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Obtaining Student Commitment to Independent Work


Students who lack commitment to their independent work find many ways to avoid it - horseplay with the student in the next seat, finding excuses for leaving the classroom, or bothering the teacher with questions. The committed student, on the other hand, devours more and more knowledge. Basic to the success of independent work is a student's commitment to it.

When a student recognizes his or her own ignorance and sees work as the way to overcome it, commitment grows. If the teacher tests often and tests widely, the teacher can say, you are weak in this area, and here is our plan for overcoming your weakness. The student, seeing his or her own ignorance, has a purpose for doing work. When the student is retested at the end of a period of independent work, he or she can see improvement.

When students are not naturally motivated, there are things that a teacher can do to obtain student commitment. The first question for a teacher to ask is, of course, is this work appropriate and not too difficult. Next, the teacher can give recognition to work accomplished. Putting a sticker on a child's completed work is still a welcomed sign of recognition. A gold star gives recognition on a checklist. An "A" at the top of a paper gives satisfaction (although anything less than an "A" does not). Positive recognition of a student's work, then, is basic to obtaining his or her commitment to it.

Record keeping, also, is basic to student commitment, because the student can see progress in the record. The student in a workbook or kit needs to keep a checklist, most likely in a three-ring binder, listing the work in the workbook or kit and showing checks for work completed. Sometimes, teachers make a wall chart with students' names and work undertaken; however, such a chart, put up for all to see, can be a daunting experience for the slow student, who sees very little on the chart next to his or her name compared with those galloping along.