What is the relationship between confidence and academic performance? How can having confidence help students get good grades?
Kenney: Confidence is a measure of one’s belief in one’s own abilities, so naturally, many scholars and researchers agree that there is a correlation between academic achievement and confidence. There are a few main factors to point out. Confidence is a cognitive motivational process, meaning if a student sets a goal and feels like the goal is obtainable, they are more likely to accomplish it successfully. In an academic setting, confidence must be viewed as a muscle and has to be practiced and reinforced.
What is healthy confidence? How does healthy confidence manifest itself among students?
Croskey: A positive self-confidence is useful towards achieving optimal outcomes in a variety of settings. Research has found that self-efficacy and confidence, or the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and successfully complete a task, are tied in important ways to a student’s academic identity, aspirations, motivation, achievement and ultimately persistence. Healthy self-confidence has a powerful role in a student’s proclivity and ability to succeed. Students possessing strong self-efficacy can learn to develop positive learning habits, such as deeper thinking and more willingness to take on challenging tasks.
Kenney: Healthy confidence is when students not only believe in themselves, but they believe in the educational process. When students are confident in themselves, as well as their classroom environment, even when they face an obstacle, they will be more determined to fill in the learning gaps that every student will face at some point during their educational journey.
What is unhealthy confidence? What are the consequences of having unhealthy confidence?
Kenney: Many times, self-esteem can be confused with confidence when, in fact, there are certain self-esteem characteristics that can lead to unhealthy confidence. Things like arrogance and narcissism could lead to classroom roadblocks.
Croskey: First, let’s address a lack of confidence. Lack of confidence is connected to self-protective avoidance strategies that prevent full commitment and lead to attrition and poor performance. Other types of unhealthy confidence can lead to narcissistic behaviors. This desperate need to defend a grandiose self-image can lead to aggression, low grades and poor adaptation to college.
What are some things that threaten students’ confidence? How can these problems be remedied?
Croskey: There are a host of external factors that can threaten students’ confidence. For example, parental influence and teachers and counselors can influence the students’ academic identity. In addition, dominant cultural narratives and consistently low expectations of certain groups of students, like students from low socioeconomic backgrounds or students of color, can impact confidence. Stereotype threat is a problem, but it can be remedied.
What help can students get from their school if they’re struggling with academic confidence?
Croskey: Schools can provide several services to assist students. Services include academic skill building courses, workshops, and/or courses and workshops that teach students about the university and services available. Many schools offer inquiry seminars or first- and second-year experience courses. Schools also offer tutoring, peer mentors, counseling, living learning communities and more to support students. Students can search for academic support departments dedicated to student success. They can contact their professor, advisor, community/resident assistant or other staff on campus to find the appropriate support. There are workshops addressing effective time management, stress management, self-efficacy, metacognition, the difference between studying and learning, and other issues to support students.
In smaller, more intimate class settings, how can students combat the self-doubt they may feel when interacting with other students?
Kenney: Small classrooms can be intimidating. However, overall, they provide great benefit. Even the student who suffers from self-doubt will simply be in a better position to combat these feelings in a small classroom setting because of a few factors. Smaller classrooms allow the teacher to tailor lessons to student learning styles. It also allows the teacher to have more one-on-one contact with the student. Lastly, it allows immediate feedback and more reteaching opportunities. These are critical because it’s all about filling the academic gaps. For example, I may struggle on a unit that my peers do not, and the teacher will have more time to help me fill in the gaps. In turn, I will catch up. In the next unit, my classmate may struggle and require extra attention to catch up. In the end, everyone gets an opportunity to fill in the gaps. The final step is to create peer learning groups so not only am I working with the teacher, I can help my classmate fill in gaps and they are able to do the same for me, which builds confidence for both students.
Croskey: One first step to take when feeling anxious is to take a deep breath or three (count to 10 or 50 if necessary). Pausing to breathe deeply activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. They can get to know other students in the class by interacting with them on a one-to-one basis.