Competent and Confident: Tips for Teaching SKILLS

“Are you competent and are you confident?”  That’s how you know you’ve mastered the skill.

Mrs. Marty was my Technological Design teacher in Grades 10-12.  She truly was a phenomenal teacher with so many great traits.  I was instantly intrigued when she began to talk.  A British woman teaching me how to use AutoCAD, saws and CNC machines!  YEAH! Most of my high school teachers had been male at this time. 

What really stood out to me, especially now as a teacher, is how she ensured that you knew what you were doing in the wood shop.  In order to meet the expectation you would demonstrate to her that you could perform the skill.  So we students we show her that we could use the planers and saws.  That would prove yourself to have a Level 3.  This showed your competence.  If you wanted to reach for that Level 4, you would have to teach someone else how to perform that skill (under her watchful eye).  This demonstrated to her your confidence.

Years later, when I became a teacher, this idea of competence and confidence really resonated with me.  The expectations were clear to all students.  Students could work within their own comfort and ability levels.  It pushed motivated students like me (shy and female) to interact with and teach my fellow, mostly male, classmates – that was a whole other confidence boost for me!  Not to mention, this strategy allowed Mrs. Marty to observe an entire class within the shop, assess every day and delegate duties. 

I love how this idea of competence and confidence can translate into the science class.  You can, and should, assess skills in the science course.  Whether it is lighting a Bunsen burner properly, working with electronic probes, performing a dissection or a titration, why not try this method?  Directly teach a small group of students that are ahead of the class (while the rest do independent work).  Show them how to perform a scientific skill.  Observe that they can perform this skill on their own, then, observe again as they teach another student this skill.  While they are teaching, make sure the students talk about proper safety procedures and reasoning.  Now you don’t have to explain this skill to 30 students, you have more time to observe and your students are growing both as scientists and leaders.

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