Previously, we’ve looked at monitoring and reporting progress, the climate of the class and separating praise from feedback. This time, we’ll look at why it is important for teachers to understand the attitudes and dispositions that students bring to the lesson including their motivation to learn, their strategies for learning or their confidence to learn.

A typical class and their variety

Think of a class. Any class. What makes a student in that class an individual? Is it their previous grade in an assessment or data collection? Is it the quality of work completed in the last lesson? Is it their target grade? Did you think about their preferred learning style?

Often, when we think about differentiation or accommodating the individual in the class, we think about doing so by ensuring resources allow students at different levels. But, what might happen if we thought about other personal characteristics? How often do we think about how motivated our students are to learning? How often do we think about how confident they are to learn in that lesson?

The approach to accommodate these variations of motivation, enthusiasm or confidence does not require whole scale changes to planning. The key ingredient is to ensure that your classroom is as inviting place as possible to students.

Self efficacy

Self efficacy is the confidence or strength of belief that we have in ourselves that we can make our learning happen. How might a student with high self efficacy be different to a student with lower levels?

  • A student with high self efficacy sees tasks as challenges, doesn’t dodge or try to avoid it and sees any failure as chances to learn.
  • However, a student with low self efficacy will avoid difficult tasks, show a weak commitment to tasks and any failure leads to dwelling on task.

How can you help the student to develop their level of efficacy? How can you encourage failure as a learning activity? (how amazing would learning in a school be if students showed the efficacy of skateboarders to learn complicated tricks? Learning a new trick takes time, effort, concentration and encourages failure to learn)

Self handicapping

Students might self handicap their learning through: procrastinating on a task; reducing effort on the task; deciding not to engage in the task or activity or choosing the easy route for every activity.

To minimise the opportunity for students to self handicap their learning:

  • Provide more success in learning – it is important to strike the right balance however. Over praising students for a simple task can lead to students underestimating the challenge of the task.
  • Remove uncertainty around the learning outcomes – through ensuring all students know the success criteria and the aim of the learning activity
  • Develop students’ ability to monitor their own learning – through developing independent learning / monitoring skills

Self Motivation

On arrival to the class, each student will have their own level of self motivation, their own reason for wanting to learn. The two key types are:

  • Intrinsic – through the learning process
  • Extrinsic – through perceived rewards


Perhaps target a specific group you teach and, when planning, begin to think about the variation in that class with regards the self efficacy, self handicapping and self motivation amongst the group. Which students have high self efficacy? Which students have low motivation to be in the class? Are any students actively limiting their own ability to learn?


Image taken from cc by-nc flickr