In the last few months we’ve reviewed the skills and foundational principles of studying. Here are links to past posts on this topic: Three Tips for Effective Studying, Effective Study Principles: Knowledge & Confidence, Seeking Knowledge: Myths, Facts, and Fixes.Now it’s time to put it all into practice. Let’s look at the principle of gaining confidence.
Students who have confidence in their own abilities and in their understanding of the material are more likely to succeed academically than students who are unsure of themselves. People who lack confidence may quickly assume that they “just can’t get it,” or they may spend too much time studying certain topics because they doubt they have mastered the content.
Three key myths explain why students lack confidence in their ability to learn.
Myth 1: Past negative experiences determine current reality.
Sometimes, children have had negative experiences that have damaged their confidence in themselves or in their ability to learn certain types of material. For instance, a student who performed poorly in a science class after believing he understood the material might worry about taking other science classes.
Fact: Current behavior determines current reality. If the student changes how he studies, his performance will likely change too.
Fix: Encourage the child to try again. First, make sure he reflects on why he did poorly. Ask questions, “Did you work hard to seek knowledge? How could you have done better? What other tools and tactics will help you better learn the material?” Once he has discovered why he failed and describes ways to improve, he can apply different study strategies.
Myth 2: Intelligence is finite and cannot grow.
Some people believe that intelligence is fixed and cannot be increased with effort. So when they struggle to learn a concept, they may believe they have reached the limit of their ability. We’ve all heard it; “I’m just not good at . . .” Having this mindset offsets the belief that putting in more effort will yield better results.
Fact: Neuroscientists and other brain researchers reject this premise based on evidence that the brain is plastic and that intelligence can grow with effort.
Fix: Gain confidence by regular testing. On a weekly basis, have the child review what he has covered that week in school. He can even give himself a self-quiz to see what he’s mastered and what he still needs to work on. Doing these “quick checks” will help the child see when and where he gained knowledge—and what needs more work.
Myth 3: The problem will go away if ignored.
Kids may avoid examining what they do not understand. Avoidance may come from fear, discomfort, or lack of awareness.
Fact: Ignoring a problem usually makes it worse. If a problem is caught early, there’s a better chance to correct it by getting help or studying more. Also, by ignoring the issue, self-confidence may be damaged.
Fix: Build confidence and catch problems early by taking practice tests. About two weeks or ten days before an exam or quiz, urge your child to take and self-grade a practice test on the material. Teachers can provide sample test questions, or the child can create his own test. This is an excellent way to review the material. Testing and grading before the exam is beneficial as these tactics allow the child to assess what he understands and what he still needs to work on. Following this process will also help gain the confidence needed at test-taking time.
These tools will help your children truly gain confidence in school versus practicing avoidance or feeling anxious in their academic abilities. Confidence comes by doing it on your own! Your children will experience failures but it is by learning from failure that confidence in the future will grow. Owning personal study strategies will lead to success.
By Megan Stone, M.Ed.
Wife to Rick,
Mom of two
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Founder of Stone Foundations of Learning, Inc.
Author of Own Your Education! A Student’s Guide to Greater Success in School (And Life)
And for more about these concepts from Megan, read Own Your Education: A Student’s Guide to Greater Success in School (and Life). Pick up copies for graduation gifts!