How we can improve the confidence of struggling writers

Self-efficacy, also described as self-belief, self-esteem, self-worth, self-affirmation, self-integrity, positive self-image, is recognised as one of the affective domains of Writing For Pleasure. This is because it’s a vital force in children’s academic success and their writerly well-being (Young & Ferguson 2021, 2023a, 2023b).

Low self-efficacy affects young writers in profound ways. Children with low self-confidence as writers generally dislike writing. They believe they cannot improve and therefore do not seek writing advice. They write the minimum required, have low aspirations, feel a sense of learned helplessness, and have little commitment to writing projects. They express negative views of themselves, and may even be depressed (Young & Ferguson 2023a, 2023b).

Importantly, research shows that self-efficacy alone is not guaranteed to improve children’s writing performance. Instead, our teaching needs to be directed towards giving children self-efficacy alongside agency and self-regulation (Young & Ferguson 2021).

A possible hierarchy of children’s affective emotional writerly needs as articulated by Young & Ferguson 2021

Teachers can help improve struggling writers’ sense of self-efficacy by employing the following strategies:

  1. Enacting a mastery through repeated practice orientation towards writing progress rather than creating a high-stakes performance culture (LINK and LINK).
  2. Give children regular opportunities to share what they are crafting with their friends (LINK).
  3. Establish a publishing goal with the children for class writing projects and let children hear the impact their writing has had on their readership (LINK).
  4. Set product goals for class writing projects in collaboration with the students (Young & Hayden 2022).
  5. Set a clear process goal for each writing session (LINK).
  6. Have a clear daily routine of instruction, writing time and class sharing (Kaufman & Young 2022; Young 2023).
  7. Deliver writing instruction which is in response to the class’ needs. Enact a ‘teach and invite’ routine for instruction (LINK).
  8. Undertake daily pupil-conferencing (Ferguson & Young 2021).

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