Anxiety: Sometimes Helpful and Sometimes A Hindurance
Imagine you are enrolled in Professor Josiah S. Carberry’s course in advanced psychoceramics. Today is your day to give a half-hour presentation on the topic of psychoceramic califractions. You have read several books and numerous articles on your topic and undoubtedly know more about psychoceramic califractions than anyone else in the room. Furthermore, you have meticulously prepared a set of note cards to refer to during your presentation. As you sit in class waiting for your turn to speak, you should be feeling calm and confident. But instead you’re a nervous wreck: Your heart is pounding wildly, your palms are sweaty, and your stomach is in a knot. When Professor Carberry calls you to the front of the room and you begin to speak, you have trouble remembering what you wanted to say, and you can’t read your note cards because your hands are shaking so much.
It’s not as if you want to be nervous about speaking in front of your psychoceramics class. Furthermore, you can’t think of a single reason why you should be nervous. After all, you’re an expert on your topic, you’re not having a “bad hair” day, and your classmates are not likely to giggle or throw rotten tomatoes if you make a mistake. So what’s the big deal? What happened to the self-assured student who stood practicing in front of the mirror last night? You are a victim of anxiety: You have an uncontrollable feeling of uneasiness and apprehension about an event because you’re not sure what its outcome will be. This feeling is accompanied by a variety of physiological symptoms, including a rapid heartbeat, increased perspiration, and muscular tension (e.g., a “knot” or “butterflies” in the stomach).
Just as learners have an optimal level of arousal, so, too, do they have an optimal level of anxiety. A small amount of anxiety often improves performance. When it does so, it is known as facilitating anxiety. A little anxiety spurs learners into action. For instance, it makes them go to class, read the textbook, do assignments, and study for exams. It also leads learners to approach their classwork carefully and to reflect before making a response (Shipman & Shipman, 1985). However, a great deal of anxiety usually interferes with effective performance. When it has this counterproductive effect, it is known as debilitating anxiety.
© ______ 2009, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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