Encouraging words…”Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition”~

As I reflect back on this week filled with pondering the assigned readings from the texts as well as the numerous discussion posts, I must say that first great “ah ha” came to me while reading the excellent description by the authors of Classroom Instruction That Works, regarding “effect sizes” in chapter one. I found the clear explanation to set a positive tone and allowed me to more readily embrace and understand the statistics presented, while reading each of the successive chapters. To be honest, this is more of a victory than you might imagine. (Although I am a teacher, I am also a student with a previous distaste for statistics).

Early in the week, before listening to this week’s screencast or even opening the Marzano, Pollack, and Pickering book, I must admit that I was a bit discouraged while reading the discussion question, “Give several examples of strategies used effectively in your classroom”. I am not certain whether this discouragement was due to the natural fatigue I experienced following my husband’s successful, but unexpected hospitalization and procedure to implant 3 stents in his heart last week—or the fact that I do not have my own classroom. Either way, I am happy to report that my attitude is better. Not only have I begun to b-r-e-a-t-h-e again—(with my husband back home and hearing positive doctor reports), but I have also reminded myself that rolling a cart from classroom to classroom as I “borrow” the rooms of other teachers—does not mean that I am any less of a “teacher”. As I work with students–whether during individual appointments in my office, or in a “borrowed” classroom, I employ several of the 9 strategies addressed in Classroom Instruction that Works. The strategy I use most consistently, however, is: Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition.

With regard to research on reinforcing effort, as cited within Marzano, “…one study (Van Overwalle & De Metsenaere, 1990) found that students who were taught about the relationship between effort and achievement increased their achievement more than students who were taught techniques for time management and comprehension of new material” (p. 51). As a special education teacher who has always stressed effective time management with my students, I am interested to also see that another aspect I’ve emphasized is so clearly backed by research. Most of my students have experienced a significant amount of discouragement in school and many, by the time they’ve reached high school, have come to feel quite powerless and at times–unable to compete. Therefore, I make it a practice to help students evaluate themselves on a weekly basis—focusing on incremental changes in their efforts, and corresponding outcomes, as we together look at the data which includes weekly grade printouts from all six of their classes. Marzano states, “A powerful way to help them make this connection is to ask students to periodically keep track of their effort and its relationship to achievement” (p. 52).

Even with students whom I only see weekly, I find that as we together observe and discuss the changes in their performance and grades, I find the truth in Marzano’s statement: “Reflecting on their experiences and then verbalizing what they learned can help students heighten their awareness of the power of effort” (p. 53). I am always encouraged when a student can non-defensively and honestly express to me how they doing, take responsibility for what has been accomplished—and to articulate steps for what needs to be done.

Fellow student, Chris Howell, shared from his experience working with students in an alternative school setting: “I have had students where the “light” has gone on for them. They have learned that with a little effort and trust in their abilities, they can be successful in areas that they never thought they could be. This goes along with a statement in the Marzano book. “An interesting set of studies has shown that simply demonstrating that added effort will pay off in terms of enhanced achievement actually increases student achievement.” (Marzano, p. 51)

I appreciate Marzano’s distinctions between praise, reward, and recognition and his statement that, “we believe that the best way to think of abstract contingency-based rewards is as ‘recognition’—recognition for specific accomplishments” and that “it is best to make this recognition as personal to the students as possible” (p. 58). I believe that the context of a one-on-one conversation with each student—counts as “personal”.

Though I indeed have many areas of instruction that I desire to improve as I work with my students, I am encouraged to see that one of strategies I use every day (whether in my own classroom or not) is so clearly backed by current research.

Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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