Helping Students Overcome Work Inhibition

It is important for work-inhibited students to participate in any plan to change and any plan must include supportive help through frequent conferences that focus on successes. See information on motivation and maladaptive behavior of inadequacy.

Ask students how they feel they have been progressing.

However, be prepared for them to say they don't know, dwell on mistakes, or want you to tell them how you think they are doing. Concentrate on the positive as much as possible:

"Chris, from what I have seen this past week. I think you understand what you've been reading and know the vocabulary pretty well. Your work in math shows that you are pretty good with math reasoning and you understand when to use the different operations. In class your participation is usually pretty good and you have been treating your fellow students well."

Encouragement should support students to develop their own strategies to improve their own efforts. This can be done by asking students what assistance may have been beneficial in the past and if they have suggestions for what might help. This doesn't mean you can't offer suggests. When you do try to include as many options as is reasonable for the development of the student. Be sure to include a discussion of the consequences and let the student know they will be the one who will have to make the decision.

"You have been trying to do better in school. What have you found that helps you? ... Appropriate wait-time ... What can I do to help you to continue to improve?"

Support is both positive and includes high expectations.

Support focuses on success. Focus on what is done. The words, paragraphs, or pages written and the problems completed or progress made toward a solution.

Some people believe that an intervention with work-inhibited students should include recording what they have completed and rewarding their efforts to do work. Others believe that rewarding is counter productive by sending a message that you do not expect the student to be able to complete the assignments without being bribed.

A common concern is: Is it fair to have students do different amounts of work? Will other students write paragraph after paragraph and turn in all of their work, while a particular student completes very little and gets extra attention for doing a limited amount? A competent student is not likely to be discouraged because the teacher gives more help to those who need it and historically good students have not stopped their learning, because other students have stopped. Students who put forth a lot of effort grow in their own knowledge, skills, self-confidence, and ability to persist. They are rewarded and encouraged to continue their efforts when they see value in what they are doing.

Work-inhibited students are igenerally fearful of putting forth effort for fear of risking making mistakes. They need private personal encouragement to begin work, to give effort, and persist. When they are successful they will see value in what they are doing and more importantly believe in their self-efficacy.

Support is incremental and takes one day at a time.

Support is for taking baby steps, focusing on successes, breaking assignments into smaller pieces, giving assignments that can be completed and encouraged every step of the way to success.

Most work-inhibited students work with help as it reduces the likelihood of failure or if there is failure, they are not alone. Therefore, cooperative learning can be used if there is a plan for individual accountability and a long term goal of independence.

Good cooperative learning models work to educate students on how to help each other to be successful as a group and independently.

Cooperative strategies

Procedures for successful interventions:

Ideas to assist the development of responsibility:

Practices to Avoid:

Always Try To Strengthen Family Relationships.

Set limits.

Remember the goal is autonomy and independence.

Encourage children to play games and learn for the child's own satisfaction.


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes