learning in general. They are more likely to see the value in observing the rules of appropriate behaviour, and to recognise that these serve the function of encouraging an orderly learning environment designed to support their success.

The following suggestions and strategies, many of which you may recognise from your own practice, all focus on optimising learners’ chances of succeeding in the task or activity they’ve been set. The reasoning here is that nothing builds confidence like success.

Building confidence • Make sure the tasks set are achievable. Use differentiation to ensure achievability for all the learners, whatever their baseline starting point.

• Objectives, or expected outcomes, for each task or activity should be clearly communicated, not just verbally but also in writing, on-screen or otherwise. And questions should be asked and invited to ensure everyone understands these objectives before the work commences.

• For complex activities requiring a number of steps or tasks, display written instructions for each task as well as explaining them verbally.

• Go over any instructions step by step and invite questions. Ask questions, too, to check that everyone has understood what’s required of them.

• Move about the classroom or workshop and actively supervise to check whether all learners are successfully on task. Provide tactful, additional explanation or support to individuals where necessary.

a time. Never dump a load of unfamiliar terminology on learners all at once.

• Identify which learners respond well to a challenge, and which ones would simply give up before they start. A challenge is a great motivator for some, but there will be some who are much better served by stepped or scaffolded activities.

• We all know that reward is important for motivation. But there’s more to reward than praise for correct answers or successful completion. It’s also important to acknowledge and reward effort, an enthusiastic engagement with learning, or a positive

attitude towards the task or activity.

• Don’t cram in too much information all in one go. Avoid overcrowding any one web page or other

‘handout’ with too much detail which may prove daunting to the reader.

Health warning These are practical ways of building up learner confidence within the parameters of best practice. But the final word here has to be a note of caution.

Lack of confidence is not always obvious. As we’ve already seen, it may be masquerading

• Be prepared to repeat instructions as many times as it takes. This demands patience. But patience pays.

• Use a vocabulary which learners understand. Re-phrase as many times as necessary to ensure clarity of understanding. And when introducing new subject-related vocabulary, do it a little at

as disruptive or uncooperative behaviour. Confidence can be faked; and the loud, self-promoting persona adopted by a learner may be disguising a serious lack of confidence in their ability to meet the requirements of the course. This ‘behind-the-curtain’ lack of confidence could be called the ‘Wizard of Oz effect’. In order to help them, we have to be on the alert for this. Equally important is that we ensure we don’t encourage over-confidence by heaping too much praise or making tasks too easy. Over-confidence can lead too often to failure and disappointment. It takes skill to help a learner recognise their own limitations and learning needs while at the same time ensuring they retain their sense of self-esteem.


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