The Role of Teacher Confidence in the Classroom
Teaching is a profession that calls upon a teacher to embody many different characteristics and qualities for them to be able to perform in their role successfully. Among other things, an argument can be made that it is essential, or at least beneficial, for a teacher to be someone who is or can become comfortable in their role for their students. A key component of achieving this goal is to be confident in their ability. Careful examination suggests that a greater level of self-confidence on the part of the teacher in the classroom positively affects the learning experience for students and the teaching experience for the teacher.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Levontre H. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
What is Confidence?
Let’s begin by clarifying the meaning of being confident in the classroom. The Lexico Dictionary defines confidence as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities,” so teacher self-confidence will be defined here similarly to how it is in an article by Mojavezi and Tamiz (2012), which states that it is “the extent to which a teacher is confident enough to his or her ability to promote students’ learning.” With a working definition for teacher-confidence for our purposes, we are now able to explore what role it plays in the classroom. More often than not, a student or group of students will be able to detect whether or not a teacher is confident in their role at the head of the class even if they are not able to discern the exact level of confidence or lack thereof.
This visibility of the instructor’s self-confidence may be something that is present from day one or might be something that becomes more apparent as the students observe them over some time.
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Regardless, because of its visibility, and as would be expected “...TSE [teacher self-efficacy or self-confidence] has [an] influence on teachers and students” (Mojavezi and Tamiz, 2012). The most readily observable difference between teachers who have a higher level of self-confidence in the classroom and those who do not care in the ways that they approach their teaching. A series of interviews of both newer and older teachers referenced by Sadler (2008) of York St John University found that less confident teachers found comfort in simply lecturing because the more time one spends in front of the class talking, the less time there is for students to ask questions that they may not know the answer to. In another study, instructors with higher teacher-confidence “tend[ed] to be more organized, display[ed] greater skills of instruction, questioning, explaining, and providing feedback to students having difficulties, and maintaining students on task” (Mojavezi and Tamiz 2012).
Additionally, the progress of the students in that same study provided data that further supports the importance of teacher-confidence as “students... who had teachers with [a] higher level of self-efficacy, got better scores than those of group B and C [who had less self-confident teachers],” which indicates “that the higher the level of teacher self-efficacy, the higher the students’ achievement” (Mojavezi and Tamiz 2012).
When a teacher’s testimony points to their lack of confidence acting as an obstacle for students asking questions because the teacher is just distributing information with few or no breaks for the students to gain clarification, we can then infer that there is a negative impact on the learning experience for said students. We can also infer the opposite is true for teachers who display greater skills of providing feedback and asking questions to their students due to their self-confidence, as mentioned before, will create a more positive learning experience.
As mentioned earlier, one of the things that contribute to newer teachers having a lower level of self-confidence lies with the fear of being asked a question that they will not readily know the answer to.
This comes from the perception that they, as an instructor, may not have sufficient knowledge of the subject or topic that they are covering. Of course, it is not likely that teachers will not have an adequate working knowledge of the content they’re covering. In most cases, a teacher’s expertise in their field is, in part, what qualifies them for the position they’re in. A way to perhaps alleviate some of this anxiety would for institutions to implement “teacher development programs to be sensitive and supportive of confidence and the content knowledge of new teachers” (Sadler, 2008). Other contributing factors, such as being in an unfamiliar setting, wondering how students will react to their teaching style, or react to them as a teacher in general, will likely resolve themselves as the teacher continues to interact with students and gets used to the space that they are in.
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This group of interviews and studies suggest that teacher-confidence plays a role in the classroom that is, if not completely essential, then at least advantageous as there is a positive correlation between the confidence of the teacher and how students tend to perform. Since teacher-confidence carries so much significance in both the teaching and learning experiences for classroom participants, there also needs to be support systems in place for further development for teachers to instill a higher level of confidence in the classroom.
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