Background of the Study
Examination has remained a part of the educational system for ages and it is the major source of measuring the abilities of students. It can be said that educational system is an empty vase without examinations (Sutiana & Farhat, 2011). The authors further stated that examination is the process of analysis, identification, education and interpretation in any type of academic evaluation conducted to measure and assess the students’ academic performance. Examination plays a very important role in the assessment of the student’s abilities and it is the only tool for the evaluation of teaching-learning process. Teachers use it to analyze the strengths and weakness of students. The effectiveness of curriculum and performance of teachers can also be judged through examination. Examinations are employed to bring about qualitative improvement in education (Sutiana & Farhat, 2011).
The basic aims of examination are to test achievement, provide goals or incentives for the students and for selection into jobs or higher education, while the possible outcome of an examination is success or failure. Success is positive because it brings joy, glory and praise from teachers and parents. Failure being negative brings sorrow, ill feelings and shame. Failure goes with unpleasant consequences like conflict between teachers and students, parents and teachers and as such students try to avoid failure by all possible means (Akbar, 1998).
Although examinations are necessary and no educational system can be complete without it, it is an admitted fact that some students develop fear and anxiety about the uncertainty of the outcome of their performances and consequently are unable to participate adequately in a given examination. Some fall ill before starting of examination, dodge examination by faking ill health, avoid school, indulge in one form of examination malpractice or the other or visit hospitals mostly during examination period. (Njoku, 2000). For students’ fear of examination, psychologists such as Agulana and Nkwocha (1999); Chishti (2008), use different terms like examination phobia, fear of examination or anxiety which is frowned at by parents, teachers, students, educational authorities and the society at large. In this study the concept examination phobia will be used.
In the educational process, although the role of examination is of great importance, some students suffer from fear of examination. More than 50 percent of students suffer from examination phobia. It does not matter whether the student is intelligent or not. They all are worried about forgetting while appearing in an examination. The author further stated that examination phobia is a major problem for a large number of students. For them examination is something which is almost inevitable. (Davis, 1998).
Phobia is the fear or anxiety disorder which causes avoidance and panic. The term is derived from Greek word phobus, which means ‘fear’ ‘terror’ ‘panic’ but phobia is more than this since all persons experience fear of terror occasionally. Fear is a common type of anxiety disorder intense fear that is characterized by fear of a specific situation or object (Andrew, 2003). The author further stated that phobias are thought to be learned emotional responses. It is generally believed that phobia occurs when fear resulting from an original threatening situation is transmitted to another similar situation. The defining feature of phobia that may require attention is that it causes frequent, severe and intense anxiety. This may occur in examination situation thereby resulting in examination phobia.
One of the major problems facing the Nigerian secondary school educational system today is that of examination malpractice which has its origin from examination phobia (Sylvia, 2005). In Imo State many students that have examination phobia normally nurse fear of failure to attain academic success or that they will not be able to attain the standard of academic excellence expected of them as brilliant or intelligent students (Njoku, 2000). The author further noted that this situation cuts across male and female students. Both male and female students manifest ailments such as abdominal pains, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, heart pounding or racing, unsteadiness, feelings of choking, hands trembling, fear of losing control, difficult breathing and difficulty in remembering studied materials which have no apparent medical basis (Njoku, 2000).
Examination phobia is a self damaging factor which negatively affects the students and their performances. The student is unable to give his maximum productivity and the end result would be critical (Ruwam, 2008). The author further stated that a person who demonstrates typically low rates of examination confidence in partaking with others such as classmates on a given examination has examination phobia. As noted by Vahey (1993), examination phobia is a type of fear of classroom activities. Examination fear is viewed as the tendency to avoid evaluation of classroom activities and a failure to participate appropriately in an academic situation. The author further stated that examination phobic behaviour is considered deficient and in school, a child who is manifesting high examination fear is educationally rejected, neglected and is unaccepted by the classmates. The students who experience phobia are also characterized by acute anxiety, apprehension, tension or uneasiness, willful domination, depressions, despair, sadness and an unrealistic self-image.
Examination phobia is operationally looked at as fear of examination which is a self-damaging factor which negatively affects the students and their performance. These are abnormal behavioural manifestation. Early identification of and appropriate intervention for these students suffering from examination phobia would go a long way towards helping them change these abnormal behaviour. Examination phobia, an avoidance problem behaviour have serious negative implication for students experiencing it. It could mar or rather jeopardize students’ future, thereby creating nuisance such as examination malpractice among gender variables. Like many other anxiety disorders, epidemiological investigations have consistently revealed a greater proportion of females than males with specific phobia (Bourdon, Boyd, Rare, Burns, Thomson & Locke, 1988). In the same vein, Thyer, Parrish, Curtis, Nesle, & Cameroon (2005) found that females manifest examination phobia more than their male counterparts. They further noted that as a means of escaping from such situations both gender resorts to examination malpractices.
