High school students' emotions and emotional regulation during test taking

Çapa Aydın, Yeşim
Emmioğlu, Esma
When you think about the many uses of tests and the influence of tests on student’s lives, it is not surprising that the testing situation may evoke anxiety reactions in many students, sometimes even so disturbing that they need professional assistance. The earliest investigations of test anxiety (1900-1950) basically dealt with physiological reactions resulting from the activation of the autonomic nervous system experienced by examinees during stressful examinations (Spielberger & Vagg, 1995). This definition neglected the experiential qualities of emotional states and individual differences in anxiety occurrence. Later, Spielberger (1972) conceptualized test anxiety as a “situation specific form of T-anxiety” with worry and emotion as major components. Liebert and Morris (1967) suggested that the worry component was associated with performance decreases on cognitive tasks and the emotionality component was unrelated with task performance. In view of that, test anxiety has been defined as “an unpleasant feeling or emotional state that has physiological and behavioral concomitants, and that is experienced in formal testing or other evaluative situations” (Dusek, 1980, p.88). Researchers in the field of education, counseling, and psychology have become interested in antecedents and consequences of the test anxiety (e.g., Hancock, 2001; Hembree, 1988). Despite the large volume of literature on test anxiety, there are a few studies addressing students’ emotional regulation strategies during test taking. Yet the ability in controlling one’s emotions is an important characteristic one should possess. The purpose of emotional regulation is neither to repress emotions nor only to have an individual always in a calm state of emotional arousal. Instead, emotional regulation includes processes of monitoring, evaluating, and changing one’s emotional experiences (Thompson, 1994). Cicchetti, Ganiban, and Barnett (1991) defined emotional regulation as “the intra and extra organismic factors by which emotional arousal is redirected, controlled, modulated, and modified to enable an individual to function adaptively”(p. 15). In terms of research on emotional regulation during test taking, Schutz, Distefano, Benson, and Davis (2004) proposed that emotional regulation during testing can be conceptualized in three dimensions: task-focusing processes, emotion-focusing processes, and cognitive appraising processes. Task focusing processes include students’ self-talk while taking tests, which help them focus on the test rather than their emotions during the test. The examples of task focusing strategies include time monitoring during the test, finding the main idea in the question, and eliminating the distracters. Emotion focusing strategies, on the other hand, shift students’ focus from the task to the feelings and thoughts related to the task. These include self-talks in the form of blaming one’s self and wishful thinking (hoping the problem will go away). These kind of internal talks tend to increase anxiety during testing. It is important to note that not only the nature of self-talk but also the length and intensity influence emotions (Schutz & Davis, 2000). Finally, cognitive appraising processes are the judgments students make about the test and their ability to cope with the problems that occur during the test. This dimension has gained attention by many researchers in the area of emotions. These judgments are affected by the way student look at the world. Considering this conceptual framework of emotional regulation, Schutz et al. developed “The Emotional Regulation During Test-Taking Scale” comprising of three major dimensions and 39 items. In the present study, we aimed to collect data from a cross-section of Turkish students in an effort to examine high school students’ emotions (specifically anxiety) and emotion regulation during tests. More specifically, we were interested in whether test anxiety would be predicted by some demographic variables and emotional regulatory strategies.
Citation Formats
Y. Çapa Aydın and E. Emmioğlu, “High school students’ emotions and emotional regulation during test taking,” presented at the ECER 2008:From Teaching to Learning?, 8 - 12 September 2008, Göteburg, Sweden, 2008, Accessed: 00, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://hdl.handle.net/11511/87289.