School Blogs

The Confidence Gap

15th March 2016 | Head's Blog

The Confidence Gap

Confidence, as defined by the Cambridge online dictionary, refers to ‘the quality of being certain of one’s abilities or of having trust in people, plans, or the future.’ At Wandsworth Prep School, instilling confidence in our children is one of our primary aims. 

Competition in the classroom has long been one of education’s central tenets; the belief that competition raises academic achievement across the board. Recent research undertaken by two leading academics from the London School of Economics' Centre for Economic Performance, however, turns this traditional theory on its head. 

The study undertaken asked 15,000 pupils to rate themselves in English, maths and science, and compared their rankings with their exam results at the end of Key Stage 2, Year 6, and again at Key Stage 3, when they had turned 14. Final analysis of youngsters’ responses concluded that ‘non-cognitive skills such as confidence, perseverance and resilience have large effects on achievement’. More strikingly, perhaps, was a consistent correlation identified between academic performance and confidence with some evidence to suggest that the effect of confidence on achievement is as important as teaching quality.

Building a child’s confidence, however, is complex. It is not just a matter of praising a child with positive comments at the first sign of them doing something well; for some children praise is meaningless. 

Knowing that building resilience and confidence in our children will be key to their success is one thing but getting inside their heads and shifting their thinking is another. At Wandsworth Prep, we aim to foster positive mind sets in all our children and from the very first day they walk through our gates, we aim to instil in them a genuine sense of optimism.

One way to nurture a healthy sense of confidence is to adopt a mind set that will promote self-development. In September, we decided to adopt classroom strategies and ways of feeding back to our children which encourage them to adopt a growth mind set attitude towards all that they encounter. We praise effort, concentration and learning strategies; not talent, ability or intelligence. We praise specific processes and tasks. We set children learning goals, not performance goals. Feedback is constructive and challenges children to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them; the result is children viewing set-backs as a normal part of the learning process and that problems can be solved.

Confidence is the one of the most important attributes we can encourage. Confident children take learning risks; they can separate themselves from failure or lack of success and are not dependent on the approval of others.

Our Deepest Fear

‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves; who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’

by Marianne Williamson

Bridget Saul