Learned Helplessness


I am finding that there is a culture with my current students. As a science teacher, they have to troubleshoot and problem solve daily. Anytime there is a challenge in CSD, they automatically shut down. Is there any way I can combat this other than change the culture of my classroom?


@bconner This year, I have experienced what at first appeared to be “learned helplessness” with my students who go to Resource for their ELA/Math classes. After visiting their Resource class, I’ve learned that the structure of the class is very scaffolded with a lot of expected teacher check-in.

It has taken a lot of positive reinforcement and lunch time tutorials, but my CSD resource students are slowly learning to trust themselves and their ability to solve problems on their own without verifying with me that their thoughts/solutions are correct. I started with what they were used to in Resource—lots of support and confirmation of correct answers, then slowly required them to take the risk of finishing a bubble on their own without any help from me.

Things are SLOWLY getting better, and even though they know that I expect them to work and try to find solutions on their own, my Resource kiddos sometimes try to coerce another student into helping them. I always intervene and ask if they’ve used all the tools available to them…actually reading the instructions; not skipping steps; speech to text; their concepts journal; html manipulatives; rubber ducky debugging, etc. They are only allowed to ask for help once they’ve REALLY tried.

I’m looking forward to reading what others have done in this situation.



There is a great list in the last full paragraph. I’ve seen teachers make posters and graphic organizers for students with those strategies for students to work through as the teacher might be helping others. Making them available, visible and assessable is helpful for students in and outside of class if they are working at home.