Originally Posted by EdEd
Except that sometimes it's hard to singularly identify who's trying vs. struggling. Sometimes kids don't try because of difficulty or previous failure, so it would be quite a task to conduct an assessment to rule out any difficulty in order to limit participation because of lack of effort.
Even if you could sometime completely isolate the variable of "effort," I still think that school dances are one of those community building events that offer a different type of engagement that are particularly powerful for kids who are disconnected from school. While it may serve as inadvertent reinforcement for some kids, it would be a way to connect other kids with school that might otherwise not feel much attachment.
Looking at it from a reinforcement perspective, I've seen schools use distal reinforcement such as dances as incentives for academic achievement and behavior. I haven't worked much at the high school level, but I personally have never seen an elementary or middle school child overcome substantial behavioral difficulty or academic failure in order to attain the reward of participation in a two hour dance months away.
In other words, even if it makes sense to incorporate reinforcement/punishment in order to change a child's behavior, I think that should be something done on an individual level, and more frequent basis - especially with kids who are experiencing problems significant enough that need intervention.
I don't feel it is difficult to determine who is trying and who is not. When a student never opens their book, never takes notes, never pays attention in class, spends their time trying to talk to classmates rather than listen to the material being covered and refuses extra help when it is offered....then it is pretty easy to say (s)he is not trying.
Maybe I'm a bit jaded since I'm working in an alternative school where student apathy is a huge problem. It is very easy for me to tell which students are at least trying
to learn the material and which ones are making no effort whatsoever. I understand some kids prefer to do nothing rather than attempt to do something and fail or show that they don't know how to do it. I understand almost every kid in my school either has some major issues outside of school or have made really bad decisions or both. My classes are small enough for me to sit down (literally) at the table with the kids and work one-on-one or in very small groups. When I do this and have 3 kids paying attention and one with his head on the table sleeping, it is pretty easy to figure out which ones are trying.
Last year, in my middle school, it was a more traditional setting and I agree it was harder to know individual circumstances for each student, but I could still tell which ones were willing to attend my tutoring sessions and which ones would actually TRY to do the work when I had them stay in from recess to complete missing assignments.
So, I don't think it is really all that hard for experienced teachers to determine if a student really is trying to understand the material and do the work or if they are just passing time till the next class and final bell.
As for the dances, I explained in my previous posts that our school held two types; one was a "reward" activity held each month during school (and was very IN-formal), while the others were held after school hours and were more traditional and formal. Students with poor grades or behaviors were not allowed to attend the "reward dance", since they had not earned the reward, but they were able to attend the formal dances held after school hours.