(BPT) - Building the confidence to try, experiment and keep going even when things get hard is a critical part of the educational process. Confidence comes more naturally to some students than others, yet new research shows that confidence levels today impact learning outcomes for students.
Three-quarters of teachers say anxiety and lack of confidence hinder learning among their students, according to the Confidence in Learning Poll conducted by Harris Insights and Analytics on behalf of LEGO Education. Two-thirds of parents agree their children are not more confident than their peers or themselves at that age.
This is impacting students' education in many ways, particularly in the important STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics). The poll found fewer than one in five students is “very confident” when it comes to learning STEAM, while only one in three teachers says their students are more confident in STEAM subjects compared to five years ago.
As we think about preparing students for the future workforce, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in new jobs that don't yet exist, according to the World Economic Forum. This makes confidence in STEAM especially important as we prepare kids for unknown needs.
Consider the middle-school years as an important time to grow and maintain confidence levels among students. A time of tremendous physical change, kids are also dealing with new academic and social pressures, too. The good news is both parents and educators can take basic steps to help boost confidence in learning to help middle-school kids at home and at school.
With confidence such a key component of learning success, how can parents and educators keep levels high so that students not only succeed at learning, but also find joy in it? The key is hands-on learning. A whopping 97 percent of teachers in the U.S. say that hands-on learning builds confidence among their students, though that doesn't have to be limited to the classroom. Here are simple ways to help middle-schoolers gain confidence in themselves and their education:
Hands-on learning at home
Adults who incorporate hands-on learning can make a big impact, with 87 percent of students reporting that when they learn via hands-on projects, they tend to remember the topics for longer. At home, invite kids into the kitchen to cook together, talking about measurements and reactions of cooking ingredients before enjoying a meal as a family. Another idea: Have them help out as you use tools to work on your car, discussing the problem, brainstorming the potential solutions and fixing it together.
Hands-on learning at school
When projects come to life, kids can learn through collaboration and exploration, which can help improve processing and retention. The new LEGO Education SPIKE Prime, bringing together familiar LEGO bricks with digital programming, lets students learn essential 21st-century skills through a hands-on approach. The kit includes guides for 32 different creations, though the possibilities are limitless. "We believe deeply in the value of hands-on learning experiences to build curiosity and confidence, spur development, bring more joy to learning and spark imagination — and that's exactly what SPIKE Prime offers," said Esben Stark Jørgensen, president of LEGO Education.
Ask questions through open discussions
Having open, engaging and nonjudgmental conversations with middle-school kids is important to breaking down barriers. Let them lead the conversation, but if it stalls out, take the lead by asking questions about how they think and feel. Remember, no answer or thought is a bad one. It's also important, as an adult, to show vulnerability. If you can show you're OK being comfortable with success or failure, it helps them gain confidence that it's OK to feel that way, too.
To learn more about confidence-building, educational opportunities and LEGO Education SPIKE Prime, visit LEGOeducation.com/SPIKEprime.
The Oak Tree Academy mission is to improve the quality of life of people with language-based learning disabilities and their families by developing programs and disseminating knowledge based on current research.