For the past few years I’ve thought long and hard about the merit of assessing effort in the classroom. Past blog posts about the work of Angela Duckworth, Grit, and growth mindset all come to mind as points where I’ve put fingertips to keyboard ruminating on the pros and cons of keeping this discussing with my students meaningful and at the forefront of our time together.
I’ve come to understand that in order to make effort an integral part of what we do as educators and learners, we must discuss it as we see it in others and ourselves. We must openly set goals, design our learning paths, and reflect as to whether or not we have successfully met these goals.
In my classroom we do so in a number of ways. At times it’s looking at effort in literature, both in fiction and nonfiction pieces. We discuss what effort looks like and how we can tell it has actually happened. It’s almost like we’re seeking out the evidence of someone’s effort. It’s a neat conversation because we begin to see trends across learning realms. Effort almost always looks like focus and determination, reflecting on one’s progress, and trying again and again until the goal has been met. It doesn’t matter if this is in athletics, learning a musical instrument, picking up a new language, or honing a specific skill. As a class we always see common traits across the board.
At times we look at effort within our own learning paths. We co-create learning units complete with opportunities to set goals, reflect on the progress we are making, and adapt as we go to ensure our goals will be attained. Students are encouraged and given support to create study plans and design their own inquiry-based learning units. We often sit one-on-one chatting about this process and how they know if they are on track. Sometimes they can’t tell if they’re on track or not and we talk about how learning can be uncertain at times, kind of like a roller coaster. Sometimes they can tell right away exactly where they’re going and how they’ll get there and that this feeling of confidence, although nice and comforting, won’t always be there.
I wonder what report cards would look like if student work habit marks (Excellent, Good, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement) were weighted differently. What if the students chose their own work habit mark? What if we made the work habit assessment a part of the curriculum? Students could track effort throughout the semester, set goals, reflect on their growth, and through these reflections self assess what their work habit should be. This work throughout the semester could be used as evidence of specific prescribed learning outcomes and be woven in to everything we do and included as an assessment tool as a portion of their academic grade. Rather than the teacher selecting a work habit for their students, students would reflect on their portfolio of learning and become the assessor.
I think I’m on to something here.