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5 Strategies to Help Boost Your Students’ Self-Esteem and Confidence

For some of your students, self-confidence in the classroom comes naturally. They tackle new materials with ease and know how to get their points across. For your less-confident students, the day-to-day requirements of school can cause anxiety and frustration. They may question their abilities and struggle with the stress of balancing it all. As a teacher, you have the opportunity to positively influence your students and encourage them to feel proud of their abilities and accomplishments.

Here are five strategies to help boost your students’ self-esteem and confidence in the classroom:

1. Praise and acknowledge accomplishments

Students who don’t have a lot of confidence tend to focus on only the negative aspects of what they are doing. Make it a point to praise and acknowledge students when they do something correctly, both in private and in front of their peers. Specific praise helps students know that you’re paying attention and helps them acknowledge their own small wins. Giving short feedback on a paper praising their word choice or having the class give a round of applause for fellow students can make a significant difference. 

2. Set realistic expectations

Be realistic about what your students can accomplish. While it would be nice to see every student make achievements high above the norm, it isn’t attainable for some. Ask students to create their own set of goals and things they would like to accomplish during the school year, and then review their lists with them. Setting goals that are manageable and reasonable for your students can help them see how much they’ve grown and developed. Try to differentiate your teaching and create goals that represent every student in your classroom.

3. Embrace a growth mindset

We are only human, so mistakes are inevitable. Those with low confidence may focus on their failures and not see the progress that they’ve made. Use mistakes or failures as teaching moments for students. Remind them that they are not defined by their shortcomings, and reassure them to keep moving forward in their studies. You may hear this practice described as adopting a growth mindset, where students move away from saying things like “not” and “can’t” to saying something more positive like “not yet.” 

4. Encourage a sense of ownership

Urge your students to take ownership of their learning by providing them with opportunities for decision-making when it comes to assignments or classroom rules. While it can be tempting to just guide students through an assignment and show them how it’s done, prompt them to reach the final answer in their own way. One way to do this is to create a list of “must do” and “may do” assignments for students to complete. Sometimes, you’ll need all students to complete a certain assignment to assess their understanding, which would make it a “must do.” Then, students can look to the “may do” list to have a choice in what they want to work on next. Students will have a greater sense of pride in their learning when they feel a sense of control. Incorporating inquiry-based teaching strategies into your classroom can help you achieve this goal.

5. Acknowledge that every student is different

Your students have their own sets of unique strengths, talents, and needs. Accept that some students will have strengths where others don’t, and don’t treat them as a homogenous group. Differentiated learning can help students identify how they learn best. When students feel like their needs aren’t being met in the classroom, they may feel like they’re not welcome. Take notice of the different strengths and learning styles your students have, and create a classroom environment that fosters the unique abilities of individual students. When students are clear with what works best in helping them learn, they may begin to empathize with each other and have open dialogue around successful strategies.

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