Educators can easily forget how the classroom can be a scary place, particularly when studying a new language or in a subject such as maths, which can seem like a foreign language for some students. In these subjects, there are wrong answers and so students can become discouraged and start to feel a sense of failure.
In these cases it can become habit for less confident students to question their instincts and keep quiet. In some cases it can seem like a daunting task to even attempt the questions. How can we as educators help students to overcome these fears and engage in learning? After all, it is with practice that students will eventually do the seemingly impossible: learn, understand and remember.
It is important to always go back to basics. A student won’t be able to access the rules of trigonometry if they are struggling to remember the different kinds of triangles and shapes. Constant revisiting and reviewing of key words and concepts will help students become familiar with them and more comfortable in using them.
As an educator it is vitally important to normalise mistakes. We are not exempt from the occasional wrong answer. We can model confidence when making mistakes by simply acknowledging, accepting and moving on. This will encourage students to do the same.
Equally it is important to focus on students’ successes, especially where they have taken responsibility for their own understanding. When a student catches themselves in a mistake and begins to correct themselves, it is a moment worthy of praise. It is important to reward the process of learning itself and not just correct answers.
We should also take time to differentiate the lesson plan so that every student has the opportunity to feel successful. Sometimes, ask students questions that you are confident they can answer. Creating balance in the classroom and encouraging the learners to support each others learning creates a positive learning environment for all.
I always endeavour to recognise the different learning styles of each student in the classroom. Movement, images, writing and practical tasks will be of differing use to each student. In class I try to include tasks targeted towards all learning styles until I get to know each student and gain a better awareness of what works for them.
As more and more classrooms worldwide become virtual, we are faced with new challenges and dynamics to manage in terms of student confidence. Disengagement can be a bigger threat as students drift off from the intimidating class and into their more comfortable surroundings of home. I always keep an eye on the shy ones, they may need a little more coaxing and bringing back to focus.
Confident students are more likely to embrace learning and ask for help if it’s needed. Thus, it is vital to take the time to ensure each student is comfortable in the classroom. Doing so will generate a much more enjoyable experience for everyone.