How Self Confidence Affects Learning

As the year progresses and things get tough–self confidence and self-esteem becomes a stronger predictor of success.  So many of our students begin to buckle as the work becomes more difficult.  Teachers can scaffold to make learning more attainable but there is still time that students MUST persevere through difficult tasks.

I was inspired to revisit some research that I completed about self confidence and how it affects learning.

Self-esteem or confidence actually resides in the frontostriatal section of the brain which is located between the ventral striatum and the prefrontal cortex (Decision making, personality and social parts of brain) according to Anna Almendrala (2014).   The ventral striatum is associated with feelings of motivation and reward.  Studies have shown that with continual positive or negative statements and emotions an increase or decrease can occur in the activity of this pathway of the brain. Therefore this affects the person’s self-esteem.

According to Susana Martinez-Conde from Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, our brain “makes use of two types of knowledge everyday:  explicit knowledge (the “know what” type) and implicit knowledge (the “know how”).   She uses the example of explicit knowledge is knowing your math facts which is something concrete but implicit knowledge is riding a bike which is something you know how to do. Implicit knowledge is not as easy to explain to someone because it uses many functions and actions to complete the action—you know how to do it.

Self-confidence is an element added to these two types of knowledge which affects our ability to share or retrieve this knowledge based on what she calls real memories or fake (subconscious).  Our subconscious (fake memories) actually is the foundation for how our own confidence is ascertained.  Our subconscious is much like a “recorder” because it is taking information from all of our senses and recording impressions.  Our subconscious is different from other information taken in from our brain which is manipulated, organized and utilized in a purposeful way.  The information from our subconscious is simply brought in and impressions recorded. When we are engaged in certain activities, these impressions will cause anxiety or enjoyment or lack of confidence based on previous information gathered by our subconscious.

Powerful Information!!  Think about a student from a home where literacy is not celebrated. This could be for various reasons; parents uncomfortable reading, lack or unstructured time, unstable environment.  The events are not necessarily remembered but an overall impression is being created in the brain as the subconscious records the events. These recordings are creating negative feelings that will be associated with literacy. In contrast, our children who grow up in literacy rich homes feel comfortable with reading and more willing to try because the subconscious has recorded positive attributes with the event.

This immediately made me think of this quote from Ghandi.

The implications I have gathered through my research is that most likely our lowest performing students have developed a negative feeling or impression of the topic in which they struggle.  When a negative thought is repeated many times it is actually being “recorded” and causes stress when the child engages in this activity. For example, speaking publicly is very difficult for me because I lack confidence in that area and I have over the years developed negative feelings about being in that situation.  To combat this low self-confidence or negative feeling in our students, we must replace the negative connotation with positive repeatedly.

Positive affirmation can simply be a smile!  Smiling, positive feedback, encouraging words and simply being patient can help a child begin to “record” positive subconscious thoughts as they engage in the activity such as reading.  The more positive and comfortable the student feels, the more likely they are to try harder and build higher self-confidence.  For students who are extremely shut down, a tangible reward paired with positive feedback can begin to create the connection between the task and a good experience.

Positive feedback and sometimes a tangible trip to the prize box will activate the ventral striatum (home of reward and motivation) which connects to the frontostriatal (home of self-confidence).  When these two sections of the brain work together, you are increasing both self-confidence and motivation which increases the engagement and openness to learn.

It is powerful to think that we can help change a person’s self-confidence and motivation. How often as teachers do we hear, “I can take a horse to water but I can’t make them drink.”  I do not believe that old adage is true. With repetitive positive affirmation and helping a student feel success we can improve their motivation to try. This in turn will begin to build self-confidence.  These factors together can increase the change of learning because the child becomes open to receive the information. We may not be able to “make them drink” but we can certainly motivate them to want to try!

