In this instalment of TeachOntario Talks, we are profiling and celebrating the work of Grade 1 teacher Tammy Eastman and her colleagues who embarked on a Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) to promote student engagement and achievement through the use of practices to build self-efficacy among their students at David Bouchard Public School in the Durham District School Board(DDSB).
Tammy Eastman is in her 17th year of teaching and she is always looking to improve her practice. She is passionate about education and positions herself as a lifelong learner who asks thought-provoking questions about teaching and learning. It is this curiosity and passion that led her and her colleague, Christine Dostie, to reflect on how they could respond to the unique needs of their students and community. They decided to support their students' learning and development through a comprehensive approach to building their self-efficacy skills.
The TLLP began as these two teachers recognized their grade 1 students were having challenges with their confidence in mathematics. They asked themselves: “How could we change the culture in our two classrooms?” They looked to a range of educational theorists including Carol Dweck, Stuart Shanker and Albert Bandura to inform their research. The project's purpose was to explore the impact of students belief in their own capabilities. Students with a strong sense of efficacy are more likely to challenge themselves with difficult tasks, persevere through challenges, recover quickly from setbacks, and ultimately are more likely to achieve their goals. Tammy and Christine knew their students at David Bouchard P.S., their strengths and their needs, and arrived at a collection of strategies that they could employ in their classrooms to “encourage the kids to look beyond what they knew and what they thought and to develop themselves as lifelong learners.”
Borrowing ideas and strategies from these notable theorists, they adopted various methods in their classrooms :
Educating the students on brain research
Emphasizing the importance of a “growth mindset”
Teaching the values of challenges
Fostering effective self-regulation skills
Teaching specific learning strategies based on the math curriculum
Capitalizing on students' interests
- Allowing students to make their own choices
- Encouraging students to try
- Giving frequent, focused feedback
This project became a whole-school affair. Administration and office staff were also committed to using the same language with students, such as : “How is your brain? Are you ready to learn? “Do you have a growth mindset?” The educators noted the changes in the way that their students dealt with challenges and used their new skills to help them master new content.
The rich learning that came from the “Self-Efficacy and Math for Grade 1 Students in a High Needs School” project has intrigued other educators both within the board and across the province. Educators are in a unique position to empower their students by embedding strategies that foster self-efficacy, growth mindset and self-regulation, all of which support student success. The impact can be transformative and felt both inside and outside of the classroom.