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Research of Self Esteem Programs in School

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Google defines self esteem as, confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect. Webster’s dictionary defines self esteem as, a confidence and satisfaction in oneself: self- respect. In psychology, the term self-esteem is used to describe a person’s overall sense of self-worth or personal value. In other words, how much you appreciate and like yourself. Self-esteem is often seen as a personality trait, which means that it tends to be stable and enduring.

American philosopher and psychologist William James summed up the concept of self-esteem first with “the principles of psychology”. He suggested that self-assessment should be objectively measured in order to achieve a goal. Following James an American psychologist Abraham Maslow included self-esteem in his hierarchy of human needs, which is a theory in psychology proposed by Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. His theory is famously depicted in the form of a pyramid with the most important human needs at the bottom and self-actualisation towards the top. He believed that all needs must be met to progress up the pyramid. He described two different forms of “esteem”: Basically an internal form and and external form. Respect from others in the form of recognition, success, and admiration, are all external needs of esteem, while things like self-love, self-confidence, skill, or aptitude are internal needs for self-respect. According to Maslow, without the fulfillment of the self-esteem need, individuals will be driven to seek it and unable to grow and obtain self-actualization.

Modern theories of self-esteem explore the reasons humans are motivated to maintain a high regard for themselves. Sociometer theory maintains that self-esteem evolved to check one’s level of status and acceptance in one’s’ social group. Carl Rogers, an advocate of humanistic psychology, theorized the origin of many people’s problems to be that they hated themselves and consider themselves worthless and incapable of being loved. This is why Rogers believed in the importance of giving unconditional acceptance to a client and when this was done it could improve the client’s self-esteem. In his therapy sessions with clients, he offered positive feedback in all situations. the concept of self-esteem is approached since then in humanistic psychology as an inalienable right for every person, summarized in the following: Every human, with no exceptions, for the mere fact to be human, is worthy of unconditional respect of everybody else; he or she deserves to esteem him or herself and to be esteemed. So over the past 30 some odd years countless studies have been done to look at self esteem; furthermore, many studies have been done in schools where self esteem programs have been targeted to students who presented with low self esteem, But do they work? Many people will say yes, I opt for the opposite. With every new generation that comes to pass, society keeps making things more soft and touchy feely, so no one is offended. Just take a look around you. Participation trophies, everyone is told they are special. That one really kills me. Everyone is special and unique? Well if everyone was special or unique then it defeats its own purpose now doesn’t it? Children’s classrooms are filled with teachers and parents telling young boys and girls that they are special, you have something to contribute. Public schools have gone from educating, and instilling knowledge to our kids to making sure everyone feels ok with their journey to graduation. This is one reason why Millennials get such a tough go of things in the real world. This is also a reason why The United States ranks so low compared to the rest of the world in education. Here is what my opposition says about self esteem programs in school.

First Study, a program designed to foster self-esteem in school age children was developed in 1967 in cooperation with Dr. Stanley Coopersmith, one of the pioneers in the self-esteem movement. In 1975 a grant was received to conduct a research study using three experimental elementary schools and three control schools, using the materials developed by Coopersmith and Reasoner. The study was conducted over a three-year period.

Method

The staff members of the three experimental schools were oriented to the Building Self-Esteem program materials to be used in each classroom. Three main instruments were used to measure changes in self-esteem and behavior:

  • Behavioral Academic Self-Esteem (BASE)
  • Assessment of Staff Self-Esteem (ASSE)
  • Questionnaire of Staff Observations.

Results

Results indicated that significantly greater gains were made in all three experimental schools over the control schools in academic self-esteem of the students as measured by Coopersmith’s BASE at the. 001 level. Areas where the greatest gains were made included the following: alertness to the learning environment, willingness to undertake new risks, self-direction and independence in activities, shows initiative, initiates new ideas relative to classroom activities, social attention and paying attention to task in class company is sought by peers.

Results from the Questionnaire of Staff Observations indicated the following changes in student behavior were noticeable by the staff. Improvement in the general climate of the school. More cooperative action in the classroom. More cooperative play observed on the playground. Significant decline in the number of discipline problems. More involvement in school activities. Greater student leadership, and the experimental schools also reported that the program had a significant impact on the professional staff as well. The following items on the Staff Self Esteem survey showed significant improvement in the school climate for teachers:

  • Teachers felt more secure
  • More trust in the administrator was expressed
  • In Service sessions were perceived more positively
  • There was greater sharing of ideas and materials
  • There were more feelings of cohesiveness among staff
  • feelings of competence were expressed
  • There was greater enjoyment in teaching expressed.

As a result of this study the Building Self-Esteem program was published in California by Consulting Psychologists Press of Stanford University and used in selected schools in California. Note that a better academic outcome was mentioned. Again a higher self esteem does not equal or correlate to a better academic outcome.

Another study was conducted by Borba (2005) using the same five elements of self-esteem in the Esteem Builders program over a two-year period in three public school sites representing a diversity in student populations including rural, inner city and urban areas with varied populations in needs, ability and cultures.

Results

At the conclusion of the program all three schools sites showed significant growth in academic self-concept at the 0. 0001 level. Students who were identified as being “at risk” prior to the study were divided into two groups. The group using the program showed significantly greater improvement in academic self-esteem than did those students not in the program. Results were significant at the 0. 0001 level and 68% of the students using the program were no longer considered to be “at risk” at the end of the study. Of the 16 academic self-esteem behaviors measured using Coopersmith’s Behavioral Academic Self-Esteem (BASE) instrument, eleven items showed significant improvement at all three school sites:

  • willing to undertake new tasks
  • able to made decisions and establish goals
  • shows self-direction and independence in activities
  • initiates new ideas relative to classroom activities
  • asks questions when not understanding deals with mistakes or failures easily and comfortably
  • takes criticism or corrections in strides without overreacting
  • company is sought by peers
  • acts as leader in group situations
  • refers to self in genuinely positive terms,
  • readily expresses opinions.

There was a significant change in student behavior with the following results:

  • a 41% reduction in incidents of verbal aggression
  • a 39% reduction in incidents of physical aggression from 307 the first year to 95 the second year
  • a reduction in student detentions of 46%.

All third grade students were tested by a school psychologist to ascertain the number of words a minute they could correctly read orally on a third grade reading passage. When students’ reading fluency results were correlated to total BASE scores, the following trend was noted: as the BASE total score increased, the students’ reading fluency increased. A final survey was given to all staff members at all three pilot sites participating in the program. The following changes were noted by the staff at all three sites:

  • 100% noticed students speaking more positively towards one another
  • 98% noticed the overall school climate as more positive
  • 95% noticed students as acting more respectfully and tolerant towards one another
  • 95% noticed students as being more caring & supportive of one another
  • 91% noticed students being more proficient in friendship skills
  • 89% noticed students were better able to solve problems and conflicts.

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