After making progress on the habits and skills that are relatively easy for the client to adopt, like using MyHomework App to track assignments or seamlessly maintaining a routine with binders, notebooks, and folders so handouts are not misplaced, clients find that it’s now time for the hard work and real motivation is needed if effective progress is to made in adopting new learning strategies and new metacognitive skills.

What starts to happen, as clients successfully remove the larger, more visible, challenges of general organization issues that manifest in incomplete HW, missing assignments, messy book bag, late nights, stressful last minute overload, is they start to uncover some underlying gaps in learning, gaps in study habits, and gaps in metacognitive skills. It’s at this point that the hard work begins.

One cases that I reflect on

Chris is a Sophomore and failed most of Freshman year. An EEC coach was brought in during his 4th quarter of Freshman year and Chris quickly found success. His grades improved, his relationship with his parents improved, and his confidence improved. However, he started to plateau in his progress as the EEC sessions started to get harder. Outcomes from these EEC sessions began targeting underlying needs regarding active study habits, in tracking long term assignments, and knowing when extra help is needed and when it’s not needed. It became apparent that Chris struggles with homework, that is not something that needs to be passed in, but is required for the next class or a future class. Every week he required to read 3 chapters in a book, called Siddhartha. No one will deny that this is a challenging book for any student to read, but what Chris learned during the session, even after defending his position that he was ‘doing the HW and reading the chapters for the first time, ever’, was the difference between between his perception of reading and the actual purpose of reading. You see, Chris would read the chapters and then fail weekly quizzes. The good news is that he is frustrated about this, which not only shows he cares out his grade, but he actually feels that his efforts to read should be paying off.

What Chris did not realize on his own is that he was not actually reading the book. When asked what percentage of the text he actually understood, be said somewhere between 20 – 30 percent. And he is after already reading half the book. After asking to see the quizzes and digger deeper into his metacognitive process of reading, it became clear that Chris would read page after page without really understanding what’s going on. Chris did not see this as an issue, and this is common to many students with EFD. After realizing that Chris is not grasping the purpose of reading and is not using critical active reading skills and strategies, he was engaged in a series of questions.

1. What does reading mean to you?
2. How that you know, based on your quiz grades, that your approach to reading this book is not work, what are some strategies that you can use to overcome this?
3. What type of time commitment is needed in order to change your approach and practice these new habits?

As an outcome to these questions, Chris learned that if he is not understanding what he is reading then he is actually not reading as all and needs to stop. Since we read for understanding, students with EFD needs to approach reading with the realization that understanding is critical and fundamental in reading. He could not deny that he was not reading the book, since his quiz grades clearly reflected his understanding. We also discussed and made a list of active reading strategies that he could start to use in order to effectively read this book.

  • Why would note-taking help and what would this look like as you read?
  • How can using web-based resources help and what type of resources do you look for?
  • How is time management important to overcoming this challenge and what kind of time management is needed in order to manage this new way of reading?

Now let’s back up and consider that the sessions could never get to this level of understanding without removing some of the larger obstacles that prevented Chris from getting homework done in the first place. However, how the hard work begins and student, like Chris, not only struggle with these skills but struggle with the required motivation in order to consistently adopt these new strategies as new habits in their student behavior.  This is hard challenge to overcome because it no longer is an immediate solution or quick fix, it takes time, practice, and patiences. This requires planning and the constant checking for understanding, which are both deficits in executive function.

This gets to the most important work we do at EEC and that’s the use of motivation theory in supporting any student’s progress and effort in overcoming hard work and difficult learning challenges.

See my blog on this —– Motivation Theory and EFD

The South Shore’s leading expert in ADHD coaching and consulting services for students and adults.