Skip to main content

Student Learning and Confidence can Skyrocket by Changing One Approach

Student Learning and Confidence can Skyrocket by Changing One Approach
Add caption
Many teachers fear the moment when a student will ask them a question that they do not have the knowledge to answer. This uncomfortable situation can cause some teachers to change the subject, others will construct a roundabout explanation, a few will make a guess and several may even discourage their students from asking questions altogether.

Students Learn to “Fake it”
When a teacher is unable to admit their lack of knowledge, it sends a disagreeable message to the class. Students can usually tell when a teacher sidesteps a question and many are dismayed when given faulty information or when questioning is discouraged. They pick up on the insecure energy and learn that it is shameful to admit that they, “don’t get it” and instead they learn to “fake it” and give others the impression that they know the information or understand what they are hearing when, in fact, they do not. However, there is another way to handle this situation that will benefit both the teacher and the students.

Release your own Fear in the Learning Process
Good teachers must demonstrate a love for and confidence in the learning process. The first step to this practice is to release any fear associated with the learning process. A close second is to be comfortable seeking assistance when gaps in knowledge arise. Both these skills are best learned vicariously through demonstrations. Therefore, educators must set an example for students to follow so they can feel safe and comfortable asking questions.

It’s Okay to Say, “I Don’t know?”
So what’s the big deal about teachers admitting their lack of knowledge when a student asks a difficult question? Are they afraid that they will look unintelligent? Do they fear that one of their students could have the answer, but this would undermine their authority? I, too, had this fear at one time and over the years I have discovered that it is not only okay to say, “I don’t know,” but, in fact, there are enormous benefits.

But How Can Your Lack of Knowledge Help the Class? 
  • Showing students that you do not have the answer can be a critical learning tool.
  • It shows that you are a life-long learner.
  • It shows that you appreciate questions that expand your knowledge.
  • It exemplifies that admitting your lack of knowledge can start the process of finding the answer.
  • It provides an opportunity for you to share the process of acquiring knowledge.
  • It encourages interactive learning and a cooperative environment where students can feel safe sharing knowledge.
  • It teaches students to be curious.
  • It teaches students how to think critically.
  • It teaches students how to be inquisitive, confident learners.
But How Can Teachers Integrate this into Their Classrooms?
Teachers must release their own fears and tell students the truth. Personally, I like to word it, “I’m not sure about that, let’s figure it out!” After that, educators need to:
  1. Always nurture confident queries. Encourage students to ask questions.
  2. Continually demonstrate how to find answers. This can be done by asking those around you (students and colleagues), searching the internet, consulting a book and so forth.
  3. Constantly cultivate an environment that celebrates and supports exploration. Praise students for asking questions and independently finding the answers. Create a question box for those that are shy, and let students volunteer to answer the queries with their own knowledge or by volunteering to do the research.
  4. Repeatedly, show your students that teachers, too, are comfortable admitting what we don’t know. Then find the answers or allow others to help you find the answers. Always provide gratitude and positive feedback to those that help.
If you have any other ideas or anecdotes I would love to hear them!

Cheers, Dr. Erica Warren
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

· Blog:
· YouTube Channel:
· Podcast:
· Store: &
· Courses:
· Newsletter Sign-up:


  1. I love this! When I'm showing kids where their voices are, whether in groups or privately, I NEVER warm up ahead myself. I like to show them my voice before and after so they don't get the "teacher is perfect" attitude in their heads. Teacher isn't perfect haha. Sometimes there are tricky parts in songs I figure out how to sing in front of them. That way, when I'm not around, they know exactly where to begin! I also often point out that life is just like singing...the magic is discovering where one's voice really is and no one's voice, not even the teacher's needs to be perfect!

  2. Thanks so much for your kind words and also sharing your own anecdote! Keep up the great work!! I found the process of writing the post quite liberating. Cheers, Erica


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why Copying from a Board is Ineffective for Dyslexics

Having to take notes by copying from a board or projection while a teacher is lecturing is challenging for any learner, because it requires students to multitask and constantly shift modes of learning. The process demands students to read, listen and write while making sense of the material. However, for students with dyslexia this teaching method can be disastrous. How Has Technology Impacted Note-taking?
Before the rise of educational technology, students used to copy while the teacher wrote on the blackboard, however, with the use of devices such as the Smartboard and software like PowerPoint, the words just magically appear. As a result, many teachers lecture while the students are trying to read and write from the projected image, and what often happens is confusion, shoddy notes, gaps in knowledge, and frustrated learners. But what about students with dyslexia that are also dealing with weaknesses in language processing and memory? According to the British Dyslexia Association, …

Do I have dyslexia - Explaining Symptoms and Myths for Kids

What do you do when you learn that your child has dyslexia? Should you hide this diagnosis to protect them from labels and misunderstandings, or should you tell them? If you do decide to tell them, how do you do this? Can you help them to overcome any potential fears or misunderstandings? These are the questions that I will answer in this blog that includes kid-friendly graphics. What are the Benefits of Telling Your Child That He or She Has Dyslexia?
Educating your child with dyslexia about the common signs and misconceptions can help them to:
understand that they learn in a different way than other kids that don’t have dyslexia. shed negative labels such as stupid, careless, unmotivated and lazy.correct any misunderstandings.identify with other successful people that have or had dyslexia.acquire the needed intervention and instruction in school.learn that many people with dyslexia have strengths that others do not have. Individuals with dyslexia are often:great at communicating their…

10 Free Ways to Improving Visual Tracking for Weak Readers

While reading, tracking across the page from one line to the next can be tricky when the text is small, but for students with dyslexia or weak reading skills, it can be a problem regardless of the font size.  So why is this the case?  Perhaps one of the problems is poor tracking skills.
What Exactly is Tracking? Tracking is the ability for one's eyes to move smoothly across the page from one line of text to another. Tracking difficulties happen when eyes jump backward and forward and struggle to stay on a single line of text.  This results in problems such as word omissions, reversals, eye fatigue, losing your place while reading and most importantly it can impact normal reading development.  
Can Tracking be Improved? Tracking can be improved by strengthening eye muscles as well as getting your eyes and brain to work cooperatively.  There are three eye movements that need to be developed:   Fixations: The ability to hold one's eyes steady without moving off a target.Saccades: Th…