The one thing your students have to believe


One of the key takeaway messages at last year’s FAB8 neuroELT conference came from the brilliant Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa:

“Students have to believe that YOU believe that they can do it.”


Last month Simon Burgess, a professor of economics at Bristol University, published a paper on the dramatic effect that Michelle Obama had on pupils’ GCSE results at a secondary school in London.

The First Lady visited the school in 2009, invited pupils to meet her in Oxford in 2011, and brought 12 pupils to visit her at the White House in 2012. The result was a sharp increase in the number of A*, A or B grades at the school, relative to the rest of London.

Professor Burgess writes (I added the bold):

Having Michelle Obama visit your school would be exciting enough even if she simply waved and gave a general speech. But she didn’t; she talked about how the pupils of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School had the capacity to do as she did, to use education to really get on in life. In general terms: “I did this; you could too”, which can be a very powerful message if delivered by the ‘right’ person. When she invited the pupils up to meet her in the hall of Christ Church Oxford, she said: “it’s important that you know this – all of us believe that you belong here.”

Photo: beanworks (Morguefile)

Published by Graham Jones

Astrophysicist and science communicator