Teaching strategies to build student confidence

They say, “a confident learner is a happy and productive one”, and every teacher wants a class full of them. Building student confidence begins in any space where meaningful learning is encouraged and supported. It doesn’t take any fancy mindset or tricks; all it takes is a teacher who cares.

Teachers have powerful influence on their learners; they have the ability to help them prosper, or fail. 

Self-confidence is a tool that can help students manage their fears, tackle life’s challenges with more certainty and maintain a positive mental attitude.

Confidence in learners is important for their overall success. Net photo.

Education experts say confidence in learners is important for their overall success, in fact, the level of confidence will go on to affect their life’s goals, either positively or negatively.

Isaac Ddumba, a teacher at La Colombière School in Kigali, believes that when a student with little to no confidence in school will ultimately be affected, they may give up on their hopes and dreams.

He points out that any teacher worth their salt wants a class full of confident students because they are full of energy and productivity in everything they do.

“When learners are proud of themselves and what they do, they feel secure and are willing to learn new things, which is important when it comes to shining in academics and life after school,” he says.

Positive impact

School can be a tough place for a student that lacks self-esteem. The classroom can feel full of traps waiting to catch a student off guard and derail their confidence.

Boaz Byaruhanga, a disciplinary teacher, says that low self-esteem leads to disheartenment, thus poor performance.

He notes that such students can lose motivation when it comes to learning or anything to do with school, but by building their confidence, they are motivated, making them successful in the long run.

Byaruhanga says building confidence in young people helps lower school dropout rate, ensuring that they maintain their love for learning and at the same time, achieve their goals.

“School dropouts have their reasons, one of them is low self-esteem as this makes them feel unworthy and less valued; depending on where the child hails from, it’s easy to give up on learning,” he says.

Jackyline Iribagiza, a counsellor and matron at Martyr Secondary School in Remera, says that when a student is confident in everything they do, it boosts their learning capability.

She explains that when a student is confident, they feel resilient and powerful and it keeps growing naturally, making them better prepared to tackle challenges, which is not the case when one feels low.

She says that teachers should focus on and build the strengths of their students. For example, if students are familiar with a certain topic, letting them lead the discussion with others will boost their ego and most importantly, their confidence in general.

How to do it

Iribagiza says the first thing an educator should consider is helping students set and achieve their goals in all areas.

He explains that this can be done by making sure all the students understand the concepts taught. This means ensuring everyone is on the same page.

“Let them build and understand their own expectations, guidelines and desired learning goals. Teachers shouldn’t assume that they are the ones to play every part when it comes to setting goals,” she says.

When goals are set for them, she says, students become helpless, relying on their instructors for everything, and making it hard for educators to foster independent skills in them.

Ddumba says that the same should be applied at home—parents should ensure that their children have a say in what they decide as a family.

This, he says, will help learners develop a sense of belonging and responsibility which is a conducive environment for them.

Also, Ddumba says, when building confidence among students, it’s important to always give feedback for everything they do.

He explains that it’s meaningless to make students perform different activities without getting back to them on how they performed or what should have been done.

The feedback, he says, will help boost their learning in general because they get to understand what is supposed to be done; and where, how and when to pull up their socks.

He adds that constructive and consistent feedback not only helps learners succeed, it also gives them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes, which is important. 

Also, in case of any achievement or improvement, praise should be given as it motivates students to work harder.

He notes that any kind of success, however small, deserves to be acknowledged.

“This is one of the best ways to build a student’s confidence and motivate them to improve or work hard in the future,” Ddumba adds.

Other benefits

Florian Mugisha, an educationist, believes that in some cases, it’s advisable for a teachers to let students, especially the fast learners, help their peers who are having a hard time.

He says that some students feel more comfortable with their equals than they do with their teachers. Encouraging peer-to-peer learning will help them open up on issues affecting them.

It will boost their confidence, even when dealing with teachers or their parents.

“This will help them understand that they are all required to work hard to succeed; and that there is always room for improvement,” Mugisha says.

He adds that providing extra work for students to do on their own, either at home or school, is also key.

He notes that this helps them learn how to work independently and at the same time, develop discipline. Besides, it’s through this that learners are encouraged to take initiative and responsibility for the tasks assigned to them.

“As a teacher, it allows you to have a role in your student’s work, to be able to evaluate their progress in general,” he says.

Also, Mugisha says, students become more independent when they are faced with challenges, they handle them well and even strive to do better, which makes them confident in everything they do.

What to avoid

Iribagiza says it’s tempting and sometimes unavoidable for parents and teachers to compare one student to another, especially if such students are doing well academically or have good manners.

However, she says this is wrong and should be avoided at all costs, adding that young people, especially adolescents, do not take too well negative criticism, and it can lead to low self-esteem.

“Every child is different and so comparing them to others only demoralises them, and most of them may become hassled and depressed, depending on how serious the comparison is,” Iribagiza says.

She says students should be taught how to stay humble, to better themselves—not be better than their counterparts. The job of the parent and teacher is to encourage them with every step they take, not to tell them who is better.


Richard Umuhire, Parent

I think it’s best for teachers to start building learners’ confidence at a young age. This helps them learn better, and they will grow up knowing what to do and what is right for them.

Raymond Niyonkuru, Student

Schools should focus on handling students’ grievances whenever put across; this helps them feel valued and it can aid in improving their academic excellence. Following up on every student should be a priority for any teacher.

Priscilla Uwitonze, Teacher

Parents should work hand-in-hand with teachers so that they help a learner prosper in all areas. There should be clear communication between them, and in the event of a problem regarding the student, it will be easy to sort it out within a short period of time.

Ann Uwineza, Kindergarten teacher

It’s important to encourage students to work together as a team; this is just one way of helping them acquire teamwork skills, something that is helpful outside the school environment.


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