Motivational Magic Brain Bite #1

14 08 2009

 As I walk into the office of one of the schools I teach I view these words,

“What children learn and what they become depend largely upon how they feel about themselves”.

After years of reading those words I realized that this “feeling” is far more than emotion. I realized that a child’s perception of themselves is very important to their success in school. This questions the concept that teachers are just dispensers of knowledge. Self-perception leads to self-confidence and that leads to.…self-efficacy.

To quote Del Siegle,

“Self-efficacy is a person’s judgment about being able to perform a particular activity. It is a student’s “I can” or “I cannot” belief. Unlike self-esteem, which reflects how students feel about their worth or value, self-efficacy reflects how confident students are about performing specific tasks. High self-efficacy in one area may not coincide with high self-efficacy in another area. Just as high confidence in snow skiing may not be matched with high confidence in baseball, high self-efficacy in mathematics does not necessarily accompany high self efficacy in spelling. Self-efficacy is specific to the task being attempted. However, having high self-efficacy does not necessary mean that students believe they will be successful. While self-efficacy indicates how strongly students believe they have the skills to do well, they may believe other factors will keep them from succeeding. A growing body of research reveals that there is a positive, significant relationship between students’ self-efficacy beliefs and their academic performance. ….People with low self-efficacy toward a task are more likely to avoid it, while those with high self-efficacy are not only more likely to attempt the task, but they also will work harder and persist longer in the face of difficulties. Self-efficacy influences: (1) what activities students select, (2) how much effort they put forth, (3) how persistent they are in the face of difficulties, and (4) the difficulty of the goals they set. Students with low self-efficacy do not expect to do well, and they often do not achieve at a level that is commensurate with their abilities. They do not believe they have the skills to do well so they don’t try. The connection between self-efficacy and achievement gets stronger as students advance through school. By the time students are in college, their self-efficacy beliefs are more strongly related to their achievement than any measure of their ability. If we wish to develop high educational achievement among our students, it is essential that we begin building stronger self-efficacy as early as possible.

Carol Dweck shares her thoughts on self-efficacy when she speaks of Mind Sets.

Students with a fixed Mind Set
-say that intelligence is static
-Leads to a desire to look smart
-and therefore a tendency to avoid challenges
-Give up easily
-Sees effort as fruitless or worse
-Ignores useful feedback
-Feels threatened by the success of others
-They may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential

Students with a Growth Mind Set
-say intelligence can be developed
-Leads to a desire to learn
-and therefore a tendency to embrace challenge
-Persist in the in the face of setbacks
-Sees effort as a path of mastery
-Learns for criticism
-Finds lessons and inspiration in the success of others
-As a result they reach ever higher levels of achievement

Here are Dweck’s tips from Mindset:
-Listen to what you say to your kids, with an ear toward the messages you’re sending about mind-set.

– Instead of praising children’s intelligence or talent, focus on the processes they used.
Example: “That homework was so long and involved. I really admire the way you concentrated and finished it.” Example: “That picture has so many beautiful colors. Tell me about them.” Example: “You put so much thought into that essay. It really makes me think about Shakespeare in a new way.”

-When your child messes up, give constructive criticism;feedback that helps the child understand how to fix the problem, rather than labeling or excusing the child.

-Pay attention to the goals you set for your children; having innate talent is not a goal, but expanding skills and knowledge is.

-When they teach study skills, convey to students that using these methods will help their brains learn better.

-Discourage use of labels (“smart”, “dumb” and so on) that convey intelligence as a fixed entity.

-Teach students to think of their brain as a muscle that strengthens with use, and have them visualize the brain forming new connections every time they learn.

-Praise students’ effort, strategies, and progress, not their intelligence. Praising intelligence leads to students to fear challenges and makes them feel stupid and discouraged when they have difficulty.

-Give students challenging work. Teach them that challenging activities are fun and that mistakes help them learn.