We've all had that student who seems to get it until you leave him or her to complete independent work. The work you get back is totally different than you expected, and it is hard to know if it is a lack of interest or a real misconception.
Other times we have the student who just doesn't seem to care at all, and you just don't know if that is because it is too hard for her or if she just hasn't found the value in the work.
Today I am going to share a super quick, super easy method of assessing whether the issue is motivation or a lack of knowledge.
The Can't Do/Won't Do Assessment
I learned about the Can't Do/Won't Do Assessment in graduate school when I was working in my graduate program in school psychology.
At that point in my life, I didn't quite understand the power this assessment would have, but I tucked the technique away in my toolbox. I am so glad I did.
It is quick.
It is easy.
It is the perfect data for making sure I am providing the right intervention for my struggling learners.
Why you need to be using this assessment in your classroom
The truth is, it does no good to continue to give practice to an unmotivated learner who is choosing NOT to do the task.
The reality is that only makes things worse in the long run. However, a struggling learner does need that extra practice. Being able to accurately distinguish between the two is the challenge.
How to conduct a Can't Do/Won't Do Assessment
Conducting this assessment is a relatively straightforward process, and it doesn't require much time. Here are the basic steps.
1. Select your task.
All you really need to start teasing out whether motivation is the issue is two similar tasks. Perhaps it is a page of a test a student failed or a progress monitoring measure, either can work.
The goal is not to make it long or complicated. It can even be an assignment that the student completed and didn't quite perform as high as expected because you are just looking to see how the student improves without additional instruction.
Timed tests are great to use when you think that motivation is impairing fluency because they only take a minute or two.
2. Identifying motivators.
You need to figure out what motivates the student. For some kids, it is extra computer time or a special snack. Others like the chance to do a special classroom job or a shortened assignment. Whatever you pick it has to be a highly desired reward and individualized to that student.
3. Have the student complete the initial task, if it isn't something they've already done.
If you're using two tasks completed at the same time, you'll want to start by administering the initial task without any specific motivator offered. This will be your baseline and will help you determine whether motivation is the core issue.
4. Offer the carrot to entice a better performance.
Show the student their original score and challenge them to beat it. Offer the reward as an incentive for improvement (even slight improvement). Then give the second task, and score it. If the student made any improvement, even the slightest, give them the reward.
5. Analyze the data.
Once you've got the two tasks, you'll want to look at them side-by-side. If the student improved by 15% or more, motivation was definitely a part of the issue.
If not, it really is a skill deficit, and you'll need to plan how you'll support the student to build knowledge and master the actual skill.
However, if the score went up by 15% but is still not passing, it is a combination of the two.
That's it! You can not target your intervention efforts more effectively based on your findings.
If motivation is the issue, it is time to set up a reward system that encourages quality work. You'll have to reward a lot at first and slowly work the frequency down.
If it is a skill issue, you may need to gather additional information to determine if the child lacks a conceptual understanding or is struggling to self-monitor and correct. The Pencil Tap Test (see cheat sheet) can be a quick and easy tool for this.
If the issue is both motivation and skills, then you can do an intervention plan to build skills and motivation!