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Helping students face examinations with a growth mindset

Ms Rio Cheung
Educational Psychologist
Education Bureau
 

     The suspension of face-to-face classes amid the epidemic, coupled with other changes in everyday life, may have disrupted students’ learning pace and study plan. Facing examinations, students inevitably feel the pressure and may become anxious and stressed out.


     We often hear people say that stress arising from examinations may cause students to have various emotional and behavioural problems. From an ecological perspective, students' emotions and behaviour are not the result of one single factor, but rather an interplay of different protective factors and risk factors. Examination pressure is only one of the risk factors. Strengthening students' protective factors is an effective way to promote positive emotions and behaviour. In particular, it is crucial for parents and schools to help students develop a positive attitude towards examinations.

     Many students and parents regard good academic performance as an indicator of success and place great emphasis on examination results. Yet Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, explains that a person's success hinges on his mindset, not his academic performance. She suggests that there are two broad types of human mindsets: fixed mindset and growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset think that personal attributes are inherent and unchanging, and attribute success or failure to one's level of intelligence and aptitude. For example, excellent academic results are proof of high calibre, while failure in examinations implies low abilities. When encountering obstacles or challenges, people with a fixed mindset easily give up and walk away, as frustration undermines their self-value. In contrast, people with a growth mindset believe that one's capabilities can be strengthened by hard work and experience, and they are more concerned about the learning process than examination results. While setback stirs negative emotions in them, they regard this as an experience of growth. They are also willing to take challenges and improve themselves after setbacks, hence standing a better chance of achieving success. It is possible for students to have different mindsets for different areas (e.g. different academic subjects). Teachers and parents should observe them closely, and guide them patiently towards self-reflection and adjustment of mindset to deal with different situations.

     To encourage students and parents to cope with examination pressure with positive skills and mindsets, the Education Bureau (EDB) created two e-posters last month, to advise on how to proactively prepare for examinations amid the epidemic in a lively tone and everyday language. The e-posters have been uploaded to the EDB website (Home > Teachers Related > Prevention of Student Suicides and Promotion of Student Mental Health > Resource Packages and Guidelines) and distributed to all schools. Two more e-posters will be released in February to help students and parents face various examination results with a positive attitude. We invite schools to widely circulate these e-posters among students and parents and display printed copies at prominent positions on campus (e.g. inside classrooms and along corridors). To better disseminate the messages, schools are welcome to upload the e-posters onto their own website.


      The EDB is committed to promoting students's emotional health through various measures. As always, we encourage schools to take precautions early so that they are well prepared for different situations before a crisis actually emerges on campus. At the beginning of this school year, we updated the handbook on "Intervention and Psychological Support in the Aftermath of Crises" and uploaded it onto the EDB website for the reference of school personnel. We also hold training activities regularly to strengthen the capability of school personnel in handling crises. In these two months, we organised several workshops on  "School Crisis Management: Crisis Intervention and Psychological Support" for school personnel in primary and secondary schools, with educational psychologists from the EDB serving as speakers and facilitators to lead group discussion over selected cases. At these workshops, the speakers broke the taboo with a simulated context in which participants were tasked with handling a situation involving self-harming of a student. Step by step, participants got a better grasp of the procedures of crisis intervention and psychological support, as well as the operational aspects to be considered. The workshops were well received and participants found the contents very practical.


     The support and guidance of teachers and parents are essential to students' growth. Let us dedicate greater efforts to helping students develop a growth mindset so that it could become an intrinsic energy enabling them to meet challenges in life and develop healthily.


31 January 2021