Self Esteem

Self-Esteem is the individual evaluation of the gap between self-image and ideal self.  Self-esteem is not fixed and we are all constantly engaged in the processes that test, modify and restructure it.

Points arising from Research

  • There is a positive correlation between children’s self-esteem and their levels of attainment
  • Children will not use their full ability if their self-esteem is low
  • There is a correlation between self-esteem and children’s behaviour
  • The manner in which sanctions or disciplinary measures are used is crucial with regard to the child’s self-esteem
  • Self-esteem enhancement need not be inconsistent with good discipline in the classroom
  • There is a correlation between children’s self-esteem and teacher self-esteem
  • Teachers are in a powerful position to influence children’s self-esteem and in turn influence their achievements and behaviour.
    • Set-backs , failures, rejections and criticisms are examples of negative information that can damage self-esteem.
    • Learning that is meaningful – that expends purposeful challenge and effort – can encourage and boost self-esteem.

Key Elements of Self-Esteem:

Systematic Programmes
At a school level:

  • Encourage a variety of inclusive group activities some of which are non-competitive
  • Use Circle Time as a core strategy
  • Instigate a positive behaviour programme and a systematic scheme of rewards
  • Monitor instances of bullying and take affirmative action to prevent it
  • Place value on whole group activities such as assemblies
  • Ensure that all pupils experience trust-building activities and similar work as part of PSD
  • Install a sanctions and reward policy which is consistently applied and on which students have been consulted 
  • Monitor the PSD programme to ensure there are planned opportunities to develop assertiveness and positive self-concepts
  • Use outside organisations such as Education Business Partnerships to promote and recognise achievement of all types.

At a classroom level:

Use co-operative learning techniques to build team skills

  • Use decision-making exercises
  • Teach problem-solving tools and techniques 
  • Refer to and use role-models from the pupils’ own experiences
  • Use trust-building activities
  • Teach active listening skills for giving and receiving 

Individual counselling
At a school level

  • Use mentoring schemes with senior pupils 
  • Give regular information on progression routes in a planned, systematic way
  • Build in goals, interim targets and related tasks to action planning with pupils
  • Involve parents and/or other adults in goal setting
  • Promote and acclaim individual successes across a wide range of academic and non-academic achievements
  • Develop regular one-to-one reviews and individual action-planning sessions
  • Send students to the ’office’ when they are successful!
  • Discourage student comparisons with the other students’ work: focus on performance improvement
  • Break down steps to improvement into small realisable chunks
  • Provide formal feedback on performance through a variety of means

At a classroom level

  • Analyse past performance, isolate successes and build on them
  • See your pupils and get to know them in different contexts
  • Avoid put downs
  • Develop a vocabulary and agreed principles for constructive feedback between pupils
  • Explore the concepts surrounding identity using collage, timelines autobiographies, scrapbooks etc.
  • Find something unique and positive about every pupil and let them know it
  • Provide opportunities  especially for boys  to express emotions
  • Use strategies such as hobby days or talks for pupils to display their real interests
  • Find an area where your pupil is guaranteed to succeed and promote it
    • Model and foster appropriate attitudes and habits

Positive ethos
At a school level

  • Promote the successes of the school through PR
  • Encourage positive non-judgmental attitudes to counselling amongst staff
  • Develop staff awareness of positive reinforcement techniques
  • Use non-uniform and fancy dress days to allow pupils and staff to participate together
  • Enthuse staff to model the sorts of positive attitudes and behaviours you seek to support
  • Establish ’achievement’ days or weeks across the school and promote them through assemblies and form meetings

At a classroom level

  • Provide opportunities to increase awareness of classmates, families, background and interests
  • Foster an identity within your class by emphasising collective achievements
  • Apply class and school rules fairly and consistently
    • Foster positive pupil self-esteem by ensuring that they are fully engaged and using abilities in pursuit of tasks and activities that are considered by them to be worthwhile and of value.

Reflection and Discussion

Which areas of the above do you recognise in your current school/classroom practice?

Are there any areas that you would consider adopting to enhance self- esteem in your school/classroom?

Do you let your pupils know – either directly or obliquely – that with effort and guidance, they can increase their intellectual abilities (theories of malleable intelligence)?

Some Activities  for Development to Enhance Self-Esteem in the Classroom

Key element Objective Action

Some examples and suggestions

Systematic Programmes of group activities Choose a particular idea you would like to follow up.
(with some examples)
Use co-operative learning techniques to build team skills e.g. Jigsaws.  
Split up text into meaningful ’chunks’, groups read it, discuss and identify the main points. Present in order to the rest of the class to give complete overview of work
Individual counselling, listening to children Explain the effects of negative self-talk and how to deal with it. Re-frame negatives into positives, do visualising- ’What will this work look like when I hand it in? Modelling:  find someone who has managed assignment well.
Provide a Positive  Ethos Use non-uniform and fancy dress days to allow pupils and staff to participate together.  Participate in Charity Fun Days e.g. Red Nose Day, Children in Need etc.

Selected References 

Further Reading

The following are suggested as starting points. They contain references to other work, which could be useful.
Canfield, J. & Siccone, F. (1995) 101 ways to develop student self-esteem and responsibility. Massachusetts; Allyn & Bacon.

Goleman, D. (1996) Emotional Intelligence. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Hook, P. & Vass, A. (1999) Confident Classroom Leadership. London.David Fulton Publishers.

Lawrence, D.  (1996) Enhancing Self-Esteem in the Classroom. Paul Chapman Publishing

Moseley. J. (1995) Turn Your School Around.  Cambridge: LDA

SCCC (1996) Teaching for Effective Learning. Dundee: SCCC
Smith, A. (1996) Accelerated Learning in the Classroom. Network Educational Press Ltd.

White, M. (1994) Self-Esteem, Its Meaning and Value In Schools.  Cambridge: Daniels Publishing