Tapping Student Effort…Increasing Student Achievement

Teachers don’t cause student achievement…students cause student achievement. Do you agree? If so, then the teachers’ effort should be spent generating student effort. This is where the efforts of trainers and coaches are focused. Here are five strategies to get you started exploring effort with your students and generating your own ideas:

#1 Have students identify and journal times in their lives when they have been successful.
Have them label each success as being mostly due to ability, effort, degree of difficulty (the task was easy) or luck. Ask them to generate examples for each reason. Have examples from your personal experience to share that identify definitions for the reasons.
My examples:
Ability—I sing in a choir with minimal investment in practice or training
Effort- I was a starting soccer goalie in high school after practicing and sitting the bench for three years.
Degree of difficulty—I got an A in my first college math class (Fundamentals of Mathematics—I had taken calculus in high school).
Luck— won $60 on the first trip to horse racing…lost $120 on the second

#2 Define the elements of effort for students.

Time—effort takes a commitment of one’s time
Persistence—effort requires continuous action
Practice-guided and independent
Repetition of Success—you can’t quit after the first success

Are the elements present in the effort examples that students identified in #1? Ask student in writing to apply the elements of effort to a current goal.

#3 Teach students the following formula:

Effort x Ability focused on a manageable task = Success

The key is recognizing that effort is a multiplier. It doesn’t add a little to the success. Effort causes the ability to increase. Thus over time, the same effort is rewarded with increased success. The next activity will illustrate.

#4 Take students to a weight training room and have each benchmark their current lifting ability. Have a trainer lay out an 8 week workout plan. If students complete the plan they will concretely see the payoff of effort. A similar trip to the reading lab could allow students to benchmark their current reading fluency. The reading “trainer” can provide an 8 week plan and students can see another example of effort/payoff as their fluency increases.

#5 Differentiating assignments is critical for ALL students to be learning the rewards of effort. Teachers like trainers and coaches help identify a manageable task…challenging enough to require effort and manageable enough so that repeated effort produces a noticeable increase in ability (a step toward success). Look at the band for a great example…Many differing ability levels are present. While creating music together, individuals are practicing at various levels of complexity and difficulty so that ALL can continue to improve. When working on a new topic with your students, consider offering three homework options:
A-for those students who believe that with more practice they will get this
B-for students who are convinced they’ve already mastered the concept (a stretch assignment)
C -for those who are “lost” and need more review and practice with lead up skills or knowledge
For each student, the assignment should require effort and be manageable.

For more information see Tapping Student Effort…Increasing Student Achievement by Steve Barkley.

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Steve Barkley

For the past 35 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…