Building Confidence in Students: Striking a Balance in Teaching Styles Building confidence and properly
Building confidence and properly inspiring students is an especially daunting task for teachers of foreign languages. This is because of the sometimes seemingly endless amount of rules concerning grammar that can turn an exciting exercise into a mundane cause of depression. When students begin to feel this way about a language it is easy for them to lose motivation and when they fall behind, confidence. It is hard to regain these prized educational possessions. There are, however, things instructors can do to either prevent the loss of confidence or curb it. The main way to do this is to analyze the students' learning styles and model the teacher's style after it.
Students internalize and process information in remarkably diverse ways. Learning styles depend on whether a student processes information actively or reflectively, are sensory or intuitive learners, are visual or auditory learners, and are sequential or global learners. The assessment test given at the beginning of the course should be examined with an eye towards these variables. Typically, effective teachers will strike a balance between these various learning styles. This balance, while allowing for confidence in particular areas, can also allow for growth in weak areas. This improvement can foster even more confidence, if effective. To do this teachers should motivate students by teaching new materials, whether it be grammar or vocabulary, in a way that is relevant to the students' lives; balance concrete information (such as definitions and rules for conjunction) with conceptual information (such as syntax); use plenty of visuals; and make activities useful to either active or reflexive learners. Active learners learn better in groups and class discussions while reflective learners learn best in individual writing assignments. (Felder, Richard M)
Furthermore, the materials used should not be of the nature that they alienate students. Caleb Corkery notes the benefits of literacy narratives. Although literacy narratives may or may not be appropriate for beginner students of English, some basic principles still apply. The materials used in a class should be those that are least likely to alienate the students. Throwing Ernest Hemingway at a class of Italians may be less productive than if they read a story by Boccaccio in English. Materials that offer similarities to a student's culture will make them feel more comfortable and hopefully that comfort will be helpful when grammar and vocabulary are presented. Students, especially adults who feel hesitant to enter a classroom for the first time in 20 years, should also be encouraged to develop their 'authentic voice' or their student identity. With this, a form of the literacy narrative could be used. Students should be encouraged to write about their own experiences with the English language (if any), working towards a consciousness of purpose. Any sales book will tell you that the one way to get people to like you is to get them to talk about themselves. By the same principle, students will feel better towards a course and have more motivation. Then confidence will follow. A student's sense of confidence should not be false. If students have an inflated image of their own ability, a loss in confidence will follow sooner or later. A proper balance in teaching styles, materials that illicit a high comfort level, and a positive attitude are the best ways to preserve the confidence of one's students.
Corkery, Caleb. 'Literacy Narratives and Confidence Building in the Writing Classroom.' Journal of Basic Writing. Vol. 24, No. 1, 2005. 48-67.
Felder, Richard M and Eunice R. Henriques. 'Learning and Teaching Styles In Foreign and Second Language Eduacation.' Foreign Language Annals, 28, No. 1, 1995, 21-31.
Liskin-Gasparro, Judith E. 'Linguistic Development in an Immersion Context: How Advanced Learners of Spanish Perceive SLA.' The Modern Language Journal, 82, No. 2, Summer 1998, 159-175.