How can students become more confident?

Here's why young people think oracy may be the answer

As educators, it’s natural to want students to grow in confidence throughout their learning experiences. But how can we make sure we’re building their confidence on a day-to-day basis?’

New research of more than 5000 young people by Voice 21 provides valuable insight into how oracy-based approaches can help students become more confident – in their learning, their social-emotional development, their self-belief for future prospects, and much more.

Responses from students aged between 5 and 16 reveal that while younger students are more likely to perceive academic confidence in relation to oracy, older students perceive the confidence they acquire from having good oracy skills in more social and emotional terms.

Additionally, the survey outlined that students’ focus on future goals and anxiety around oracy also rises with age. 

The survey’s 3131 responses were analysed for themes relating to confidence and self-efficacy. Voice 21 identified and labelled these into four coded categories:

  1. mastery experiences – when students feel successful in a task, area, or assignment.
  2. expectancy for success – ideas that students have about their future performance. 
  3. social experiences – when students have a positive experience with a peer/teacher who broadens their thinking or gives encouragement, leading to an increase in confidence.
  4. negative physiological states – if students feel anxious, nervous, shy, or panicked, these feelings will detract from their perception of their self-efficacy.
Mastery responses are the most commonly reported source of self-efficacy and confidence (see fig. 1)

Reports of mastery experiences accounted for 23% of all responses. These include responses such as ‘I am getting better at speaking in class,’ or ‘[oracy] helps me pronounce words properly.’ This indicates that students perceive oracy as an asset to their education, and something that makes them feel more confident about their academic progress.

Fig. 1
Within mastery experiences, academic experiences are the most commonly reported from young children; reports of academic mastery experiences in relation to oracy decline as children get older (see fig. 2)

For younger children, academic mastery is the most common experience by a significant margin; academic mastery peaked in Year 2, with 80% of reported mastery experiences categorised as academic (it should be noted, however, that the Year 2 group had a lower number of responses, with a total of 15). 

Within mastery experiences, social and emotional mastery experiences both rise as children get older (see fig. 2)

As children get older, their academic mastery experiences decline, hitting their lowest point at Year 8 with 23% of total mastery experiences. Social mastery experiences, however, have a steady upward trend with age, reaching their peak at Year 10 at 57% of total reported mastery experiences for the year group. 

Emotional mastery experiences reach their peak at Year 8, at 29% of total reported mastery experiences for the year group. There are a variety of potential reasons for this, including that students’ understanding of oracy and its benefits becomes more nuanced as they get older. 

Fig. 2
Anxiety also rises as children get older, with the most pronounced increase observed at Year 7 (see fig. 3)

At the same time as we observe an uptick in reports of social and emotional mastery experiences, we also see a jump in reports of anxiety and nervousness in relation to oracy. 

Expectancy for success becomes a more pronounced focal point as students get older (see fig. 3)

Students also report more focus on their future and the ways in which they believe that oracy will help them with their school education, further education, and careers. This trend moves steadily upwards with age and hits a notable spike at Year 9 and Year 10. 


Students believe that good oracy skills can provide them with confidence in a variety of areas including academic, social and emotional.  

These differing types of confidence can be used to tailor oracy teaching according to student’s age, for example using small group discussions to address the anxiety that some older students feel around oracy, to improve their social and emotional well-being.

Fig. 3
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