Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Quick-Fixes & Tutees' Self-Efficacy

After being assigned to teach 9th grade Language Arts half a week before school started and needing to plan two and a half months of lessons in the first week or two, I really don’t get nervous about working with students anymore. In fact, being able to spend 15-20 minutes working with one student in the effort to improve his or her writing sounds really exciting. However, something I worry about in regards to tutoring is that some students, particularly those who only stop by because their professors require a visit, will only want the quick-fix to their paper rather than help to improve their writing skills.

Providing instruction to help students become better writers rather than helping them to improve a single paragraph or even a single paper will be more beneficial in the long run. I wonder how many of the students I will be helping will just want the short-term improvement. When I was teaching 9th grade, the students spent a week in the computer lab writing a compare/contrast essay while I walked around and read their thesis statements, topic sentences, and answered any questions they had. Some students wrote excellent essays and were still asking about ways to improve. Others would have some questions, receive feedback, and continue rewriting until they felt certain they completed their paper to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, there were some students who would want me to rewrite the problem areas instead of listening to what needed improvement and why and then working on the paper until they got it right. This was one of the most frustrating things as their teacher because I knew they had the ability to do it, but they didn’t want to put in the work or didn’t feel confident enough to do it on their own.

As a tutor, I worry about building up the self-efficacy of the students I work with as well as helping them to develop an improved ability to write. If students begin producing better work but don’t recognize their ability, they may continue to struggle or dislike the process of writing. To help me accomplish my goal of building each writer’s sense of self-efficacy, I plan on noting areas where the student did well, where they took new risks with the hope of becoming a more sophisticated writer, and where they could improve or have improved. Sometimes having someone else point out your strengths can be enough to boost one’s sense of worth; many studies in educational research show the strong connection between one’s perceived ability and their actual level of performance (Bandura). As such, if a student believes they have the ability to do well, they will perform better than one who does not believe they have the ability. Also, if a student recognizes that they have done well in the past, they often believe they are capable of doing well in the future. By showing students areas where they have succeeded, a tutor can boost their tutees’ sense of self-efficacy and influence their performance in a positive manner.


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