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A growth mindset – the knowledge that one becomes more intelligent with effort - is being recognized more and more as something that we can cultivate in our students. If you would like some help getting started with cultivating growth mindsets by helping students learn about effective effort, this post is for you.
What Is Effort?
At the most basic level, effort means you are trying. In my experience though, students claim that they are trying, and may believe that they're trying, but they do not know what trying effectively actually looks like. To many students, trying is merely thinking about doing the work, or finding a friend (or the Internet) to get answers from. For example, there are many students who have a hard time seeing the difference between doing math and copying someone else's math, or between helping someone with a task and just giving him the answer. They think they did their homework even though they may have copied most of it from the board or from a friend. One thing I tell students is "That is like tracing a picture – you traced your homework, you didn't "do" it."
If students are struggling, we want them to remain motivated, try harder, and stick with it. But what about the saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result"? If a student has tried to learn something, didn't succeed, tried the same thing again and again, and never felt progress, is he likely to think that trying yet again will yield results? And is that motivating or demotivating?