The Scare Tactic: Motivating students for exams.


“At the moment you’re not working hard enough to get to where you want to go once you finish here!”

For many, myself included, the line above was frequently delivered by teachers at school as a source of motivation to propel students on to achieve their full potential. However, did this open up an unchartered capacity for success, or did this resulted in unexpected anxiety and stress. For myself, it was the latter and usually denial as well. But, as a teacher, what messages should I relay to my students around exam time?

Fear Appeals – framing a question or statement to students allowing them to see what they could possibly lose, miss or never attain. Make the message of education personal.

Where do we go from here? 

Student decides whether what is going to be lost is of personal interest to them. If yes or no, then corrective action can be taken.

What next, teacher’s input. Two options:

Challenge Appraisal – Framing questions and comments from a positive challenge based perspective. For example, I’ll be impressed if someone achieves 80% or over, if not then it’s up to you whether you resit or not and you can only do you best, remind me what that is…

Threat Appraisal  – A way of motivating students to work for a desired goal, based upon threat alone. For example, you must achieve 80% or over if you don’t then you’ll resit and (focusing on the negative) you’re predicted a B, I think you’ll get a C.


Challenge Appraisal – Students show better academic self efficacy post challenge based motivation and better results. Not only this, but it is suggested that students continue to perform better, with better self efficacy as well as increased enjoyment and engagement within the subject area.

Threat Appraisal – Students initially have better academic attainment, however  academic self efficacy can be reduced with traits of denial and over compensation. So when future assessments come around, students are less likely to engage academically and are likely to underperform through fear that anxieties surrounding the assessments becoming true when they try their best. For example, if I try and do not succeed, then this will confirm that I am a failure.

A couple of interesting and small ideas any teacher should always consider when communicating the smallest ideas or dreams.

Blog a digest of for teachers to use immediately:





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Teacher, Leader, Researcher, blogger, progressive educator.

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