Persistence is in short supply in our pan-digital world. According to The Guardian, many educators feel that the Internet and the proliferation of smartphones is causing a decline in attention span and creating a generation of easily-distractible students. The Atlantic Wire reports that the rise of e-readers may be ruining the attention spans of readers by allowing a plethora of Internet distractions at the swipe of a finger. Many older students today appear to have little experience with adversity and are prone to giving up quickly when facing a challenge, reports Toledo’s The Blade. When many youth and teens are unable to grasp the idea of going beyond a quick Google search, how can teachers hope to instill persistence?
One way to impart the value of persistence is to give partial credit for showing work and making good attempts. Though it may be tempting for teachers to create multiple-choice tests, such tests do not credit persistence. Essay tests require students to be persistent and explain their reasoning. Though many teens may groan at the prospect of an essay test, eventually they will get used to the writing and may even come to value the fact that persistence, even when it does not lead to a correct answer, earns some credit. Showing students how essay or short answer effort can get partial credit while incorrect selections on multiple-choice questions get no credit at all can help reveal the power of persistence.
A second way to get students to show more persistence is to offer extra credit for delving deeper into the subject material. High-performing students may burn out on a subject if they master it easily and are effectively capped at an “A” grade. Giving these students a chance to excel and earn points toward later assignments may get them to persist in pursuing a topic. Offering bonus points of extra credit grades for reading books on the subject material outside of the required literature is one option, as is offering extra credit for students taking an academically-oriented field trip on personal time.
Third, persistence can be reinforced by incorporating competition into the curricula. Formal debates in social studies or English classes can motivate students to think critically, requiring persistence. Inspiring students to “be the best” can breed persistence, especially if debates, competitive quizzes, or other classroom competitions are part of a series. Students who don’t excel the first time may be motivated to delve deeper into the subject material by knowing that additional opportunities for recognition await.
A fourth way to breed persistence among students is to assign long-term projects that grant considerable student freedom rather than rote daily worksheets. Giving students a broad topic and general guidelines but allowing freedom of form and organization can inspire students to work harder, relishing the trust and creativity that has been placed in them. Loading students down with minutiae may cause them to burn out, whereas giving them freedom to explore may trigger a desire to learn, thus generating academic persistence.