Why Building Confidence in Students is Important and What Techniques ESL/EFL Teachers Can Use
Confidence is a feeling of self-assurance from believing in one’s own abilities or qualities. It is indispensable if we want to succeed in doing anything, and learning English is no exception. Confidence enhances performance, making learning less stressful and remembering what is learned a lot easier. It gives English learners the courage to explore and discover the language with or without teachers. Confident learners are not afraid of making mistakes or challenging themselves. All these lead to success eventually, not only for the learners but also for the teachers. Therefore, ESL/EFL teachers (teachers) need to build confidence in students.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Christina T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Reasons for the Lack of Confidence
It is not uncommon that teachers encounter students who lack confidence. There are several possible reasons why students do not have confidence. Some students may be innately shy and timid, too afraid to ask for help when in doubt, thinking that they will look stupid if they ask questions. Others may be overly conscious of their weak language ability. They are fearful that their English will not be understood and that people may make fun of them because they make mistakes. There is yet another group of students who have had some negative language learning experiences before and have become very apprehensive about taking English classes all over again.
To turn diffidence into confidence, teachers must begin by establishing rapport with students. Friendly and approachable teachers will make students comfortable asking questions when they do not understand something. When facing teachers with an encouraging attitude, students are more willing to participate in class even with their not-so-accurate English because they know they will not be criticized. To help bashful students communicate, arranging group or pair work can be helpful. Discussing language problems with peers in a group setting will be less intimidating than asking the teacher questions directly. Hence, establishing rapport among students is equally important in building students’ confidence.
Over-correcting students’ mistakes will not build confidence for sure. Effective language teachers are helpful at all times, using every method possible to point students in the right direction. To promote understanding, teachers should help students see their own mistakes and give examples of correct language usage. Teachers can inject a little humor to lighten things up when explaining students’ mistakes but should never make fun of the students who make mistakes. Humor brings teachers and students closer but humiliation creates barriers.
When planning lessons, teachers should always set realistic goals, especially for beginner students or students who may be a little slow in learning. In that situation, lots of repetitions and revisions, as well as step-by-step guidance, are essential in building confidence in students. Furthermore, teachers can allocate more time to execute study stage activities and create a more controlled environment to activate stage activities. Teachers may also want to include in homework assignments some of the items already reviewed in class. That way, those students will be able to complete their assignments without much difficulty and feel that they have achieved something at the same time. In selecting or designing assignments, teachers should be mindful that assignments inconsistent with the students’ level will only lead to frustration and failures.
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Every lesson is planned with learner objectives and teachers often want to see results. Teachers may expect students to instantly learn everything they teach, focusing on achievements while ignoring the emotional aspect of the learning process. Students lacking confidence invariably need encouragement and acknowledgment from their teacher. Giving compliments at appropriate times and showing appreciation of students’ efforts in class will make the learning process more rewarding. If a teacher is constantly creating a positive classroom environment, students’ participation will increase. As the saying “practice makes perfect” goes, teachers who know how to build confidence in students will never need to worry about not seeing results.
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Building confidence in students is vital in bringing success, and that success goes far beyond the classroom. Success may translate into a helpless immigrant making friends in a new country, a fervent child eager to speak English to anyone, a self-driven teenager planning to study abroad, a promising college graduate landing a great job, or, business personnel taking off in his or her career. One can only imagine!
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