Effort leads to success. However, effort needs to be targeted if students are to be successful in the classroom. Effort without direction is like running on the spot. A lot is happening but the student isn’t necessarily getting anywhere. Students with a growth mindset understand that effort is a path to mastery. This stems from their belief that talent, intelligence and ability can go up or down.
When promoting growth mindsets we want to help all students understand the link between effort and success. We also want students to understand that effort needs to be directed if it is to have the biggest impact. One of the ways in which we can do this is by planning activities in which student effort is targeted. We can then point to the results as evidence that effort is indeed a path to mastery.
With this in mind, here are five simple ways to target students’ efforts:
- Keyword Quotas. Provide students with a bank of keywords and explain that you would like a minimum number of these included in their work. This is the student’s keyword quota. Our aim is to ensure students focus their attention on the keywords most relevant to the topic. Students benefit from having the word bank to look at and from having their effort targeted through the structure of the activity.
- Success Criteria. These provide students with guidance on what they need to do to be successful. Without success criteria it is harder for students to know what they should be doing during a given activity. Opening up success criteria means giving students insight into how they can most effectively target their efforts.
- Exemplar Work. This provides students with a model they can imitate or copy. Initially, this means students are targeting their efforts so as to make their work as close to the exemplar as possible. Over time they will come to understand what is good about the exemplar work. They will then be in a position to include these elements in their own work in their own way, without needing to resort to copying or imitation. Throughout the process student effort is highly targeted.
- Sub-Tasks. Dividing a task into a series of subtasks means giving students a range of separate items to which they can attend in turn. This allows students to focus their full working memory on a single subtask at a time. This makes it easier for them to target their efforts because their working memory is not overloaded by a series of competing demands.
- Real-Time Feedback. Giving students feedback while they work means giving them information they can use to change, adapt and better target their efforts. The easiest way to do this is by circulating while students are completing an activity. You can then give students feedback closely tied to what they’re currently doing. This will be tailored, personalised and closely matched to students’ current levels of knowledge and understanding.
You can follow each of the above techniques with reflection time during which students look back at how they have targeted their efforts and the changes which have resulted. When doing this, indicate that the work students have produced is evidence their talent, ability and intelligence is open to change – and that this change is best driven through persistent targeting of effort.