Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Work Ethic

I had a discussion today as to whether work ethic could be taught.

My reply was no.. it couldn't be taught but it could be instilled. By this I meant that work ethic is not something that could be learned from a lesson, it was something that grew in a person over time.

As a school, fostering work ethic is something that needs to be done from an early age. Assuming that kids will instantly start doing 3 hours of assessment and study in year 12 is a recipe for disaster if they have only been doing the bare minimum until year 11.

So.. how do we instill a good work ethic? This is what I have considered thus far...

1. Model it at all times. If students see that you work hard they are more likely to think that adult behaviour requires work.
2. Build it up slowly. Start with little things like developing an assignment in class over a number of days, analysing a task, breaking it down into multiple steps and creating a timeline for completing the task. Homework is another good way to do this. Start with 15 mins in one learning area, develop the use of a diary and start giving homework in multiple learning areas.
3. Recognise achievement. Praise students that show signs of developing a work ethic. If a student does well, explicitly draw attention to what has contributed to the result.
4. Tie effort to reward. Without the effort being commensurate with the reward students cannot learn to value their effort. If a students does the work and fails, ensure that the failure is identified as a path to success.
5. Group students with a similar work ethic. This will create demand for students to work with like minded students and create an environment of success for these students.
6. Teach self correction and independent learning. A key component of work ethic is when a student feels empowered to teach themselves. A student with a good work ethic will not give up purely because the answer is not under their nose! In maths this could mean asking a friend, reading a worked example or checking answers in the back of the book and then correcting mistakes.
7. Being punctual and ready to start (not five minutes after the activity begins).
8. Being prepared and having all required materials.
9. Showing respect for those around them by being focussed on the task at hand and not distracting others needlessly.

I'm sure there's more - as I think of them I'll add them on.

Point 5. is a bit contentious, but I am a little sick of teachers sacrificing good students to assist with behaviour management or to "model" the behaviour to others. I think if we actually analyse the usual approach of mixed groups - the good kid is the one who usually suffers.


1 comment:

  1. I think the interesting thing about the list you have presented is the idea that teachers need to model the expectations that they demand from their students. It is easy to blame students for their lack of work ethic when some teachers do not reinforce positive, constructive behaviour or act that way themselves!


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