Focus on the Effort, not the Outcome
With NAPLAN over, students and parents can breathe a sigh of relief. Or can they? At the end of Term Two, schools across Sydney will be distributing Semester One reports for each student. While these reports are an important tool to record and communicate student progress, they can often be misused and cause even more anxiety for the child than necessary, resulting in a possible reluctance to strive towards even greater success in the following semester.
Undoubtedly, School reports are an important snapshot of a child’s progress and can give us a better understanding of a child’s strengths and areas of improvement. But they are just a snapshot in relation to our children’s educational journey. This journey of education is a long one for children and so it is critical that we, as adults, use the information presented within school reports to first understand where our children are at and how they are going, and then use them as a tool for goal-setting, encouraging and fostering within our children the notion that effort reaps its rewards.
The concept of the ‘growth mindset,’ based on years of research by Stanford University’s Dr Dwerk, Lisa Blackwell Ph.D., and their colleagues, suggests that intelligence can be developed, and that it is continued effort that is the key top their success. This is just the thing that we must consider when reading through school reports. Parents and carers who foster in children the notion that it is the effort that ought to be rewarded are actually doing their children more of a favour than those focused solely on the grade. Students who understand that the effort level is the key and not the outcome show greater motivation in school, they begin to receive better grades overall, and they begin to produce higher test scores. This is because they are more focused on improvement rather than how smart they are. They are not afraid to take risks with their learning and develop the resilience to strive to even greater heights.
As such, we need to develop in them such a mindset. We, as parents and carers, need to support our children’s learning, assist them to see their results as a guide to identify their strengths, reward them for the effort over the course of the semester (assuming effort was placed into their learning), and what areas of the curriculum need further growth. We must be careful with the language we use when discussing student grades and reports, because to reprimand a child for poor results will not motivate them to succeed later on. Instead, we must encourage, by placing the focus on ensuring they are challenged and that they are putting in the effort needed to grow. A few simple comments relating to their overall effort, rather than their grade could make all the difference to bring out in our children enthusiastic, hard-working and persistent learners who take charge of their own success.