For a related article, check out my April Blog entitled, “Too Much Stress= Impeded learning.”  It explains how the brain reacts to stress and how it affects learning. In today’s blog it shared how confidence affects learning and how the subconscious can put learners in a state of stress. The April article focuses on how the brain reacts to high amounts of stress. In a state of continual stress, the brain will respond by short circuiting that pathway and stop impulses. This results in the lack of input and messaging in the brain which makes it short circuit that pathway and stops learning. In addition, a constant state of stress causes inability to stay on task, inattention, and lack of self control. (Poor behavior–sound familiar??)

http://thiskelly.edublogs.org/2016/04/15/too-much-stress-impeded-learning/

Articles that were cited and helped inspire this Blog:

Article by Anna Almendrala for Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/16/self-esteem-brain_n_5500501.html accessed on July 20, 2016.

Article by Susana Martinez-Conde and Richard J. Haier on June 2008 entitled Ask the Brains: What are ideas? Does confidence Affect Performance.  Accessed on July 22, 2016:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-are-ideas/

Quote from values.com

Brain Breaks

‘Tis the Season!  We think of the season as a merry time with fun and memory making but it can also bring tons of stress to our families.  December can be filled with worries of custody schedules, work schedules, money and balancing all the elements of life. January intensifies these worries with added stress of bills collected in December. Our students are the recipients of much of this stress because they are “in it” and have no control to fix or change the situation.

 

Food for thought coming back in January:  

Judy Willis M.D., Edutopia Article, stated the following, “For students to learn at their highest potential, their brains need to send signals efficiently from the sensory receptors (what they hear, see, touch, read, imagine, and experience) to memory storage regions of the brain. The most detrimental disruptions to traffic along these information pathways are stress and overload.”  Providing our students with “Brain Breaks” often throughout a lesson can help students obtain optimal retention of information and attention.

 

Your brain contains 100 billion neurons or brain cells.  These cells have the primary job of receiving information and signaling other neurons using electricity or chemicals to stimulate messages within the body. The hypothalamus is the regulation center of the brain.  It keeps your body at a constant; including temperature, heart rate, etc.  Learning happens when neurons are activated and a message is sent along the axon.  When repeatedly stimulated a process called synapse is created. Synapse is created when two neurons are connected from the end of the dendrite. The creation of dendrites is when the brain is relating information that is important within the brain and “filing it” for retention or when the brain makes a learning connection which puts it in our memory.

 

 

When the brain is exposed to stress the body begins to release cortisol which is the primary stress hormone. This chemical affects your heart, lungs, skin, immune system and circulation.  In addition, it stimulates the hypothalamus and when it reaches the neuron, it shuts off the impulses of the dendrites which halt learning.  This is a temporary response and the dendrites will grow back UNLESS there is a long term period of stress.  When stress is repetitive the brain will respond by short circuiting that pathway which will stop impulses and result in the lack of input and messaging.  Many of our students are in a constant state of stress from instability at home, lack of confidence in a subject, poor self-esteem, and relationships with their peers, etc. This constant state of stress causes inability to stay on task, inattention, and lack of self-control.

 

Implementing a “Brain Break” is essential to keeping learning happening and can be a natural way for students to “sum up learning” or thinking.  No more than 20 minutes of any activity should be taking place in the elementary school without a change in thought or activity.  A person’s attention limit is approximately their age plus one –a second grader only has an attention span of about 8 to 9 minutes!  By rebooting the brain, you restart the learning process by restoring to a calm state and producing dopamine.

 

Three Ways to Implement a Brain Break!

 

  1. Use the summarizing throughout the lessons that was featured the last two weeks.

How?

  • During teaching stop frequently and ask students to talk to a partner and summarize learning or their ideas. To change things up you can have students draw, write or act out their learning as well.

 

  1. Read Aloud for a few minutes after an activity or lesson to calm and relax students while provoking thought.

How?

  • Read aloud and stop often to discuss or have students act out scenes, visualize through drawing or writing or to chat with a partner about an event or character.

