How do you run a marathon?

Easy goals do not help to advance self-efficacy in students.
Ragnar Purje
Mar 11, 2021
It's a marathon, not a sprint

How do you run a marathon?
You have to do the training. You keep training until you are able to run a marathon.

How you force a student to learn?
You can’t. You can support, encourage and advise; however, the universal truth remains in place. The responsibility of learning exists within the student. No one can learn for someone else. Just as no one can run a marathon for someone else.

It’s not all the complex
Running is not all that complex, its simply placing one foot in front of the other. Learning is not all that complex. Whatever it is that one wants to learn, it’s the action of doing what is necessary, that of placing one foot in front of the other. Teaching is not all that complex. The teacher explains. The teacher will demonstrate. The teacher will explain and demonstrate. The student then follows the example provided. If the student informs the teacher that they do not understand; the teacher will repeat, and continue to do so, until the student understands. And this process has been taking place since forever.

Reports and discussions taking place in the media and an array of social forums seem to suggest that teaching and learning is complex. In the profound words of Dr Julius Sumner Miller: “Why is it so?”

What is it that is going on that seems to suggest that teaching and learning is complex? The principle and practice of passing on information and associated skills, is, and has been the same in all cultures and social collectives; again, since forever. With this, the axiomatic truth remains in place, learning is hard work. Learning requires an inordinate amount of constant and unrelenting amount of effort on the part of the learner. The same is true of the teacher. Teaching is hard work. This hard work, by the teacher, and by the learner however, is not complex.

So what is the answer? Is there an answer?
Research dealing with learning informs replacing hard work with easy goals is not the answer. Easy goals do not help to advance self-efficacy in students. The research informs that self-efficacy cannot be developed as readily if students engage in easy goals and only wish to experience easy outcomes. Neither will self-efficacy develop as readily if students demand that they want to be rewarded for their effort. Studies inform that easy goals, and external rewards, that result in little effort and only achieve quick and undemanding results can lead to later discouragement, and a lowering of self-belief and self-efficacy, especially if, and when circumstances become more difficult.

The fact is that developing self-efficacy requires experience in overcoming obstacles through effort and perseverance. Setbacks and difficulties in human pursuits often serve a useful purpose in teaching that success typically requires a sustained and ongoing effort. When people learn to work hard at achieving their goals, they then learn that they actually do have what it takes to succeed.

By working hard, by persevering, the individual will grow in their knowledge and they will also develop what is referred to as mental and emotional toughness. Through the act of perseverance, through the act of resilience, the individual will emerge intrinsically stronger from the adversity that has been faced; from this ongoing and continuous effort, and an enhanced self-efficacy will be the inevitable positive outcome of the struggle that takes place during learning; not only at school, but in life itself.