Effort and recognition speak to the attitudes and beliefs of students, however, teachers must show the connection between effort and achievement. Research shows that although not all students realize the importance of effort, they can learn to change their beliefs to emphasize effort. According to research, recognition is most effective if it is contingent on the achievement of a certain standard. Also, symbolic recognition works better than tangible rewards. Enhance students’ understanding of the relationship between effort and
achievement by addressing students’ attitudes and beliefs about learning.

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1. Share stories about people who succeed by not giving up.
2. Have students keep a log of their weekly efforts.
3. Reflect on their weekly efforts periodically.
4. Mathmatically analyze the data.

Classroom Practice:external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT9J08fh9FhxO53js4f9zuPvU6gXcyA45DfubR4y7pqNt-S0CxU
  • Explicitly teach students about the importance of effort.
  • Have students keep track of their effort and achievement.
  • Personalize recognition.
  • Use Pause, Prompt, and Praise strategy
  • Use concrete symbols of recognition.

Key Research Findings
  • Not all students know the connection between effort and achievement (Seligman, 1990, 1994; Urdan, Migley, & Anderman, 1998).
  • Student achievement can increase when teachers show the relationship between an increase in effort to an increase in success (Craske, 1985; Van Overwalle & De Metsenaere, 1990).
  • Rewards for accomplishment can improve achievement when the rewards are directly linked to successful attainment of an understood performance standard (Cameron & Pierce, 1994; Wiersma, 1992).
  • A critical decision for teachers is how to provide recognition. Abstract or symbolic recognition has more impact than tangible things, such as gum, movie tickets, or prizes (Cameron & Pierce, 1994).


Recognizing learning includes specific tactics for improving students' beliefs about their abilities and how and when to recognize them when they achieve. Teachers who understand the value of tapping into students' affective domains for improving achievement employ research-based strategies, such as:
  1. Teach the relationship between effort and achievement. Many stories exist to make the connection with famous people. Draw examples from the well-known as well as the unknown so students recognize success in all situations and under many situations. Encourage students to think about: What does effort look like?
  2. Reinforce effort. Students who are recognized for effort will make the connection between effort and improvement. Students should be helped to internalize the value of effort to make a strong connection between effort and the desired outcome.
  3. Visual representation of effort may increase effort. Students who are helped to design an "effort log" using graphic representation will be more likely to see it in their mind's eye, and refer to it when working.
  4. Create a class effort rubric. A class that shares a common definition for effort will also share the understanding of effort and achievement. If students are in learning groups, on the same teams, or in study groups together, they will have a common language and a shared ideal regarding effort and achievement.

The above information was developed by Northwest Regional Education Laboratory, Portland, Oregon; Title: Nonlinguistic Representation. © 2005 - Focus on Effectiveness is a product of the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. These materials are in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission. The following acknowledgment is requested on materials which are reproduced: Developed by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, Portland, Oregon