By Jackie Rossa, Educational Support Consultant, Author and Creator of Thinking Spaces, Learning Central (UK) Ltd
Building teacher confidence is so important. A teacher who is confident is more likely to try out new things, challenge students more and reflect on their practice. There are lots of ways we can support teaching staff to be more confident – here are five that I think work well.
Help teachers to visualise success in teaching and learning – in their own lessons and with their own learners. When we encourage them to really see, hear and feel what great learning looks like, they become more confident about what they are aiming to achieve. Teachers often receive mixed messages about what ‘good’ teaching looks like, and the act of visualisation can help them to gain clarity for themselves, their learners and context.
Focus on learners – not teacher performance
When working with teachers, at any stage of their careers, try to focus conversations on their learners, and the impact of teaching and learning on those learners. It is much more useful to discuss what to do about the four learners in the corner who didn’t participate in a task than it is to discuss why the teachers’ differentiation strategy didn’t work that well.
Fail better together
Help teachers gain confidence by learning from failure. Creating a climate where staff collaboratively share, welcome and learn from failures can be incredibly powerful in terms of unleashing really great teaching. Teachers see that everybody is in the same boat, understand that teaching is messy, complex and incredibly hard to get right all the time. This takes away fear and gives them the confidence to try out new things, adapt their approaches and get better at evaluating and improving their practice. To make the most of learning from failure, try to ensure that they collaborate, reflect on what happened, and identify what they have learnt from this.
This is about catching teachers doing something right, and showing that you value and appreciate them by thanking them. Genuinely and sincerely. It can be anything, small or big. All too often we focus on the negatives when trying to improve. Appreciation shows we value them, and recognise what they are doing. It also gives teachers confidence to do more of those positive things.
One small step – now!
Changing and developing practice can feel overwhelming at times. Build confidence by encouraging teachers to try one small thing (of their choice) in their next lesson. Immediacy is important, as it can be tempting to wait for a ‘better time’ – e.g, “when I have more time”, “when my students behave better”, “when I have finished my scheme of work” etc. The trouble is that this ‘perfect future’ will almost certainly never arrive, and it is also good practice to get used to trying things out in the current situation. Small is also important, as teachers are more likely to try one small thing, as it feels less risky. Remember that teachers will experience cognitive overload too, and we need to help them build confidence by scaffolding their development. Crucially, help them to see it as an experiment that they can learn from – whether it works or not.
Hear more from Jackie at the AoC Teaching, Learning and Assessment Conference on Thursday 5 December.