Emory Report

January 24, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 18

Pajares lecture to examine education fallacies, truths

By Deb Hammacher

Are boys really better at math than girls? How much of the hype and backlash about self-esteem can parents and educators really believe? What traps can well-meaning parents and educators fall into? Find out the answers at Frank Pajares' Great Teachers Lecture, "Schooling in America: Myths, Mixed Messages and Good Intentions," to be held Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. in Cannon Chapel.

Pajares, associate professor of educational studies, will discuss the facts behind the conflicting messages about how to motivate students. He will explain the difference between self-esteem (what people think about themselves) and self-efficacy (what people think they're capable of), and how K-12 students' self-beliefs are critical forces in their academic achievement. This common-sense notion has been largely abandoned by psychologists until recently, according to Pajares.

Part of Pajares' current research relates to teacher and student beliefs (particularly self-efficacy beliefs), including a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation project on gender differences in mathematics self-beliefs among middle school students in Gwinnett County.

He cites research indicating that human behavior often can be better predicted by the beliefs people hold about their own abilities rather than by what they are actually capable of accomplishing. "These self-perceptions help determine what individuals do with the knowledge and skills they have," he said.

Pajares' advice on how to maximize academic success will explain:

  • students' difficulties in basic academic skills are often directly related to their beliefs that they cannot read, write, handle numbers, etc.--that they cannot learn--even when such things are not objectively true.
  • how many students have difficulty in school not because they are incapable of performing successfully, but because they have learned to see themselves as incapable of handling academic work.
  • how many, if not most, academic crises are crises of confidence.

Pajares, who has studied educational psychology and the philosophy of education, is co-authoring a forthcoming book on self-efficacy and academic performance. The lecture is free and open to the public.

For more information, call 404-727-6216.

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