Study finds that supportive social media reduces test-anxiety


Lily Katz

A group of undergrads study together for upcoming fall midterms in the English Building. October 3, 2016.

By Leon Li, Staff Writer

Using social media before an exam can be more than just a form of procrastination. Reading supportive comments, messages and “likes” prior to an exam may reduce students’ anxiety levels and improve their performance, according to a new study from the University.

Conducted by Robert Deloatch, graduate student in engineering, the study had students in one group post messages on social media asking for encouragement and support for an upcoming exam.

Seven minutes before the exam, the students in this group read the positive responses to their request, while the students in another group participated in an expressive-writing exercise, writing about their thoughts and feelings. The control group studied during this time.

The study found that only the students who read supportive social media messages had a significant decrease in anxiety levels and an increase on the simulated exam scores.

Contrary to previous research, students who participated in an expressive-writing exercise had actually increased anxiety levels.

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“Our research on this topic started with help from funding from the UIUC Strategic Instructional Innovations Program (SIIP), which funded the development of a computer-based testing facility on campus,” Deloatch said in an email.

As a human-computer interaction researcher, Deloatch was interested in how testing in the lab versus traditional paper-based testing affected the students.

After an initial investigation into this question, the research team learned of the anxiety students reported and their lack of coping methods.

“This prompted our investigation into methods students could use to cope with their anxiety,” Deloatch said.

“Reading related work in this domain, such as those cited in the paper, led to the approaches we studied.”

One aspect of human-computer interaction is how technology can affect the behavior of people. This project focuses on how social media can affect the test anxiety of students.

It extends research on using social media as a channel for social support to demonstrate the effects on test anxiety.

“This study has its limitations, including the sample of students used and the implementation of our social support methods. More research will see how this approach affects students with various backgrounds,” Deloatch said.

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