Looking in from the outside, education seems locked into a stalemate with almost nothing happening to improve learning. On the inside of education, the view is the opposite: changing standards, inconsistent testing practices, No Child Left Behind with job threats, Race to the Top with intense teacher evaluations, and constant new technology to learn. Administrators change the school calendar, change the structure of grade levels, require third-grade retention due to poor reading test scores, and yet, the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows little or no progress for education during this whirlwind of change.
Structures, tests, evaluations, calendars, and grade level organization have changed, but the basic daily processes in classrooms remain the same. Lee Jenkins interviewed 3000 teachers and asked two questions: (1) What grade level do you teach? and (2) In your opinion, what percent of students at your grade level love school? The result is below:
This graph has been renamed “The Jenkins Curve” by John Hattie, author Visible Learning and renown global education leader. He wrote it belongs in the Education Hall of Fame and thus the renaming is a recognition of the insights the Jenkins Curve provides. When we study the graph we see that students start school already motivated and all of our attempts to motivate students do not work. With LtoJ® the strategy is to maintain the intrinsic motivation students begin school with instead of attempting to motivate the students.
W. Edwards Deming wrote, “If everyone did their best, 95% of our problems would remain.” Not only are educators doing their best so are the Presidents, legislators, school boards, and judges doing their best. However, in the midst of all of this “best efforts” the major thing education has to offer is improvement by personality. There are amazing programs in place in selected locales, but expect them to go away after the leader retires or moves away.
LtoJ® matters because it is a process that works in all grade levels and with all subjects. It is designed to maintain the enthusiasm about school that students bring with them to kindergarten. Students have two basic needs not met by current school processes: (1) visual evidence of personal continual improvement and (2) visual evidence that they contributed to the improved learning of the whole classroom.
The LtoJ® process attacks the underlying causes of the two problems stated above. In addition it eliminates three of the most discouraging practices often seen in classrooms.
- Motivating students with extrinsic rewards.
- Operating a system that allows students to cram, receive good grades and then quickly forget.
- Using data in ways that embarrass and discourage students.
The LtoJ® process maintains enthusiasm for learning, removes cramming as a possibility and uses data for joy and insight. When these improvements to the normal operating process are in place, students pressure the teacher to teach more, instead of the teacher pressuring the students to learn more. The use of extrinsic motivation is non-existent when students are intrinsically motivated. It is crazy that a quiz on randomly selected items could create such a change in classrooms. This occurs because students love scoring better than ever before and contributing to the success of the classroom. Students love letting everyone know they are getting smarter.
When parents attend an athletic event to watch their son or daughter, they know that one team will win and one team will lose. When these same parents drop their child off at school they do not think there is a 50/50 chance their child could be a loser. Parents expect their children to “win” at school, but from The Jenkins Curve, we can see this is not the case. How can every child win? As stated earlier – a record of continuous improvement. In the words of John Maxwell, “I only want to outperform my former self.” Students adopt this quote and desire to learn because they desire to outperform themselves. Learning becomes more meaningful for students because they can see their progress daily.
John Hattie mentions the triplets of skill, will and thrill. Everyone knows that schools are responsible for instilling skill in students. The problem is that students control the will – not the school. If students receive no thrill from learning the skill, then the will disappears. Through celebrations of personal and classroom All-Time Bests, LtoJ® maintains the thrill students brought with them to kindergarten. As I am writing this I received an email from an educator using LtoJ® for catechism. The message said, “I cannot believe how excited sophomores and juniors get over a simple All-Time Best.” We cannot imagine the student success schools could support by maintaining the intrinsic motivation already inside our kindergartners.
In business, government and education, major improvements start by acknowledging the current reality. The Jenkins Curve is current, harsh reality for educators. We never want to stop there, however. Harsh must have solutions. LtoJ® matters because it maintains or restores, when necessary, intrinsic motivation, removes the cram/forget habit, uses data for amazing encouragement, and the final result is 6 times the average effect size for influences upon learning.