Since examination phobia has negative effects on students, there is the need for appropriate long term or permanent solution to the devastating effect of examination phobia on the personality of students involved in it. It is indisputable that some of the students who suffer from examination phobia end up not performing well either in internal or external examination. This ugly development should not be allowed to continue hence the need for utilizing appropriate behavioural techniques in addressing the problem.
Inappropriate behaviour can be minimized or extinguished through behaviour intervention or modification. Different types of behaviour modification techniques like psychodrama, role therapy, relaxation training, aversive therapy, reinforcement, systematic desensitization as well as cognitive restructuring have been used for intervention on maladaptive behaviour among school children (Nickarson 2002). Drowetsky (1997) categorically stated that behavioural technique corrects problems such as aggression, phobias, shyness and poor study habits. Such techniques as systematic desensitization and self monitoring have been seen by scholars such as Agulana and Nkwocha (1999); Ogbebo and Egbule (2006), Ede (2007), among others as being effective in changing behaviours such as drug abuse and bullying. Whether, the use of systematic desensitization and self monitoring could equally be used to modify phobia among secondary school students in Imo State is yet to be empirically ascertained. In view of the above the researcher hopes to find out the effect of two behavior modification technique of systematic desensitization and self monitoring on examination phobia reduction.
Systematic desensitization is a technique used to treat phobias and other extreme or erroneous fear based on principles of behaviour modification. It is a therapeutic intervention that reduces the learned link between anxiety and objects or situations that are typically fear producing (Sheyl, 2009). The author further noted that systematic desensitization is a type of behavioural therapy used in the field of psychology to help effectively overcome phobias and other anxiety disorders. To begin the process of systematic desensitization one must first be taught relaxation skills in order to extinguish fear and anxiety responses to specific phobias. Systematic desensitization technique is based on the principles of classical conditioning and the premise that what has been learned (conditioned) can be unlearned. Systematic desensitization is effective in reducing anxiety and panic attacks associated with fearful situations (Sheyl, 2009). Systematic desensitization usually starts with imagining oneself in a progression of fearful situations and using relaxation strategies that compete with anxiety. Once an individual can successfully manage anxiety while imagining fearful events he or she can use the technique in real life situation. Operationally, systematic desensitization is a behavioural modification technique used in the field of psychology to help reduce anxiety and panic attacks that are typically fear producing. Another technique that may be used in modifying phobia that is pertinent to this study is self-monitoring.
Self-monitoring is a technique that deals with the phenomena of expressive controls. Human beings generally differ in substantial ways in their abilities and desires to engage in expressive control (Ajzen, 1985). People concerned with their expressive self-presentation tend to closely monitor themselves in order to ensure appropriate or desired public appearances. People who closely monitor themselves are categorized as high self-monitors and often behave in a manner that is highly responsive to social cues and their situational context.
Measurement of one’s own behaviour is called self-monitoring, and it can be an effective tool for behaviour change. Self-monitoring often works especially well with impulsive habits. To really work, self-monitoring must be done honestly without cheating. It forces a person to think about every occurrence of a behaviour and as well draws attention to the consequences of behavior irrespective of gender (Richmond, 2011). In the context, self-monitoring is concerned with careful observation and measurement of one’s behaviour. It also involves the recording and analyzing of the target behaviour which when honestly done brings about change in behaviour and the recipient appreciates the importance of stimulus control.
Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a particular society considered appropriate for men and women. These distinct roles and behaviours ascribed by the society or culture give rise to gender inequalities (World Health Organisation, 2014).
Gender also refers to the cultural differences expected by society/culture of men and women according to their sex. Furthermore, in the past people tend to have clear ideas about what was appropriate to each sex and anyone behaving differently was regarded as deviant. Today, we accept a lot more diversity and see gender as a continuum (i.e. Scale) rather than two categories (Shaywitz, 1995). Operationally, gender can be seen as a behavioural, social and cultural attributes associated with sex. Gender as a variable is an important factor in looking at systematic desensitization and self-monitoring.
A number of factors accounted for the choice of systematic desensitization and self-monitoring in the present study. Among them is that phobia especially examination phobia is a behavioural problem; and it seems most appropriate that behaviour modification techniques be employed in taking care of them. Therefore, there is need to explore through empirical study, the use of systematic desensitization and self-monitoring on examination phobia of secondary school students, Owerri municipal council, Imo state, Nigeria.
Statement of the Problem
Examination phobia is one of the major psychological traumas suffered by students. The effects could be frustrating and if not carefully handled could lead to a great damage to the total well being of the victim. Diminishing intellectual performance of students is caused by fears in the students before and during examinations. Furthermore, in Owerri municipal Council of Imo State, most teachers are authoritarian and believe in using punishment in the upbringing of the students. This evokes fear in the students and may bring about skips of lesson and low attendance to class activities. This lack of participation brings about lack of knowledge which results to poor academic performance and hence fears of participating in examination. This results in school phobia and in turn develop examination phobia in the students.