 

  1. MOVE.  Have students move such as jumping jacks, walking in place, sing a song with movements or throw/catch a ball.  All of these activities help to produce dopamine and increase blood flow to the brain.

How?

 

  • Just free movement for 3-5 minutes can get blood flowing and stop the production of cortisol in students.  Don’t forget https://www.gonoodle.com/is a great site with videos to get them moving.

 

Enjoy your Christmas Break and think “January Brain Breaks.”

https://www.edutopia.org/article/brain-breaks-restore-student-focus-judy-willis

 

Implications of Brain Research

Through this school year, we have investigated the idea of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to literally change.  Brain research tells us that it is possible to change learning, mindset and even intelligence.  It is when we use and process information in the prefrontal cortex—learning happens and encodes to long term memory!  We have learned how stress inhibits learning and self-confidence.  Judy Willis, Edutopia 2012, shared that when studying neuroimaging scan of students in states of boredom, frustration and sustained stress within the classroom the brain increases the metabolic state and blocks processing in the prefrontal cortex.  Knowing these facts makes you a powerful change agent for students.

Building on these ideas, an article from Education World on October 26, 2016, there are twelve principles or ideas that can help us make small changes in our instruction. Educators can change ways we plan and execute lessons to make a HUGE impact. Here are my five favorite to share.

  1. The brain is a parallel processor. This means that thoughts, experiences and emotions are being processed simultaneously within the brain.  This matters because it is a reminder that environment and social/emotional needs must be considered and met to ensure optimal learning. We cannot control the students’ environment but we can make sure our school and classrooms are safe and inviting.
  2. Learning engages the entire body and physiology. Increasing active movement will increase engagement and neural activity.  Increase student to student interaction to increase listening and speaking while reading and writing which will boost sensory input. Engaging students in movement, gestures, games, etc. will increase their neural input and increase the brain’s ability to put the information in long term memory.
  3. The brain is constantly searching for meaning and is instinctive. Begin your lessons with a question, problem or scenario that requires students to figure something out or discover.  Even using photographs to spark intrigue will increase the brain’s innate search for meaning and to seek answers.  When the brain is seeking meaning—engagement is present.
  4. The brain searches for patterns. Repetition is crucial because it helps students organize and put things in order.  In addition, explicitly teaching a concept and then having students discover or apply information repetitively will help them develop a pattern of thinking.  When you hear the term layering it refers to teaching a concept and then providing the concept in a different way which causes the brain to first seek meaning and then organize this information by the previous pattern learned. This causes students to access information from memory and reuse it in a different way which is problem solving at the highest level.
  5. Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat. We must challenge our students with complex text and content but remember that scaffolding them and supporting them will keep the threats limited and engagement guaranteed.  (Keep the carrot dangling in front of them)

Wonder, graphics, student interaction, and movement all help increase student engagement and increase the ability to process information.  Using what we know about the brain helps us plan lessons to optimally produce student learning.  Remember explicit instructions and modeling help to lay the foundation of learning. Providing students a chance to interact and talk helps to make the concepts make sense.  The use of graphics, movement and games will increase the brain’s ability to remember and retrieve the information.  Increasing the challenge or layering new ideas upon patterns of learning helps students develop connections and deepen learning so that it is processed to long term memory and becomes automatic.

Learning and Self-Confidence

I have been inspired this week by watching students at Summer School who have become completely different learners. No they have not magically jumped to proficient according to Reading 3D or state standards BUT they are excited, engaged and becoming more confident. My research this week has been on how self-confidence affects learning.

Self-esteem or confidence actually resides in the frontostriatal section of the brain which is located between the ventrial striatum and the prefrontal cortex (Decision making, personality and social parts of brain) according to Anna Almendrala (2014).   The venrial striatum is associated with feelings of motivation and reward.  Studies have shown that with continual positive or negative statements and emotions an increase or decrease can occur in the activity of this pathway of the brain. Therefore this affects the person’s self-esteem.

