.edu.au
After hours, Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901

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