and achievement isn’t the student’s
home environment; it’s the school
and the teacher (Irvin, Meece, Byun,
Farmer, & Hutchins, 2011). Effort can
be taught, and strong teachers do this
Students who show little or no effort
are simply giving you feedback. When
you liked your teacher, you worked
harder. When the learning got you
excited, curious, and intrigued, you put
out more effort. We’ve all seen how students will often work much harder in
one class than in another. The feedback
is about themselves—and about your
Take on the challenge. Invest in students who are not putting out effort.
In a study of more than 1,800 children
from poverty, school engagement was a
key factor in whether the student stayed
in school (Finn & Rock, 1997).
Third, affirm effort every day in class.
Most teachers don’t keep track of their
comments to students; maybe they
should. When teachers give more positives than negatives (a 3: 1 ratio is best),
they optimize both learning and growth
(Fredrickson & Losada, 2005). When
affirmed, challenged, and encouraged,
students work harder.
Fourth, set high goals and sell students on their chances to reach them.
Get them to believe in the goals by
showing them real-world success stories
of adults who came from the same circumstances the students did and who
achieved their goals.
Finally, provide daily feedback so
students see that effort matters and that
they can adjust it for even greater success.
Affirm your students, and let them know
how much good you see in them.
et;al.,;2012). In short, being poor is
associated with lowered expectations
about future outcomes.
The student’s attitude about learning
(his or her mind-set) is also a moderately robust predictive factor (Blackwell,
Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007). Taken
together, hope—or the lack of hope—
and mind-set—whether you believe
that you’re simply born smart or that
you can grow in intelligence along
the way—can be either significant
assets or serious liabilities. If students
think failure or low performance is
likely, they’ll probably not bother to
try. Similarly, if they think they aren’t
smart enough and can’t succeed, they’ll
probably not put out any effort.
Hope and the Growth Mind-Set
Hope is a powerful thing. Research
suggests that lower socioeconomic
status is often associated with viewing
the future as containing more negative
events than positive ones (Robb, Simon,
& Wardle, 2009). Low or no expectancy (“helplessness”) is also related
to low socioeconomic status (Odéen
What You Can Do
First, strengthen your relationships with
students by revealing more of yourself
and learning more about your students.
Ask yourself, “What have I done to
build relationships and respect? Do my
students like me?”
Use more buy-in strategies, such as
curiosity builders (a mystery box or
bag); excitement and risk (“This idea’s
a bit crazy; let’s make sure we have the
number for the fire department, just in
case”); and competition (“My last class
accomplished _____; let’s see what you
can do!”). Make the learning more of the
students’ idea by offering a choice, and
involve them more in decision making.
Second, teachers must make connections to students’ worlds in ways that
help them see a viable reason to play the
academic game. Can you tie classroom
learning to the real world? Use money,
shopping, technology, and their family
members to make the learning more relevant. Without clear links between the
two, students often experience a demo-tivating disconnect between the school
world and their home life. As a result,
they give up.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/ incpovhlth/2011/ index.html TRENDS of the TIMES
One in five U.S. children
under the age of 18—
or 16 million children–
live in poverty.
What You Can Do
Teacher and student beliefs about
having a fixed amount of “smarts” that
the student can’t increase will influence
engagement and learning. Teach students that their brains can change and
grow, that they can even raise their
IQs. Provide better-quality feedback
(prompt, actionable, and task-specific).
Also, telling students that they have
a limited amount of focusing power is
likely to disengage many of them (Miller
et;al., 2012). There’s an alternative to
saying, “Don’t feel bad that you didn’t
finish. It’s late in the day, and we’ve all
got brain drain.” Instead, say, “Stick
with this just a bit longer. You can do
this! Your mind is a powerful force to
help you reach your goals.”
Don’t use comforting phrases that
imply that even though a student isn’t
good at something, he or she has “other”
strengths (Cooper, 2012). Instead, focus
on affirming and reinforcing effort.
Guide students in making smarter
strategy choices and cultivating a pos-
Difference 5: Cognition
Children from lower socioeconomic
backgrounds often perform below
those from higher socioeconomic
backgrounds on tests of intelligence