When Your Experience Disagrees With Research

The devil is in the details when it comes to applying research findings.

This week I received a newsletter from a researcher I really admire. It was written by someone from her team, and I was excited to read it. But as I dove in, I knew right away that the research-based advice would not work for just anyone.

You see most research, especially with learners, excludes participants who have a known diagnosis of learning disabilities, perhaps with related challenges, like attention, executive function, or anxiety. These are people who do their best work and maintain their motivation with scaffolding, like

  • structure
  • clear expectations
  • strengths-based process praise

 This is not the same thing as making the work easier or doing the work for them.

When learners struggle, no matter their age or context, it is important to provide those three things. It is not about leaving them to create their own structure or praising them with “Great job! I knew you could do it if you tried hard!” It is not about withholding praise every now and then to see if a learner will self-motivate and self-direct their own learning. 

I still admire the researcher, whose suggestions might be perfect for neurotypical learners. 

I also know from experience that it’s not how hard you try that leads to success. It’s how you try hard (including how you think and feel about it) that matters most. 

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About the author

Sherri Fisher, MEd, MAPP, executive coach and learning specialist, uncovers client motivation and focus for perseverance. She has decades of successful experience working with students, parents, and professionals who face learning, attention, and executive function challenges at school, home, and work.

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