I recently came across the idea of effort in a blog post on the Mindset Works site. A key point of the article discusses a child's ability to grasp and evaluate effort. The author believes some children may not have an understanding of what "effort" (as adults think of it) looks and feels like. Such students may believe the job of getting the page filled in is enough - whether they "borrow" work from a neighbor, get answers from a peer, or fill things in with the purpose of getting the task done. Other children may come from a more fixed mindset framework, avoiding a challenge, or giving up when something feels hard.
Perhaps the core problem for both children is knowing about what the author calls effective effort, which is both purposeful and targeted. Some of the best examples of effective effort I can think of come from athletes and musicians. Their practice and effort is very directed; focusing on one small thing at a time - they analyze what went right and what wasn't quite right; attempt a new strategy at the point of error; and try again. To illustrate this point, I found a quote from the Bulletproof Musician:
Deliberate practice is a systematic and highly structured activity, which is, for lack of a better words, scientific. Instead of mindless trial and error, it is an active and thoughtful process of experimentation with clear goals and hypotheses.
Systematic, structured, trial and error vs. active and thoughtful, clear goals and hypothesis are words that gave me pause. In my own life, when I take on that frame of reference, I feel more successful and the "mistake/error" feels more manageable. The Mindset Works Blog has an effective effort rubric, set up from the perspective of a fixed, mixed, and growth mindset. Depending on your students' understanding and readiness, it can be a wonderful instructional tool.
As teachers, we have the opportunity to help our children develop a habit of the mind similar to a musician/athlete and to deepen their ability to self-reflect, while normalizing errors and learning about effective effort. Coaching a child to identify what worked, what didn't, decide what to change, and its projected outcome has the potential to help our students find great satisfaction and joy on the path of lifelong learning.
If the idea of mindsets resonates with you, I encourage you to take a peek at Mindset Works Blog. You can sign up to receive their newsletter and take advantage of the resources on their site for free. Mindset Works was co-founded by Carol Dweck; the source of information is sound and research-based.
The Mindset Works article on Effective Effort
Effective Effort Rubric
Mindset Works Blog
Resources for Teachers - Mindset Works
Targeted Practice - (NY Times article)
Growth Mindset Video (2 minutes)