Saturday, January 16, 2016

Ritchie's Self-Efficacy: Chapter 3

As I explained in an earlier post, one of my projects for winter break is writing up a review of Laura Ritchie's new self-efficacy book: Fostering Self-Efficacy in Higher Education Students. I just ran out of time in writing up notes (I've gotten so spoiled by reading almost all my books as Kindles and getting my highlighted notes as exports automatically)... anyway, here are some more notes on Chapter 3. My comments are in italics.

Chapter 3: Modes of Communication

"Applying simple, small changes can improve the effectiveness of communication and have a positive influence on self-efficacy beliefs."

"The teacher might be the first person to exert an influence on their student's self-efficacy beliefs."

"Every aspect of communication can be used to assist, direct, and encourage the students toward developing a secure sense of their learning within a subject area."

"There will be times when the student's attention needs to be drawn to specific processes and skills, and other times when the refinement an delivery of the finished work is key."

Instruction, interaction, and feedback:

In person

"Live communication is experiential, spontaneous, and unfolding. It is different from reading a text, when there is the luxury of scanning ahead or reading back over certain paragraphs."

Face to face dialogue unfolds spontaneously.

(image is at cheezburger)

"Any time the teacher and student interact in person, there is an element of reciprocal influence."

Spoken word

"All that we say is, in effect, verbal feedback, whether part of a casual conversation or a specifically crafted response."

"What does the student know? Where are they coming from? What is the current situation? Are there any external factors involved? All of these can influence decisions about choosing words that will effectively and efficiently enable that student to see a situation clearly."

"This often involves not giving a direct answer, but drawing attention to the surroundings. Providing a model or a comparison can be more productive than stating the direct facts."

"If words are to foster self-efficacy, then it makes sense to use the language of self-efficacy. With these beliefs the focus is on can and capable. Language that positively reinforces this will create a mindset that encourages receptivity and growth."

"Working to present positives, as opposed to negatives, can have a strong impact on students. Throughout daily interactions, teachers can assess how often negatives present themselves in speech, and with a moment's thought intervening before action, these can be turned into positives. Simply reframing a direction like, "Don't turn on the flame" to "Keep the flame off" can have a strong impact on student perception."

"The word "don't" can imply that actually the teacher holds an unseen belief that the student might indeed do the wrong thing first.

"Another simple verbal change is to avoid asking students to try to do things. What does it look like when someone tries to do something? It is not an image of accomplishment. Instead, use words that specify the stages of carrying out a task. For example, students do not try to write the essay, but they do brainstorm, plan, outline, research, draft, read, edit, and type the essay."

Physical gesture

(This part is less relevant for me as I teach fully online without any video; I'm kind of relieved not to have do all this self-monitoring of body language as well as verbal language!)

I communicate non-verbally.

(image is from cheezburger)


"Between saying something and a reply comes thought and reflection, and facilitating the process of understanding is important."

Between statement and reply comes thought and reflection.

(image is from cheezburger)

"The type of comments students make act as clues to their perceptions, progress, and outlook."

"The teacher's reply should not be seen as a definitive answer, but as the catalyst for what students do next."

In between speech and silence

(Again, the difficulties of pacing face-to-face conversation can be really complex, especially in a group setting; this is not something I have to grapple with teaching online, although the quality of back-and-forth has its own challenges online too.)

Sent through the ether

"When communication is asynchronous, it becomes increasingly difficult to gauge the reaction of students as they consider and reflect on what they have received. There is also the possibility that students may not read, listen to, or watch the feedback at all. It is essential then that students are motivated to engage with feedback and believe that the comments that teachers provide are meaningful to them and play an active role in supporting and shaping their practice and beliefs."

Typed or annotated files

"Completing an assignment is a form of mastery experience, and when a student submits their assignment, self-efficacy beliefs will range from full confidence to being completely full of doubt."

"Clear writing that directs the student through the stages of learning can impact the student's learning and understanding, allowing growth and a strategic way forward. Those with higher self-efficacy use more critical thinking to find ways of achieving the end result. The comments of a teacher that clearly present these methods can develop beliefs of people with lower self-efficacy by guiding them through the processes that they need to achieve for themselves."

Recorded audio or video files

I'm not really sure I agree here; ALL communication is ambiguous, and tone of voice can be "off" and/or misinterpreted, just as word choice can be. If someone is more confident in their oral rather than their written communication, by all means, use oral! It seems to me the real goal should be to use whatever communication is most likely to be successful for both teacher and student, and that is going to vary a lot from person to person and situation to situation: "There is a personal element in audio files, where the student can hear the inflection, pace, and stresses of the voice, and thus there is less inherent ambiguity than with printed text."

Applications to teaching settings:

Individual settings

"Tutorials should include questioning, listening, responding, and explaining, where both the student and the teacher are involved. It takes a craftsman to use words in a way that lead instead of tell, allowing exploration and discovery without either dictating orders or simply providing the answer."

"Individual tuition allows for some of the most flexible, experimental teaching."

"Giving answers is far easier than facilitating someone's belief, but independence allows that students can and will be able to take learning forward, further building self-efficacy beliefs on their own."

"Teachers who work in artistic or performance subject areas are often more free to use innovative and creative means to communicate in a student-centered manner that engages and challenges their students to simultaneously develop skills and establish their beliefs."

"When the student can make connections using strategic thinking and experimentation, then the persistence and resilience they demonstrate, alongside teacher guidance and support, will build positive self-beliefs about how they can achieve and obtain results."


"Considering and understanding the student view and receptiveness to learning and to the situation, to what influenced the student's confidence and self-efficacy, will enable the teacher to make an informed choice about how to give feedback in the most constructive way."

"If something unforeseen shakes the confidence of a student, it does not mean that the unpolished presentation and the ensuing errors can be simply ignored. After that negative experience, the student needs to understand why his or her self-efficacy beliefs were affected and how to move forward."

"This can help the student to correctly attribute the causes of what went wrong and see how to correct this next time in order to solidify self-efficacy beliefs before he or she encounters the task again."

"Where a student is unfazed by a change of venue and remains confident, secure, and even seems to thrive on the newness of the situation, verbal feedback can be used to reinforce the strong sense of self-efficacy."

Large lectures

"The impact on a student's self-efficacy of any learning experiences presented in the lecture can be greatly reduced, as there is the chance that the lecture can be perceived as irrelevant or simply as a fact-gathering session."

"For students to take something positive from the lecture, they need to make the connections. The teacher can still facilitate this, but it is more difficult to react and adapt to each individual."

"Student with a strong sense of self-efficacy may find the situation challenging, and they will find ways to access the content and learn. Whereas for those who already have low self-efficacy, being in a lecture where the culture is to sit and not interrupt can make them feel alone in a crowd of listeners."

"In an applied problem-solving situation, instead of directly announcing the solution, the thinking behind the processes or choices can also be discussed. This allows the student to have examples of how to use metacognition and strategic thinking, and they can then apply the same methods to similar situations when studying on their own."

Taking it further: Interaction with 1000?

Speaking of Michael Sandel's approach to engaging students in lecture setting (see book for details): "He empowers the students, supporting them validating their beliefs, and creating opportunities for them to gain experience where their thoughts are valued and they can communicate successfully. Professor Sandel has cultivated a culture of discussion, and students have come to expect participation."

"Sandel creates an open environment, inviting both sides of any story, and this allows for great interpersonal differences, yet still individuals can maintain and develop a strong self-efficacy for their capabilities to personally contribute and learn."

"Regardless of the group size, learners need to feel and believe that they are invited to participate in their learning."

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