Relax Before the Quiz. Laugh!

Submitted by Erik Huntsinger on

I observe many students frantically cramming before quizzes, stressing themselves out and potentially reducing their academic peformance due to test anxiety. Research shows test anxiety could diminish academic performance.  To test if anxiety reducing activities lead to better test performance, I randomly led a anxiety reduction activity with two of my sections (stretching exercises, spontaneous laughter) and did not with three of the others, and compared results (see spreadsheet).  Results showed that though the anxiety-reduced groups had slightly higher quiz grades, adjusted for the standard deviation, the two groups were not signficantly different.  However, the experience did indicate a way to improve the process for the next time, by providing students resources on how relaxation and laughter can boost academic performance (see full report attached).

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Average: 4.6 (5 votes)


Peter Turner Mon, 04/11/2016 - 12:50pm

Nice CATS, Erik, which certainly closed the loop. Just curious, how do you induce the laughter? Do you tell jokes, give prompts, or tell humorous stories? It also appears you will be continuing this process, despite the statistically inconclusive results. Good move. The brain research behand laughter helping the hypothalmus to open the gates of the prefrontal cortex to enhance learning is strong. By the way, do you know what to call a group of rabbits marching backward? A receding hairline!

Erik Huntsinger Mon, 04/11/2016 - 4:25pm

From studying laughing clubs, laughing is contagious, so just started laughing.  That is also another reason why giving them primer as to what is going on might be beneficial, because a lot of students must have been thinking, "what the heck is going on?!".  If only I had a repetoire of bad jokes... :)

Becky Baranowski Wed, 04/13/2016 - 12:26pm

I really like this idea of reducing the stress.  I make the dumbest jokes and poke fun of myself quite a bit to get my students to laugh.  They start to relax when this happens.  Laughter IS the best medicine.  I am not sure that I could just start randomly laughing, though.  Cudos to you for doing this.  Will you try this again to get more data?

Erik Huntsinger Thu, 04/14/2016 - 8:48am

Thanks Becky.  It is a bit outside of my comfort zone to do so, I have to say, but I was inspired by some of the laughing club videos I had seen.  I think with practice makes perfection.

Olga Tsoudis Fri, 04/15/2016 - 10:54pm

These are great tools for success in the professional and personal life! We should all learn more about this.

Norma Jimenez Hernandez Sat, 04/16/2016 - 8:22am

Great idea!  I, too, was curious what you use to induce laughter similar to other's comments above.  I'd be afraid that students would think that I'm losing it if I just started laughing.  I know of at least one professor who plays music as students are walking in to reduce anxiety and thinking about trying this to reduce exam given that I give weekly quizzes on content.  For the final exam, I have Eye of the Tiger playing with accompanying video of Rocky Balboa knocking out Apollo Creed as inspiration.  I'm not sure if it makes a significant difference but students report that it definitely makes them feel as more "serious students" right before they take the final.  

Erik Huntsinger Sat, 04/16/2016 - 10:05am

I like that idea Norma!  Could you provide the link to the video?  I'd like to show it!

Patricia Cardenas-Adame Sat, 04/16/2016 - 6:26pm

Erik,  Great idea - I have read that Car Videos reduce stress.  I am a dog person, so maybe dog videos would work as well.

Heather Muns Sat, 04/16/2016 - 9:45pm

I think that I think I'm funnier than my students do.  They laugh to humor me.  Ha!  I don't really care that the results were not statistically different.  I think this is a great practice in the classroom.  :-)

Roselyn Turner Fri, 04/29/2016 - 9:24am

As long as you are not getting your material from Pete, you are good!  Laughter is one of the best ways to start a speech (when the topic is appropriate, and the joke is funny, and the audience gets the joke!).  So, it follows that this is a great way to begin a class or set a tone for testing.