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Hard Work

Hard Work An Article that tackles Hard Work head on and offers a way to develop a shared, effective understanding of it in class. Find out about deferred gratification & the 1972 Stanford Marshmallow experiment. Watch a video of its 2012 update.

This is a Free Sample Resource
Categories: Article, Learning Styles, Any Subject, Educators

Tags: Hard Work Mindset Effort
Failure, Injury & Giving Up
The London Olympics 2012 is long finished yet lingers in many ways. As the just-then-successful Olympic athletes were interviewed, breathless and sweating after their events, I began to notice a common thread in their tales. They were talking about failure. They were talking about injury. They were talking about nearly (or actually) giving up on themselves and on their sport. They were laying themselves bare and exposing the true nature of success: it’s fragile, hard won and rests upon learning-from-failure and on-going battles of emotional, physical and physiological self-belief. These athletes only succeeded because they’d been right to the edge of themselves (and over the edge in some cases), to the point of giving up, to the place where their broken bodies had nothing left to give. They had worked so very, very hard.

What is Hard Work?
How do you and your pupils respond to the phrase Hard Work? Is it relished or run from? Is it embraced as the route to eventual success or ejected for the sake of easier short term gains? It’s worth exploring this in class, not least so there’s a common understanding of what it actually means to tell a learner to ‘work harder’.

Here’s a definition for you to play around with and then to make your own:
Hard Work is the effort we put in to things that will eventually lead to personal success BUT are also one or more of the following: unappealing, new, unfamiliar, outside our experience or comfort zone, have unknown results, take a relatively long time or are repetitive. Hard work is different to different people and can change with context, state of mind and attitude.

Significant here is the word ‘eventually’. Work is often ‘hard’ because we have to wait for its results; we have to wait for our success. We learn to defer gratification.

Marshmallows, Rewards and Trust
In the famous Stanford Marshmallow experiment of 1972, children were offered a single marshmallow to eat immediately or promised two if they could wait a while. Children who showed the self-control to wait for the second sweet were, 10 and 20 years later, found to have been more successful at school and regarded as more competent by their parents. 

In an intriguing follow up from Rochester University in 2012 the experiment was repeated with a twist. This time the children experienced either a reliable or unreliable environment just before the marshmallow test: they were offered a similar type of choice - such as using a meagre set of art materials right away or waiting for the experimenter to fetch a much better set. Some of the children waited and the better materials turned up. But for others, the researcher returned empty handed and explained that the materials weren’t actually available.

It was found that those who were primed with a reliable previous experience could wait far longer for the second marshmallow than those who had been let down.

Kick-Starting Hard Work
In class this could be applied as follows: the more that children experience the fruits of their hard work, the more hard work they’ll want to put in. They will learn to trust themselves and to believe that success and rewards eventually (and always) follow on from their efforts. Our skill and judgement as their teachers is to offer just the right level of challenge and, ultimately, to teach them to seek out and to know the same for themselves. For each pupil we must help cause that first spark, that one vital proof that working hard is worth it. Because once a child has experienced the satisfaction of hard work paying off, they can always refer back to it as evidence of their ability to succeed.

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