Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Post 3- Learned Helplessness in the Classroom

As discussed in our book, the concept of Learned Helplessness is defined as a behavior in which an organism forced to endure aversive, painful, or unpleasant stimuli becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are escapable. This behavior is typically related to Seligman's dog experiment where eventually, the dog being shocked accepted the shock without trying to escape, even when the cage was open. Although Learned Helplessness is often related to a physical stimulus, it can also be tied to a more cognitive situation such as a school classroom.

As a future school teacher, I found the concept of Learned Helplessness very relevant to my future career, and while further researching it, I came across an article that describes ways in which Learned Helplessness can be developed in students based on their teacher's actions. In the article, "Learned Helplessness in the Classroom" from Exclusive.multibriefs.com, Erick Herrmann states that often times the teacher glances over a student's development of learned helplessness and actually makes it worse. When a student is struggling to arrive at an answer when called upon in the classroom, in many cases the teacher will be quick to provide them with the correct answer or move onto another student instead of giving them enough time or assistance to compose an answer of their own. This repeated occurrence can lead to the child feeling discouraged, inadequate, or incapable of answering questions or participating in classwork. When a teacher simply lets this situation slide and relies on the same few students for participation in class, it enables the development of Learned Helplessness in struggling students and ultimately inhibits their learning and educational growth.

One of the main ways to avoid Learned Helplessness in the classroom is to start with small successes in struggling students. When a specific student feels that they are constantly failing in the classroom, providing them with baby steps and small goals will encourage them to work harder and put forth more of an effort. Once they feel that they are capable of achieving their smaller goals they will feel a sense of success and accomplishment, allowing them to feel more capable of more difficult and larger goals.

I feel that as a future teacher, this concept is extremely important for me to be aware of, and I must plan on building success into the activities in my classroom so that all of my future students feel capable of learning and achieving their goals. This will bring me one step closer to creating a harmonious classroom environment, and ensuring the best possible opportunity for learning and success to occur for each and every student.

Herrmann, Erick. "Learned Helplessness in the Classroom." MultiBrief:. MultiView Inc., 19 Mar. 2014. Web. 09 June 2015.


  1. Hey Michelle!
    I am currently working as a substitute teacher mostly teaching high school but occasionally work first - eight graders. I can clearly see how Learned Helplessness is something that is necessary to avoid in the classroom.
    Since you are a future school teacher, maybe once you get your own classroom you can introduce the students to the concept of learned helplessness through a classroom activity like this one:
    Great Post !!

  2. I am also a future teacher and I felt that this post was really helpful. It is easy to show a student what they are doing wrong but it is also important to show them what they are doing right! Great post.