Self-esteem, confidence and adult learning
Kathryn James and Christine Nightingale
Part of a series of NIACE briefing sheets on mental health
Self-esteem, confidence and adult learning
The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) gives advice and support to providers on how best to record outcomes from learning, such as raised self-esteem and confidence; or making judgements about the validity and appropriateness of a bid to set up a new project that highlights the raising of self-esteem as one of it’s intended outcomes. This briefing sheet aims to give some pointers to help and assist in that process and how they relate to key LSC concerns of widening participation and raising standards and achievements. The briefing sheet looks at some definitions of self-esteem and confidence and how they might relate to adult learning. It will also look at how learning providers interpret the connection between self-esteem, confidence and adult learning, and how that interpretation is translated into provision and support. When providers seek to make an impact on self-esteem and confidence they will invariably want to capture and record those changes so finally, this briefing sheet will look at what are the most appropriate methods for doing that within a variety of learning situations. A search on the LSC’s website pulls up 29 references to self-esteem and 34 references to confidence. A more in-depth examination of those hits reveals statements such as
By working with organisations like the LSC you can benefit not just your company’s bottom line but the ability, confidence and self-esteem of the people who work for you 1 A lot of people who have come on a one hour taster course have found that they really enjoyed the experience and this has inspired and encouraged them to go on to further courses. We find people improve their self-confidence and self-esteem as well as skills such as literacy and numeracy once they have taken the plunge!2 In research conducted for ‘The Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning’, 10,000 tutors working in further education colleges were asked about their perceptions of the wider benefits of learning rather than just a qualification. Of the 2,729 responses, 92.5 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that ‘through their learning my students on the whole experience improved self-esteem.’ 3 In these instances, raised self-esteem and confidence were seen as outcomes of participating in learning. However, low self-esteem is also seen in the context of adult learning and according to researchers Lloyd and Sullivan (2003)
Low self-esteem is widely recognised as a factor that is associated with poor educational attainment and non-participation in education and training. Self-esteem and confidence therefore represents an important soft outcome of projects working with disadvantaged disengaged… 4 Whether you agree or not with these statements, the concepts of self-esteem have become embedded in our thinking about the purpose and outcome of learning and skills. Self-esteem and confidence in individuals has an effect on inclusion and achievement. This is increasingly recognised in many of the key targets and initiatives that impact on the daily work of staff in local Learning and Skills Councils.
Low self-esteem is often seen as a barrier to people taking up learning opportunities, as identified by McGivney (1990) Education for Other People 5 and in Fixing or Changing the Pattern (2001).6 The LSC’s Successful Participation for All: Widening Adult Participation Strategy (2003) recognises ‘lack of confidence relating to poor self-esteem’ as an attitudinal barrier to learning and states that
For many people, accessing learning will need to be a gradual process, which allows time for confidence to build. 7 Widening participation strategies could be enhanced if greater understanding and attention was paid to the role of self-esteem and confidence in attracting and...
References: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Cambridgeshire Learning and Skills Council (2004), Basic Skills in the Workplace www.lsc.gov.uk ‘Special Scheme Champions Learning in the Community’ (04.07.05) Posted on Herts LSC website 16.08.05. www.lsc.gov.uk/herts/Media/PressReleases/default.htm Preston, J. and Hammond, C. (2002), The Wider Benefits of Learning: Practitioners Views. Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning. Research Reports March 2002 Lloyd, R. and O’Sullivan, F. (2003), Measuring Soft Outcomes and Distance Travelled. A methodology for developing a guidance document. Department of Work and Pensions. McGivney, V. (1990), Education for Other People. NIACE. www.niace.org.uk
6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.
21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26.
McGivney, V. (2001), Fixing or Changing the Pattern. NIACE. www.niace.org.uk Learning and Skills Council.(2003) Successful Participation for All: Widening Adult Participation Strategy, Eldred, J. et al. (2004). Catching Confidence. NIACE www.niace.org.uk ibid. Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. (2004). Social Exclusion Report, Mental Health and Social Exclusion. ODPM. Adult Learning Inspectorate (2004). Making an impact on individuals and communities. Branden, N. (1994), Six Pillars of Self-esteem. The definitive work on self-esteem by the leading pioneer in the field. Bantam. Alexander, T. (2001), ‘Defining self-esteem. What is self-esteem and why does it matter? Self-esteem as an aid to understanding and recovery’. Mental Healthcare, Vol. 4, No 10, pp. 332-335 Mruk, C. (1999), Self-esteem research, theory and practice. Free Association Books. Eldred, J. (2002), Moving on with Confidence – Perceptions of success in Teaching and Learning in Adult Literacy. NIACE. www.niace.org.uk Norman, M. and Hyland, L. (2003), ‘The Role of Confidence in Lifelong Learning’. Educational Studies, Vol 29, No 2/3, pp. 264-270 Schuller, T. et al. (2002), Continuity and Change in Adult Life. The Centre for Research and the Wider Benefits of Learning. James, K. (2003), 2nd Evaluation of Nottingham Prescriptions for Learning Project, NIACE www.niace.org.uk ibid. Somerset Learning and Skills Council – Pilot studies. Mapping of Learning and Training from the Individual Perspectives (1) and individual learners’ histories (3) (Round 1, 2002). Report to LSC Somerset www.lsc.gov.uk Nightingale, C. (2005), Learning for Better Health. NIACE, University of Leicester and Leicester City Health Action Zone, not available for general circulation. Eldred, J. et al. (2004), Catching Confidence. NIACE www.niace.org.uk Nightingale, C. (2005), Learning for Better Health. NIACE, University of Leicester and Leicester City Health Action Zone, not available for general circulation. Community Service Volunteers, Avon ibid. Lindenfield, G. (1995), Self Esteem, Thorsons.
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