One of the beliefs that motivates our kids to do the work we ask them to do, and to do it with care and attention, is teacher credibility. When kids believe that we're good at our jobs, they're more motivated. It's well-vetted in the research (e.g., it appears high on John Hattie's “visible learning” meta-analysis list), and it's commonsensical, too. After all, which kind of administrator are you more motivated to work hard for: one who you feel is bad at her job or one who you feel is great?
So how do our students come to their conclusions about whether or not we're credible? The research suggests that it comes down to CCP: Care, Competence, and Passion.
- Care: Do you care about me as a person? Do you care about my academic growth and achievement?
- Competence: Do you know your content? Do you know how to help me know it? Can you manage our class?
- Passion: Are you passionate about your content area? Are you passionate about the challenge of helping kids learn it? Are you passionate about kids?
So let's make this practical. If we want more kids doing more writing with greater care (and we do), then we need more credible writing teachers all across the school day. How can we become more credible writing teachers? Here are three ideas.
1. Write with them. When we write the assignments that we ask our students to write, it gives us insight into how to best teach those assignments. Also, our doing the writing demonstrates to students, “Wow, this teacher must care about writing — he actually does it with us.” Writing with our students takes time, and I can't always afford it. However, when I do, I know it makes me a sharper teacher, and that makes me more credible to my kids.
2. Speak to the value of writing. The more reasons we can give our students for why writing matters to their lives, the more they'll sense that, when we teach writing, we mean it for their good. Every one of our arguments for the value of writing has a chance of taking root in our students' hearts, blossoming up into the Value belief. (I give some arguments for writing in this article.)
3. Have students periodically connect writing work to their own lives. The Build Connections intervention is perfect for this. When introducing it, I spend 1-2 minutes explaining to my kids that it's important to me that they figure out why writing matters to them, how it connects to their lives. This doesn't mean that I never tell them why I think they should care about writing (see the previous item on this list); it just means that I also make room for them to generate their own reasons for valuing writing, too.
When we do these three things, our kids are more likely to think, “Wow, this teacher cares about me. She knows what she's talking about when it comes to writing instruction, and she's passionate.” In short, they'll find us credible, and that means that they'll learn more, too.
Note from Dave: The credibility belief is one of five I focus on in my classroom and writing. I've actually built a whole online PD course on these five key beliefs — it's schedule-friendly, and current participants are calling it one of the most valuable PD experiences they've ever had. If you're interested in learning more about the current session, you can learn more here.