Focus on testing hurts ability to manage sexual situations

High school health classes fail to help students refuse sexual advances or endorse safe sex habits when teachers focus primarily on testing knowledge, a new study reveals.

But when teachers emphasized learning the material for its own sake, and to improve health, students had much better responses. in these kinds of classrooms, students had lower intentions of having sex and felt better able to navigate sexual situations. More than 5,000 ninth-grade students were surveyed.

“A focus on tests doesn’t help students in health classes make healthier choices,” said Professor Eric M. Anderman, Educational Studies. “In health education, knowledge is not the most important outcome. what we really want to do is change behaviors, and testing is not the way to achieve that.”

For health teachers, Anderman recommends they offer minimal and low-pressure tests. Or, in a perfect world, non at all.








Dr. Eric Anderman, Chair

Department of Educational Studies

Scholarly Interests

  • Academic motivation
  • adolescent development
  • prevention of risky behaviors in adolescent populations
  • research methods in social science


  • 1994 – PhD, University of Michigan, Educational Psychology
  • 1992 – MA, University of Michigan, Developmental Psychology
  • 1986 – EdM, Harvard University, Education
  • 1985 – BS, Tufts University, Psychology and Spanish