Design the Self-Concept to Learn Chemistry

This is Strategy #8 of Dr Lee’s book, ‘Internal Drive Theory’. If you have not read the previous seven strategies, click here.

Words are powerful. They send a subliminal message from the physical world to our subconscious. Our subconscious mind has no way of telling which words to believe and which words to keep out. That is a job only the conscious mind can do. So as parents and educators, we need to be VERY careful what are the words that come out of our mouths. 

I used to think that if i could just not label students as being “stupid”, i am doing pretty well. But now i know, even body language, sighs and words have the ability to demotivate a student and discourage them from even trying. There are many research showing how when we put labels on a child/student, they will behave in such a way to live up to that label. For example, if you mix in average students with the brightest students in class 5A, over time, those average students will come to see themselves as being bright. And they behave accordingly. 

Challenges of designing the Self-Concept

Parental fears – Sometimes we project our fears onto what the child randomly does. We pass judgement and hence sculpt the unformed self-concept of the child/student. When we repeat it often enough, it becomes a self-fulfiling prophecy. 

Learning how to ride a bicycle, we are told not to focus on the tree, but on the road. But guess what happens? We focus on the tree and steer the bicycle into the tree. This is a all too common scenario. We become that which we fear. Or in this case, we mold our children/students into what we fear.

How can we consciously design their Self-Concept?

By passing GOOD judgement using a positive example of behavior. And if they do naughty acts from time to time, separate the act from the child’s self-concept. It’s difficult but necessary. One analogy that is familiar to some of us is how God separates the sins from the sinner. He hates the sin (act) but loves the sinner (the person).

Sometimes, certain experiences will cause the child/student to come to the conclusion that they are not smart or capable. We need to tell them it is not true. Rather, it is due to a lack of effort. Then show them by working with them through the challenges and celebrating mini-victories. By showing them that they can change their results through effort, they will learn to see that poor results is not final and is can be improved upon.

For JC Chemistry, they need to understand the concept. And explaining it with scientific terms. One of the challenges i face as a JC tutor is some of their self-concept is already ingrained. For example, “I am not good in calculation questions. I cannot remember the reagents and conditions.” These are simply not true. Anyone can practise more to get better in calculations. And using concept maps, most students are able to remember a big chunk of reagents and conditions over time. Getting better is simple, but it’s not easy. 

That’s it for strategy #8, go on to strategy #9!

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