Sunday, December 4, 2011

Feeling of Competence

I am in the middle of  reading Beyond Smarter Mediated Learning and the Brain's Capacity for Change (Feuerstein, Feuerstein and Falik).  Chapter Seven is about fostering positive attitudes towards learning.  One of the parameters discussed in the chapter has to do with creating a feeling of competence.

The following importance is assigned towards this development:

For human beings to act with confidence, meet challenges, and cope with situations that are now for them, they must feel they are competent to control these situations- to overcome difficulties, become familiar with the new and unknown, and approach them with the expectation they will master them (p.50).

How do we go about cultivating a feeling of competence in schools?  What could more important than building a sense of competence within every learner.  Take into consideration the rapid rate of change that has come to characterize our world.  Students have to become familiar with the new and unknown and approach change with the faith that they can be successful.  As much as we want students to be successful in the now, it is important to develop the skills and dispositions that can ensure achievement for decades to come.

Think about where a sense of competence is raised most in classrooms.  A sense of competence is translated when assigning grades.  Again I turn to Beyond Smarter to highlight a point- 

In many contemporary schools, across a wide diversity of cultures, it is considered that the best way to get children to achieve is to evaluate only their products and to give them proficiency marks for them.  This approach often has a negative impact on the feeling of ability... If the marks do not reflect either the students' immediate level of functioning of the level of improvement that they achieved in relation to their initial performance, they will offer no sense of accomplishment other than a general comparison to their peers, which can exaggerate feelings of incompetence (p.51).

Are assessment systems found in most contemporary schools supporting inspiration and growth or creating a spiraling scale of negative feedback?  The better inquiry to engage in is how do schools construct feedback systems aimed at imparting feelings of ability and competence?  Additionally, how can greater value be placed on unique growth?  Think about the need to situate learners where they can observe and comment on how they have grown.  There should be a balance between providing constructive commentary and presenting avenues where learners can recognize success and develop faith in their abilities.