Guideline 8: Provide options for sustaining attention, effort, and persistence.

Learning and measurement of learning, require sustained attention and effort. When motivated to do so, many students can regulate their attention and affect in order to sustain the effort and concentration that such tasks require. However, students differ considerably in their ability to self-regulate. Individual differences reflect disparities in their initial motivation, their capacity and skills for self-regulation , their susceptibility to contextual interference, and so forth. A key goal is to provide supports and scaffolds to help individuals build self-regulation and self-determination skills (see Guideline 9). Simultaneously, the external environment must provide options that can equalize accessibility by supporting students who differ in initial motivation, self-regulation skills, etc.

8.1 Options that heighten salience of goals and objectives

Over the course of any sustained or systematic effort, there are many sources of interest and engagement that compete for attention and effort. For some students, a significant limitation exists in merely remembering the initial goal or in maintaining a consistent vision of the rewards of reaching that goal. For those students, it is important to build in periodic or persistent “reminders” of both the goal and its value in order for them to sustain effort and concentration in the face of attractive distracters.

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8.2 Options that vary levels of challenge and support

Students vary not only in their skills and abilities but in the kinds of challenges that motivate them to do their best work. Some students prefer high-risk, highly challenging endeavors, for example, while others prefer safely reachable objectives with predictable outcomes. Providing a range of construct irrelevant challenges that are varied, and a range of possible supports in the assessment that allow students to be optimally motivated.

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8.3 Options that foster collaboration and communication

For some students, the option of working collaboratively with other students is an effective way to sustain engagement in protracted projects and activities. When carefully structured, peer collaboration can significantly increase the available support for sustained engagement. For other students, especially those for whom peer interactions are problematic, encouraging open lines of communication helps to develop student-teacher relationships that support achievement and engagement. In the assessment arena, communication regarding who and how to ask questions may be essential and support engagement.

8.4 Options that increase mastery-oriented feedback

Assessment is most productive for sustaining engagement when the feedback is relevant, constructive, accessible, consequential, and timely. Types of feedback are also critical in helping students sustain the motivation and effort essential to learning. Feedback that orients students toward mastery (rather than compliance or performance) and that emphasizes the role of effort and practice rather than “intelligence” or inherent “ability” is an important factor in guiding students toward successful long-term habits of mind.