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Apr 26, 2014 05:04 AM EDT

Pre-Exam Negative Speeches Result in Poorer Performances, Study

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In an attempt to make students perform well in their final exams, teachers generally resort to strict speeches that often involve mention of bad consequences of failing an important test including inability  to find a good job.

An Edge Hill University study has found that such scary tactics actually backfire and demotivate students and make them perform poorly in crucial exams than those pupils who received inspirational words.

"Teachers are desperately keen to motivate their students in the best possible way but may not be aware of how messages they communicate to students around the importance of performing well in exams can be interpreted in different ways,' said educational psychology expert, Professor David Putwain, in a statement.

For the study, the researchers analyzed different pre-exam encouraging messages by teachers, their impact on students' enthusiasm and academic performance. They surveyed 347 students over an 18-month period ahead of essential exams.

The researchers also asked questions like "How often do your teachers tell you that unless you work hard you will fail your exam? and Do you feel worried when your teachers tell you that your exam is getting nearer?" to determine the threat levels. The participants also rated the questions on a scale of one to five - one being 'never' and five referred 'most of the time.'

The researchers compared the responses of the students to their final grades.

The researchers found that frightening messages like "if you fail the exam, you will never be able to get a good job or go to university," lead to poorer results compared to those that aimed for success like "the exam is really important as most jobs that pay well require that you pass and if you want to go to college you will also need to pass the exam."

"Teachers should plan what types of messages would be the most effective and how they could be incorporated into the lesson plans. Both messages highlight to students the importance of effort and provide a reason for striving," Putwain said. "Where these messages differ is some focus on the possibility of success while others stress the need to avoid failure."

The findings of the study are published in the American Psychological Association's School Psychology Quarterly.

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