California Educator

December/January 2022

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Page 49 of 63

E D U C A T O R S H A V E L O N G advocated for reframing "failure" positively as a "learning opportunity," but when failure becomes so normal and expected in a student's life that it causes abject resignation, it leads to learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is a psychological condition associated with feelings of lost control, and it creates students who disengage from effort, even if the effort is within reach and will clearly lead to success. This phenomenon develops early, so it's critical that elementary educators have an understanding and awareness of the condition. Educators of older students also should be knowledgeable about learned helplessness, since it has a detrimental influence on academic performance and mental well-being, as demonstrated in a 2007 video ( of an experiment that shows college-age adults giving up on a classroom task in just 10 to 15 minutes. Learned helplessness in the classroom Learned helplessness often starts early in a child's life, through unresponsive caregivers (with institutionalized children, for example). Schools may exacerbate this condition, through untrustworthy adults or practices that perpetuate a pessimistic mindset that feeds into the cycle of learned helplessness. These school- and classroom-based practices may come from good intentions, such as over-scaffolding (not allowing How to Counter Learned Helplessness For students who have internalized a message that they're destined to fail, promoting realistic optimism can be game-changing By Ginna Guiang-Myers "Where there is hope and optimism, there is the belief that students' efforts are all worthwhile." 48 Teaching & Learning

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