It has been said that, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” “If you can believe it, you can be it.” This is true, with one caveat: believing it is the hardest part.
Student beliefs about their abilities can be influenced by many factors. For example:
1. Observing a peer’s success or failure greatly influences what a student believes they can do.
2. Past successes or failures influence a student’s confidence – in the subject, himself, and education in general.
Here are some ways in which we can bolster student beliefs – in the roles we inhabit every day as educators:
Tutor: Give a student a problem they can do before moving on to more challenging ones. This will grow their confidence. But also watch for those moments when their confidence is soaring – don’t be afraid to give them a challenge and really show them what they can do!
Teacher: Bring a student to the board who is proficient – but not too advanced. Students will identify with them. When such a student succeeds, they will believe they can, too.
Mentor: Help students to find paper topics in which you know they will be successful.
Coach: Genuine encouragement goes a long way: “Good work.” “That’s great – you used the new strategy!”