ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Transforming Learning and Teaching Through the Pedagogy of Confidence

ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show

Post written by Jessica DuBois-Maahs, a Medill School of Journalism candidate at Northwestern University concentrating in finance reporting and interactive publishing. Starting this month, she will be a business reporter for MediaTec Publishing in Chicago, Ill.

Yvette Jackson believes that the labeling of students and schools is a detriment to education. Having worked in schools labeled "underperforming" and with students labeled "underachieving," Jackson says that such negative constructs yield disastrous results for both teachers and students.

In her 2013 ASCD Annual Conference session, "Transforming Learning and Teaching through the Pedagogy of Confidence," Jackson, coauthor of Aim High, Achieve More: How to Transform Urban Schools Through Fearless Achievement, outlined how teachers can overcome labels and myths to unlock a student's confidence, which is the key to long-term growth and achievement.

Understanding the science behind a student's confidence or insecurity is essential in overcoming "the crime of squandered potential," according to Jackson. She said students who feel defeated and confused are capable of having a mental breakthrough if teachers know what signs to look for and what strategies to use.

"The brain is like plastic that can be molded by experiences," Jackson said. "And any destruction can be undone."

The Science Behind Thinking

Studying the science and biology behind student thinking, or pedagogy, is the key to understanding why students' confidence biologically stimulates their thinking.

When students feel confident, the brain releases endorphins, triggering faster neurological connections. The increased speed of cognition helps students think clearly and logically, leading to improved problem-solving abilities.

"Nobody would want to start with something they don't believe they are good with," Jackson said. She said teachers can create platforms to positive memories and experiences to give students more confidence and increase cognition through meaningful conversation and reflection.

On the other hand, when students feel stress, their brains undergo neurological inhibition, placing mental blocks. This slows down their thought processes and is the root of anxiety and frustration. When this inhibition occurs, students are unable to think clearly and will generally give up on a specific task.

The Labels and Myths Teachers Must Overcome

Students and teachers are facing a confidence deficit, according to Jackson. She said that schools institute a complex system of myths and labels surrounding gifted and underachieving students, schools, and teachers, putting up a cultural barrier.

Some common practices that teachers and students face is the myth of a fixed intelligence, a focus on student weakness, the importance of standardized tests, and the idea that gifted education only benefits students who have been labeled gifted.

The key to overcoming these labels and filling the confidence deficit is to use language and interaction to bridge cultural gaps. Jackson said, "The pedagogy of confidence starts by changing beliefs."

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