The confidence cycle

This week in PROSPER, the Year 8s explored the idea of negativity bias. They learnt that, as human beings, we are naturally more focused on weaknesses or threats because, historically, this has enabled us to survive. The problem is that we carry this focus through into the realm of learning. As a teacher, I am all too aware of students whose negative thoughts and fixed mindset result in a viewpoint closed to the possibilities of success. This kind of thinking tends to create a cycle like this:

  1. Thoughts of being incapable or that a task is too difficult
  2. Lack of effort as a result of the thoughts in 1
  3. Feedback or results that support original beliefs.

Often, a student’s belief that they’re incapable of doing something as successfully as they would like is a result of lack of effort or failure to seek help rather than the fact that they cannot do it. The cycle feeds into itself and (erroneously) confirms the student’s fears.

I encourage all boys to put time and effort into building their confidence so that they come to believe that they can make improvements and that they can achieve success. Skills and knowledge are not fixed. If a student has a growth mindset, areas of weakness can become areas of opportunity. When boys are able to approach their learning with confidence and pro-activity, achievement and success begin to flow and they reap the rewards.

Some ideas to help our boys develop a growth mindset and break out of the cycle of negativity include:

  • Developing an inquiry relationship with academic subjects
  • Talking to peers and teachers about their ideas
  • Having the belief that intelligence can be developed, with help
  • Setting small goals and celebrating them
  • Reviewing strategies and efforts (before an assessment) rather than viewing academic grades as a sign of intelligence
  • Finding value in the process of learning.

Katie White
Head of House Year 8 (Hancock, Rofe and School)