It has become increasingly apparent in recent years that students develop fear and anxiety about the uncertainty of the outcome of their performances and consequently develop phobia for examination. This calls for immediate attention of psychologists, counsellors and teachers if students are to function creditably well in their academic work as well as develop, sustain and maintain desirable behaviour before and during examination. What this implies is that there is the need for appropriate behaviour modification so as to make students develop positive behaviour toward examination.
The use of behaviour modification techniques such as systematic desensitization and self-monitoring has been found to be effective in managing drug abuse and bullying among students. Whether systematic desensitization and self-monitoring will be effective in developing self confidence among students during examination needs to be empirically established. The question which this study addresses is: what is the effect of systematic desensitization and self-monitoring on examination phobia of secondary school students, Owerri municipal council, Imo state, Nigeria?
Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of the study was to determine the effects of systematic desensitization and self-monitoring on examination phobia of secondary school students, Owerri municipal council, Imo state, Nigeria.
Specifically, the study sought to find out:
- Effect of systematic desensitization on examination phobia of secondary school students, Owerri municipal council, Imo state, Nigeria.
- The influence of gender on students’ manifestation of examination phobia when exposed to systematic desensitization.
- Interaction effects of systematic desensitization treatment and gender on examination phobia of secondary school students, Owerri municipal council, Imo state, Nigeria.
- Effect of self-monitoring on examination phobia of secondary school students, Owerri municipal council, Imo state, Nigeria.
- The influence of gender on students’ manifestation of examination phobia when exposed to self-monitoring.
- Interaction effects of self-monitoring treatment and gender on examination phobia of secondary school students, Owerri municipal council, Imo state, Nigeria.
Significance of the Study
The theoretical assertion by some of the theories on which this study is anchored such as Social Learning Theory which posits that people can learn that characteristic behavior that make up their personality through observation and imitation and that most behaviours are learnt not inborn has been proved. Rational Emotive Therapy maintains that individuals make themselves disturbed with rational beliefs and attitudes learned from the society and from significant others and how this irrational beliefs and attitudes could be reversed has been tested and proved hence furthering the application of these theories to solving behavior problem. The Cognitive Behavioural Theory used in this study extended the understanding of both systematic desensitization and self-monitoring in behavioural change. Theoretically, the study extended the usability of some aspects of behavioural theory in the management of adolescents’ problems.
Practically the findings of the study will be of great benefit to students, guidance counselors, government, curriculum planners, future researchers and the general public.
Students treated with the two counselling techniques of behaviour modification will benefit immensely as it is hoped that they will through the treatment acquire positive behaviour of self confidence. The findings will also be beneficial to guidance counsellors, as revelations on the effects of the techniques will help guidance counselors in planning for early intervention for students with examination phobia.
The findings will provide information on how gender as a factor influenced the treatment outcomes. This is because the information will help them to determine whether or not to use the same techniques for both genders.
To the government, the findings of this study can arouse them to organize workshops, seminars and conferences for school counsellors. These workshops and seminars could be targeted at providing adequate knowledge that would enable them to effectively counsel and train students with maladaptive behaviours using the two techniques employed in this study.
The general public will benefit enormously from this study if the therapies are adopted. The modification or management of phobia behaviour at the secondary school level will help in no small measure in curbing examination phobia among students thereby enhancing students’ academic performance.
Finally, the results of the present study will provide baseline data to future researchers. This is because the information contained in the present study will be valuable to researchers who want to conduct research in this area. To this end, the information herein would be disseminated through conferences, workshops, seminars and write ups in academic journals and magazines.
Scope of the Study
The study will be de-limited to finding the effects of systematic desensitization and self-monitoring on management of examination phobia among secondary school students in Owerri Municipal of Imo State. Equally to be investigated is gender as a variable and interaction effects among the variables.
The following research questions guided the study
- What is the effect of systematic desensitization on examination phobia of secondary school students, Owerri municipal council, Imo state, Nigeria.
- What is the influence of gender on student’s manifestation of examination phobia as measured by examination phobia manifestation scale when exposed to systematic desensitization.
- What is the interaction effect of systematic desensitization treatment and gender on examination phobia of secondary school students, Owerri municipal council, Imo state, Nigeria.
- What is the effect of self-monitoring on examination phobia of secondary school students, Owerri municipal council, Imo state, Nigeria.
- What is the influence of gender on students’ manifestation of examination phobia when exposed to self-monitoring.
- What is the interaction effect of self-monitoring treatment and gender on examination phobia of secondary school students, Owerri municipal council, Imo state, Nigeria.
The following null hypotheses were formulated to guide the study and were tested at 0.05 level of significance:.
Ho1 There is no significant difference between the pre test and post test mean scores on examination phobia of secondary school students due to systematic desensitization effect.
Ho2: There is no significant interaction effect of systematic desensitization and gender on examination phobia of secondary school students, Owerri municipal council, Imo state, Nigeria.
Ho3: There is no significant difference between the pre test and post test mean score on examination phobia of secondary school students due to self-monitoring.
Ho4: There is no significant interaction effect of self-monitoring and gender on examination phobia of secondary school