Year after year and in study after study, we see the same thing: Confident students are better students. But, as one student pointed out in a 2019 survey, that confidence is easily shaken.
“I feel like if you do poorly on one test, you kinda get in your mind that maybe this isn’t the subject for you, or you go into the next test feeling less confident. So, then it may influence your academic performance and reflect on your grades.”
And that can only be worse after so many students were forced into remote classrooms. In another survey, this one from 2020, more than 80 percent of students said that the thing they missed most in online learning was being able to see and collaborate with other students and their instructors in person.
For many, the pandemic has taken away the natural support networks students have always had. It’s much more difficult to bounce ideas off someone in a virtual classroom, and it’s much harder to say, “I’m struggling with this,” and be heard. All the built-in safety nets of physical classrooms are gone, making it easier for students to lose confidence.
How do we safeguard against such loss of confidence? One answer may lie in some of the technologies that are already making online learning possible.
After more than a year in virtual classrooms, students and their teachers have become quite familiar with digital testing and the platforms that make them possible. While students may not count the ability to continue taking exams as a benefit, it’s these very platforms that can enable them to continue building their knowledge and their confidence.
For students: Building confidence in themselves and their ability to learn
The key to using digital testing platforms to build student confidence lies in the data these platforms provide and the specificity that’s available.
For many, testing—at least the on-paper, in-person traditional kind—has always been a stressful, time-intensive ordeal that involves hours of study and preparation only to result in a single point of feedback: the grade. And while a single test score is great at assessing a student’s understanding of a specific percentage of material, it’s also great for killing confidence when it’s lower than the student expected or hoped for. Remember the student’s quote from the survey? A single bad grade can be enough to start a student spiraling.
But what if an assessment could be more than a single data point? What if it could be four, five, or even dozens of data points? With digital testing, that’s exactly what a single assessment is, and it’s this data that’s key to creating confidence.
A score of 85 on an exam can now mean more. For instance, as the instructor, you can break that number down for the student and say, “Okay, this 85 percent means you have 95 percent mastery of anatomy, but only 75 percent mastery of bio chem.”
For the student, such a breakdown not only highlights the areas where they mastered the material, it helps identify areas where they may need more focus. By spending less time on those areas where they already have mastery, a student can more quickly turn their attention to improving the areas in which they are struggling. And I think we can all agree that success breeds confidence.
Finally, a more detailed scorecard may also indicate subjects in which a student has a natural curiosity and aptitude. Identifying such natural strengths can provide direction and confidence and may even be a possible key to their future studies.
For educators: Creating confidence through assessment and course design
Detailed assessment data such as this is not only helpful for building students’ confidence, it’s also beneficial for the instructor. For example, it can aid them in both course and assessment design, allowing for a level of personalization that builds learners’ interest and confidence by creating “links” between the individual student and the material they are learning.
Unlike traditional one-size-fits-all courses and assessments, when the material is personalized, students feel more connected to it. It shifts the relationship between student and teacher from one where a talking head is broadcasting a broad wealth of knowledge to everyone at once, to one where the student has a sense of ownership. This more personalized content can then be presented in the method that the individual student learns best. Instead of just a lecture or a chapter to be read, the course materials become something more exciting to each student.
For both: Boosting confidence with improved assessment analysis
Context builds confidence. Digital testing can provide both the student and the teacher with data, but it’s up to the instructor to make sure the data makes sense to the learner. It’s up to educators to provide the interpretation of the numbers, and by doing that well, they can create confidence in the student.
Without the proper context, the learner is left to their own devices, asking themselves, “What does this even mean?” This opens the door for students to overthink and misinterpret the results of the assessment. But by giving the student context about what each data point means and why it might be important, it gives the student ownership of not just their numbers but how they should react to them.
Confident students are better students. In a world where remote learning and instruction are more common than ever, encouraging that confidence is up to the educators and administrators in charge of those students’ learning. Luckily, some of the very tools educators are already using, such as digital testing and analytics, can help them build students’ confidence and take learning to the next level.
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