According to Susana Martinez-Conde from Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, our brain “makes use of two types of knowledge everyday:  explicit knowledge (the “know what” type) and implicit knowledge (the “know how”).   She uses the example of explicit knowledge is knowing your math facts which is something concrete but implicit knowledge is riding a bike which is something you know how to do. Implicit knowledge is not as easy to explain to someone because it uses many functions and actions to complete the action—you know how to do it.

Self-confidence is an element added to these two types of knowledge which affects our ability to share or retrieve this knowledge based on what she calls real memories or fake (subconscious).  Our subconscious (fake memories) actually is the foundation for how our own confidence is ascertained.  Our subconscious is much like a “recorder” because it is taking information from all of our senses and recording impressions.  Our subconscious is different from other information taken in from our brain which is manipulated, organized and utilized in a purposeful way.  The information from our subconscious is simply brought in and impressions recorded. When we are engaged in certain activities, these impressions will cause anxiety or enjoyment or lack of confidence based on previous information gathered by our subconscious.

Powerful Information!!  Think about a student from a home where literacy is not celebrated. This could be for various reasons; parents uncomfortable reading, lack or unstructured time, unstable environment.  The events are not necessarily remembered but an overall impression is being created in the brain as the subconscious records the events. These recordings are creating negative feelings that will be associated with literacy. In contrast, our children who grow up in literacy rich homes feel comfortable with reading and more willing to try because the subconscious has recorded positive attributes with the event.

This immediately made me think of this quote from Ghandi.

Ghandi

The implications I have gathered through my research is that most likely our lowest performing students have developed a negative feeling or impression of the topic in which they struggle.  When a negative thought is repeated many times it is actually being “recorded” and causes stress when the child engages in this activity. For example, speaking publicly is very difficult for me because I lack confidence in that area and I have over the years developed negative feelings about being in that situation.  To combat this low self-confidence or negative feeling in our students, we must replace the negative connotation with positive repeatedly.

Positive affirmation can simply be a smile!  Smiling, positive feedback, encouraging words and simply being patient can help a child begin to “record” positive subconscious thoughts as they engage in the activity such as reading.  The more positive and comfortable the student feels, the more likely they are to try harder and build higher self-confidence.  For students who are extremely shut down, a tangible reward paired with positive feedback can begin to create the connection between the task and a good experience.

Positive feedback and sometimes a tangible trip to the prize box will activate the venrial striatum (home of reward and motivation) which connects to the frontostriatal (home of self-confidence).  When these two sections of the brain work together, you are increasing both self-confidence and motivation which increases the engagement and openness to learn.

It is powerful to think that we can help change a person’s self-confidence and motivation. How often as teachers do we hear, “I can take a horse to water but I can’t make them drink.”  I do not believe that old adage is true. With repetitive positive affirmation and helping a student feel success we can improve their motivation to try. This in turn will begin to build self-confidence.  These factors together can increase the change of learning because the child becomes open to receive the information. We may not be able to “make them drink” but we can certainly motivate them to want to try!

For a related article, check out my April Blog entitled, “Too Much Stress= Impeded learning.”  It explains how the brain reacts to stress and how it affects learning. In today’s blog it shared how confidence affects learning and how the subconscious can put learners in a state of stress. The April article focuses on how the brain reacts to high amounts of stress. In a state of continual stress, the brain will respond by short circuiting that pathway and stop impulses. This results in the lack of input and messaging in the brain which makes it short circuit that pathway and stops learning. In addition, a constant state of stress causes inability to stay on task, inattention, and lack of self control. (Poor behavior–sound familiar??)

http://thiskelly.edublogs.org/2016/04/15/too-much-stress-impeded-learning/

 

Articles that were cited and helped inspire this Blog:

Article by Anna Almendrala for Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/16/self-esteem-brain_n_5500501.html accessed on July 20, 2016.

