Empowering Students To Develop An Academic Identity

Academic identity is fundamental to students’ performance and is based on how they see their own intelligence. Children are far more prone to disengage from their classes and believe they are of little value in academic settings if they are not given the tools to feel like valuable contributors to learning.

The complicated task of ensuring that every student understands their value is one that teachers can only partially meet through fostering interpersonal relationships both inside and outside of the classroom. Students must feel validated as learners through the ideas they offer if they are to fully engage with learning. A classroom where all voices are clearly valued emerges when teachers adopt student-centered strategies to boost engagement and forge meaningful connections that go beyond simple friendship.



Moving from interpersonal to academic connections: Educators frequently undervalue the value of rapport, which is how teachers form interpersonal ties with students that enable us to relate to them more effectively. Building these connections is a crucial first step in creating the kind of environment in the classroom where there is reciprocal trust. To children who find it difficult to relate to the teacher as a person rather than as a facilitator of learning, the idea of the “popular” teacher might be detrimental.


I had a social studies teacher in high school who was well-liked. Everyone adored him; during class, he discussed popular TV series, and after lunch, he walked about the cafeteria visiting with students at tables. Despite the fact that he never joined me for lunch or engaged in conversation about the television series I watched, I never experienced the same sense of intimacy with him. I couldn’t figure out why the chemistry between us just wasn’t there, and because of my inherent suspicion of him, I felt like an outsider in his class. I took part less in this course as a result than in any of my prior courses.


Students who don’t get along with the popular teacher may stop participating in class because they feel excluded. Think about how to love the value of scholarship in order to build relationships with students that value their academic rather than personal identities. Giving pupils a safe learning environment where their efforts are acknowledged visibly is essential to helping them develop an academic identity.


Making room for all viewpoints: When teachers place a high value on all points of view, including those that may be unorthodox or unpopular, the end result is a classroom that values constructive conflict that represents real development. It is affirming to be precise about how each thought reveals significant learning. Let’s say a student provides the wrong answer to a question that a teacher asks them to share. The teacher could comment on the solution rather than emphasize it, such as, “That answer is fascinating to me because I came up with something similar the first time I tried this problem. Could you elaborate on how you got there? In addition to normalizing the role of mistakes in learning, this emphasis on the journey rather than the final destination also fosters a comfortable environment for students to take risks, strengthening their sense of academic identity.



Sometimes, especially if they have previously been dismissed, students who speak in front of the class feel like they are taking a big risk. Students often remain mute and may experience resentment at the request to engage if the teacher has not established a safe environment for taking academic risks. All learners can be given the chance to contribute in ways that are important to them.


Students using Zoom throughout the pandemic had the chance to chat and express their ideas. Those who felt at ease expressing themselves in writing were much more engaged than they may have been in a conventional classroom, I observed. How can teachers develop systems that ensure that every learner is heard now that Zoom classrooms are (fingers crossed) largely in the past?


Discussion in silence: Increasing nonvocal dialogue is a useful tactic for raising students’ voices. For instance, when students are struggling to understand a new subject, I gather open-ended questions or ideas on sticky notes, have them place them on the wall, and then have them engage in a “gallery walk” where they wander around the classroom and write comments to one another. Sticky notes can be chosen by anyone in the room (teacher or student) to emphasize particular concepts for further investigation. Students might engage in a “silent debate” by handing around notebooks filled with remarks and inquiries in a similar manner.


Before having a conversation, students can analyze ideas in a low-risk environment before being called upon in front of a group, and this practice shows the importance of the various ways that students communicate information. Writing discourse also opens up new channels for communication. Students’ sense of academic identity grows and they are more likely to feel confident when they realize that their ideas have been accorded validity, which increases both the frequency and consistency of the contributions they make, whether in writing or verbally.



Although it can be highly beneficial, being likable and approachable is not the only thing we want as teachers. In order for children to have a strong sense of self-worth long after they leave our classrooms, it is crucial to place a high value on their capacity to develop as thinkers, learners, and scholars. In this way, we have taught them to believe in themselves and to put money into their own extremely bright futures, which is more than just making them like us or our classes.


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