Sunday, January 9, 2011

Exam Anxiety

The Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 edition of the CBC's news show, The Current had an interesting discussion on exam anxiety, described on their site as follows:

Exam Anxiety - Gabor Lukacs

Passionate debate is a core part of the university experience, and at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, the hot topic right now deals with academic policies at the university itself. Specifically, how far should the administration go to accommodate students with academic anxiety?

In this case, the university waived certain degree requirements for a doctoral graduate math student diagnosed with extreme exam anxiety. The student, whose name has been withheld, was ultimately granted a PhD.

University of Manitoba math professor Gabor Lukacs considered that an unacceptable breach of academic standards and has taken the matter to court. The University has since suspended the professor for three months without pay, accusing him of harassment, insubordination, and violating the student's privacy.

Gabor Lukacs joined us from Winnipeg this morning.

Officials of the University of Manitoba will not comment directly on this case, citing privacy rules. But university spokesperson John Danakas responded this to the university's policies regarding accommodating students with disabilities. We aired a clip.

In the 2008-2009 academic year, 136 University of Manitoba students were registered as having exam anxiety. That means they were able to provide medical documentation of their condition. Dr. John Walker is the director of the Anxiety Disorder Program at St. Boniface General Hospital in Winnipeg. He explained what exam anxiety is, and how he comes to a diagnosis.

Manitoba Math Fight - Carolyn Mamchur

We spoke to officials of several universities across the country, and they also noted more students reporting forms of academic anxiety. That doesn't mean faculty think it's a good idea to waive degree requirements for students debilitated by academic stresses.

Carolyn Mamchur is a professor of education at Simon Fraser University who has written extensively about how to address different learning styles and student anxiety. Professor Mamchur was in Vancouver.

You can give the podcast a listen at

John Mighton on the Bell Curve

Provocative talk by John Mighton of the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences on The Ubiquitous Bell Curve: What It Does and Does Not Tell Us. The talk focuses on JUMP Math program and Mighton's work helping teachers learn how to excite students about mathematics. Mighton raises a number of key issues about teacher expectations, assessment, and students' ability to learn.

The talk is from TVO's Big Ideas series (highly recommended, whatever your interests).

Like all of TVO's Big Ideas series, the talks are made available as either audio or video versions. I find downloading the audio to my ipod, and then listening while cutting the grass, washing dishes, taking the bus etc. allows me to turn wasted time into productive time; but you may prefer to watch the video so you can see presenter's slides etc.