Supporting students with anxiety

This post was created by PGCert participants in Team Neptune as part of their assessment for Unit 1 of the course. The brief was to evaluate technologies that could help students with specific learning needs to learn more effectively.

People frequently encounter anxiety in their daily lives. Anxiety is the tense, unsettling anticipation of a threatening but vague event; a feeling of uneasy suspense (Rachman, 2004). Barlow (2002) describes a future-oriented mood state associated with preparation for possible, upcoming negative events. Lang (1968) classified the symptoms of anxiety into three-responses: verbal-subjective, overt motor acts, and somato-visceral activity. These symptoms include worry (verbal-subjective), avoidance (overt motor acts), and muscle tension (somato-visceral activity). Some researchers have also classified anxiety into different sub-categories (e.g., language anxiety, speech anxiety, social anxiety).

Research has investigated how anxiety affects student performance. For example, Liebert & Morris’s study (1967) suggested that anxiety is mainly composed of two factors: emotion, which is related to physical reactions (e.g. nervousness, sweating, constantly watching the clock, pencil-tapping), and worry, which includes the psychological or cognitive aspects of anxiety. Worry is mainly related to the perception of failure (ibid) with worry showing a stronger negative relationship with performance outcomes than emotionality in tertiary-level students.

It is therefore not surprising that students often worry about deadlines and how to manage their time effectively to complete an outcome as not doing so results in possible failure. Use of appropriate technology can assist students in the organization of self and task. Rather than transferring knowledge and deciding for students, these can help students towards more independent working. Technology may contribute towards learners becoming better able to manage their work and reduce their anxiety particularly for students who find starting a task difficult. A link between procrastination and feelings of mastery (Stewart, Stott and Nuttall, 2016) may mean that helping learners start a task, disrupting procrastination, is likely to benefit motivation and self-regulation resulting in students completing work on-time, reducing anxiety.

Miro is one such technology because it offers learners a range of highly visual possibilities for organising a range of work tasks, both individual and collaborative. For example, mind-mapping which gives a learner the option working outwards from a problem, or inverting the process, working outwards from a solution. In both cases learners have a graphic representation which they can adapt and alter throughout the process.Visual thinking is the most effective and clear way to generate and build on ideas.

With the current online teaching, Miro can be utilised effectively to build a sense of community and conversation, which can also alleviate social anxiety. For example using the sticky notes students can add comments or post concerns during a class. This creates a chance to resolve an issue that may not not have been aired by speaking out in front of peers. In a study on the impact of social anxiety on student learning and well-being in higher education, Russell (2012) suggests that for a significant minority of students, social anxiety is a persistent, hidden disability that impacts on learning and well-being.


Barlow, D.H. (2002) Anxiety and its Disorders: The Nature and Treatment of Anxiety and Panic. 2nd ed. New York: Guilford Press

Lang, P.J. (1968) Fear reduction and fear behavior: problems in treating a construct. In: Schlien, J (ed) Research in Psychotherapy, Volume III. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press; 90–103.

Liebert, R.M. and Morris, L.W. (1967) Cognitive and emotional components of test anxiety: A distinction and some initial data, Psychological reports, 20(3), 975-978

Rachman, S. (2004) Anxiety, Hove: Psychology Press.

Russell, G & Topham P (2012) The impact of social anxiety on student learning and well-being in higher education, Journal of Mental Health, 21(4), 375-385.

Stewart, M., Stott, T. and Nuttall, A-M. (2016) Study goals and procrastination tendencies at different stages of the undergraduate degree, Studies in Higher Education, 41(11), 2028-2043.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s