Promoting self-efficacy: Recognizing and reinforcing success

In NCFL’s “Meta Analysis of the Studies of High Performing Family Literacy Programs” (2013), eight elements were credited for program success:

  • Quality Teachers
  • Parent and Child Together® Time
  • Relationships and Trust
  • Building-Level Leadership Teams
  • Adult English Language Classes
  • Relevant Content During Parent Time
  • Parent-Centered Programming
  • Celebrations of Program Success (Levesque, 2013)

What does success look like for learners? As practitioners, do we live to tick off boxes–indicating a student has met a state-defined objective? Or, do we use goal-setting and allow students to identify what success looks like for them–and create goals to that end?

In reality, most practitioners are somewhere in the middle. We have our own agenda for student growth and success, as well as tasks that will measure the concepts. But, what if a student doesn’t meet the goals we have set for them?

Educators can reframe how they look at success by taking a person-first approach to instruction.

  • Where is the student now?
  • What are their barriers to success?
  • How would they best demonstrate success?
  • How can we support their learning?
  • How can we celebrate their successes?

Every step toward mastery is a success waiting to be recognized and celebrated.

So, how do we celebrate success?

With adult learners, it is important to ensure learners know the expectations for success. Rubrics are a great way to make concepts clear and evident for all. We can also ask people to self-assess, based on the rubric.

With English language learners, we need to ensure we are celebrating the whole person–not just their language skills. Can they create beautiful art or music? Celebrate that! What about reading a book in their native language? Celebrate their courage to perform the activity. Building self-efficacy is important and isn’t based on using English alone!

During Parent and Child Together® Time, parents are offered the opportunity to watch how practitioners interact with their child and how success is recognized and reinforced. Something as simple as designing a sticker chart to celebrate effort can help immensely, and modeling interactions between practitioners and their children is a great first step.

For younger learners, it is likely we focus more on extrinsic rewards–stickers, a smiley face on a paper. For older learners, the rewards tend to be intrinsic–“Yeah! I wrote that paper like a boss!”

For all learners, success increases self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy–the belief whether one can complete a task–is part of goal-setting and celebrating success. When we look at family literacy programs, one of the key factors of a quality program is setting high aspirations. And, while the ultimate goal may be lofty, that doesn’t mean scaffolding doesn’t happen. Every rung of success on the ladder to the top of the goal is cause for celebration.

How do you celebrate successes in your learning environment?