Reducing Educator Bias of Student Apathy: How Student Self-Perception Affects Academic Motivation

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Understanding students’ self-perception is imperative when creating meaningful online and face-to-face instruction. How can faculty tend to students’ social-emotional deficits while maintaining rigorous academic instruction? This workshop will delve into strategies for increasing students’ self-perception and discuss approaches for academic and motivational support at the course, faculty, and university levels.


Lauren Tidmore, Ed.D. holds a doctorate in education, with a concentration in curriculum and instruction. Her dissertation focused on creating a blended learning social skills intervention for high school students identified as at-risk for emotional and behavioral disturbances. Serving as an instructional designer within the Instructional Core at George Washington University, Lauren designs courses for the GW Law School and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Lauren’s work is driven by a passion to aid in the creation of engaging online courses that will ensure the success of all learners. She lives in Arlington with her two cats, Clementine and Crookshanks.

Extended Abstract

When discussing the diversity of learners and classroom inclusion strategies, it is important to consider all aspects of learning disabilities. Social-emotional disabilities often affect a student’s physical, social, or cognitive skills, resulting in an inability to learn, unhappiness or depression, and physical symptoms or fears (Cullinan & Saborni, 2004; USDoE, 2010). Students suffering from social-emotional disorders often find it difficult to be motivated to learn, resulting in lower academic performance. To combat this, many educators rely solely on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) strategies, which encourage meaningful course content that integrates the why, what, and how of learning. While courses may be designed and redeveloped to fit within the UDL framework as a way to make content accessible for all learners, many students still struggle to reach higher levels of academic achievement due to a lack of motivation and low self-perception.

Meaningful instruction cannot solely rely on academic content; rather, educational policymakers and instructors must examine how performance, observational comparison, social feedback, and psychological states impact a student’s view of their academic capabilities. Once educators are able to understand why students are struggling, rather than dismissing behaviors as academic apathy, they can begin to build stronger courses and increase student performance.

This presentation identifies social-emotional deficits and examines the relationship between a student’s motivation to learn and their self-perception. Participants will examine the differences between academic motivation and academic engagement, as well as self-concept and self-efficacy. Participants will also analyze the role implicit and confirmation bias have on educators. By the end of this presentation, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify social-emotional deficits with students and in both face-to-face and online courses.
  2. Analyze ways to reduce educator bias towards apathetic students.
  3. Identify strategies to increase student self-perception, increase academic motivation, and increase engagement in face-to-face and online courses.

The presentation will begin by identifying key terms, and then provide a background on students with social-emotional disabilities. This context will present the psychological and educational social skills many students lack, discuss the high attrition rates of educators, and examine studies that explain poor relationships between students with social-emotional and learning disabilities and their teachers. The presentation will define self-perception, self-concept, and self-efficacy. Using the provided handout, participants will have an opportunity to illustrate what self-perception looks like in the classroom by identifying what they can do to increase student self-concept and self-efficacy. Participants will work independently, then share out in small and large group settings.

The presentation will then examine academic motivation versus academic engagement and discuss negative motivation. Using the provided handout, participants will have an opportunity to illustrate what motivation looks like in the classroom by reflecting on reasons why students may be unmotivated to learn and identifying ways to increase academic motivation through engagement. Participants will work independently, then share out in small and large group settings. The presentation will conclude with strategies to increase self-perception at the course, faculty, and university levels. A brief period after the presentation will be allotted for Q&As.

The presenter will use PowerPoint slides, which will be available to participants. Additionally, participants will receive handouts that contain the definitions of key terms, as well as notes and activity pages referenced in the presentation. Electronic versions of the handouts will also be available to participants.


Cullinan, D., & Saborni, E. J. (2004). Characteristics of emotional disturbance in middle and high school students. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 12(3), 157-167.

U.S. Department of Education. (2010). Emotional disturbance: A legacy resource from NICHCY disability fact sheet 5. Retrieved from