Building Confident Learners

Mike Gilmour, Deputy Principal Early & Primary Years December 1, 2018
Building Confident Learners

As the education landscape continues to evolve, the focus shifts from content-driven learning to a concept based, skills-focused pedagogy.

At GEMS World Academy (Singapore), we are acutely aware that our role as educators is to prepare students for a rapidly evolving world in which the future is not clearly defined. So we constantly ask ourselves what skills do students require to be successful in the future? Skills that will allow them to function in positions of responsibility that have not been invented yet. In addition to the required skills, we also continually assess what knowledge students need to acquire to be successful. One area that we work hard to develop in students is confidence. While confidence is not a skill, it is a by-product or characteristic of a highly engaged learner who is learning within a supportive environment.

Confidence can be seen throughout a student's learning journey and it does not always have to take on the form society typically classifies as confidence. A student’s confidence can be displayed personally in their approach to a new concept or learning engagement. Or, it can be seen in how students collaborate with one another in group learning settings as well as in more formal settings in school assemblies and projects. In order to develop confident students, a school needs to create an environment in which confidence is modelled and encouraged.

Modelling confidence for students, like all other areas of learning, is a vital component. Students will interpret and action what educators do way more than what they say. If a teacher models confidence through their passion for a topic, this will influence the student's approach to the topic way more than what is said.

I believe that there are three key areas required in order to develop confidence within students.


Student Agency

Student Agency is a key component of student confidence, as students will always be more engaged in a topic that they are passionate about. In fact, all human beings are more engaged in topics they are passionate about!

So as a school it is vital that we are empowering our students to have a voice in their learning. Ultimately, students should be driving their own inquiries with the support of the educators. For too long the model was reversed, whereby educators would drive the direction of all student learning. This model leads to a disengaged student population who are not passionate about their learning and therefore display limited motivation and confidence.

Creating an environment where students are engaged in their learning journey and are passionate about what they are learning will lead to student confidence.


Risk-Taking Environment

Supporting students as they learn is important. However, in order to create confident students, we need to take it one step further. A generally supportive environment is simply not enough. We actually require the formation of a risk-taking environment where students and staff are encouraged to attempt new things in their learning without the fear of failure. For too long society has determined that failing or making mistakes is bad, and therefore we have evolved into a risk-averse society where people are so fearful of making mistakes that they seldom attempt anything out of the norm.

Creating an environment where we model risk-taking for students allows students to develop a confidence that is not restricted by the fear of failure. When this is in place, failure simply becomes part of the learning journey, or inquiry cycle as we refer to it.

Individual Value

The final area that I feel is vital for the development of student confidence is understanding individual value. As a school, it is one of our objectives to help students identify what they are passionate about, but also to realise the value they have as an individual. When one truly knows their intrinsic value and what they offer the world, they are then confident to share that.

As educators, we work hard to highlight student value as we remind students that all perspectives and passions are important. Individuality is critical to student confidence and identification of purpose.

Building confident learners is a priority for any school but needs to be seen as a by-product of the three areas mentioned above. Forcing students, for example, to speak publicly in order to demonstrate their confidence will do the exact opposite as confidence has to be authentic.

Create the correct environment for confidence to develop and then observe as students develop their own confidence in line with their passion.


Mike Gilmour,  | Deputy Principal Early & Primary Years


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