From One SA Pro to Another: Helping the Self-Critical Student

Have you ever had a student who is self-critical?

Sometimes, even after a big win, students have a hard time viewing themselves as successful.

In a Big Think article entitled “How Self-Critical People Can Build Confidence Following a Big Win,” psychologist Peter Zunick and his team point to a method called “directed abstraction” that could be useful in coaching interactions.

From the article:

“Direct abstraction means stopping to consider how a specific success may have more general implications – this is the abstraction part – and also ensuring this thinking is directed towards how the personal qualities were a key to the success.”

An example to guide a student through direct abstraction would be having a student complete this sentence:

“I was able to… [insert success here], because I am [insert personal quality here].”

Research participants who were given this prompt showed more confidence over time, even if they had started out with low self-belief. How different would it feel for a student to say, “I passed this test because I studied hard and used flash cards,” vs. “I passed this test because I am determined and motivated to achieve my degree.”

Both are very important, of course.

The latter is just more generalized, making it more easily associated with other challenges that may come down the road, from tests and papers to following through with Financial Aid paperwork.

The reason this works is because it focuses on the why.

Why did you study hard and use flashcards? Why did you take off work in order to focus on writing this paper?

Next time you’re working with a student who may need a bit of confidence-building, consider this tactic and show the student how his or her personal qualities are intrinsically tied to their success.

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