Article by Susana Martinez-Conde and Richard J. Haier on June 2008 entitled Ask the Brains: What are ideas? Does confidence Affect Performance.  Accessed on July 22, 2016:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-are-ideas/

Quote from values.com

 

 

 

Games for “Crunch Time” Review

It is CRUNCH TIME!  As we move through remediation for the BIG TEST—here are a few brain facts to keep in mind:

  • A teacher has less than 3 minutes to engage a learner at the start of an activity.
  • A small bit of stress, competition, can stimulate learning by engaging the learner with a boost in adrenaline. (Remember balance with stress is important)
  • Students learn information more easily in small chunks. We used to think 7-8 but now researchers believe it is 2-4.  Breaks and process time are very important when learning new information.
  • Waelti, Dickinson and Schultz (2001), found a benefit “associating rewarding, positive social experiences with the learning process” which is called dopamine-based reward stimulated learning.  This basically means that students are more comfortable and engaged when talking with their peers so collaborative learning helps to stimulate learning.
  • Graphics can increase retention of information forty two percent which is especially powerful for our English Language Learners and low socioeconomic students who lack background and vocabulary
  • Repetition actually changes the brain and creates a clear pathway for the brain to share information to other neurons.
  • Movement and active learning (GAMES) cross the midline of the brain and connect both hemispheres which increase neuron activity and engagement.

 

Knowing these facts, using GAMES to increase student attention will also enhance the brain’s ability to learn information.  Remember that learning happens when dendrites are activated and a message is sent along the axon. When the neuron is repeatedly stimulated, synapse occurs which is creating a connection or pathway of learning from one neuron to another.

Here are 3 games to help engage students and their brains during rest review.

Sink or Swim:

  1.  Divide your class into two teams and have them sit across from one another. Assign each student a number. Example:  If each team has 12 people. They should each have a number 1-12.
  2. Ask a question to the team or call out a number and ask that person. They get 15 seconds to answer. (You can increase or decrease this based on the questions you plan to ask)
  3. If the team gets the answer correct, they are able to sink one person from the other team. (They choose by number rather than person)
  4. Then team two gets a question. If they get the answer correct, they can sink a person or save one of their own members who are now sitting in the middle.
  5. The game continues back and forth until one team has no players left.

 

QR Code Walkabout:

  1. Create a QR Code for 8-10 Math Questions (this could be vocabulary or another subject)  You can use the following site to create QR Codes. It is simply typing or cutting and pasting the information into the link:   http://www.qrcode-monkey.com/
  2. Place QR Codes around your school building.
  3. Partner students and give them a recording sheet. Here is a sample: QR Recording Sheet
  4. Students then will do a “Walkabout” with the goal of completing each problem (showing work) and returning to the classroom in a given time. Students will use the Ipad to “read” the QR code and begin the problem.
  5. If there are two pairs of students working on a problem—they must go to another problem or wait.
  6. If you do not have Ipads for students, you could just print the problem and post it at the designated station.

 

Post it Practice:

  1. The teacher can write a vocabulary word on a Post It note and stick it to the student’s forehead or their back
  2. The students then move around the room and explain the word to someone else without disclosing the word itself.
  3. After about 15-20 minutes of the students sharing explanations without disclosing the word, the class returns to whole group but do not look at their own word yet.
  4. The teacher will facilitate a discussion by going around and asking what word they think they have and what others said to make them believe that is correct.
  5. The person checks to see if they were correct and the class discusses meaning.
  6. Repeat with next student.

Variation:  Use photographs that represent a vocabulary word or topic.  You can use quotes or events for a history review.

Getting students engaged during this time of year is tough—but with test prep—even harder!  Get them involved, talking, games and movement will improve their attention and engagement while increasing their ability to retain and access the information.

If you try one of these out—let me know!  I have more to share!  I hope you will share a game or activity that keeps your class involved in the comment section.

 

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