I’ve been discussing this with a number of staff recently. I wish I could remember where I first read this so I could link to what I remember as a very interesting piece. The more I discuss this the more it seems to be both obvious and necessary. However, I am still struggling to come up with any ideas on the ‘how to’ front.
I have noticed that I usually have to explain this idea two or three times before the real meaning is understood. The first response seems to be that this is all very nice and a good way to be kind to the less able kids. This is definitely not the idea (although it is a fortunate side effect.)
So, to the reasoning.
Students, almost without exception, seem to have lost any sense of a causal link between effort and reward. For many, “I’m going to fail anyway,” and so make no effort. For others, “I’m going to do fine,” and so make no effort. Whilst we continue to value and reward achievement levels more than anything else students will continue to be unmotivated and demoralized.
By making ‘effort’ what we value and reward, we start to empower students. To some extent achievement is independent of the student whereas effort certainly isn’t. Intelligence will be something that the students have inherited and in the short term can’t do much about. It is what they have brought with them. It has already happened and so can’t be changed. How much effort they make is very much in their control and can be changed for the future.
Re-establishing this link between effort and reward will train good long term habits. A belief in “I can improve if I make some effort.”
Self esteem is improved by being in control of your own destiny. Being able to control what is valuable and not be so susceptible to external factors goes a long way to improve your self esteem.