Want Better Outcomes?

Reduce the initial response effort!



I am doing some research asking personal trainers about problems they face with their business. One issue raised is clients not adhering to plans but repeating the same story as to why they aren’t making progress. I decided to experiment on myself with something I find challenging and often explain away with a repetitive story! I looked at two things on my list of miracle cures for tension and mind fog – meditation and yoga. I repeat the same story to myself about why I don’t do either, no classes near me and it’s a lot to learn. So I challenged myself to just investigate both in the comfort of my home. Within a day I saw an offer for a month of free yoga classes locally – talk about the universe conspiring, and I easily found a guided meditation on YouTube. I am now a week into my daily meditation, and my first yoga class was today…


What’s my point and how does this relate to teaching?


The response effort required to achieve an outcome (or behaviour) is not always in proportion to the outcome. It is always easy to dream about it and put it on the wish list and talk about the barriers as to why you’re not doing it with supportive understanding friends (who have their own list!).


Our power lies in tapping into our own and others’ motivation to make it desirable to do the right thing! Motivation, however, comes and goes so reducing the response effort involved can make all the difference. There are macro and micro levels of setting ourselves up for success – for example living in an area

near parks or gyms increases the likelihood that we can go walking or exercise in pleasant places with minimal effort.


Some other macro examples include;

  • Location – city, urban location, socio economic group

  • Employment

Micro examples can help when you have little immediate ability to change the macro factors. Find the smaller achievable changes that have maximum effect on reducing response effort and increasing the likelihood of behaviour change.

  • Friends we hang out with

  • Clothes we choose to wear

  • Food we choose to eat

  • Exercises and activities we choose to do

So in our classrooms how can we set our students up for success by considering response effort?


Macro and micro factors;

  • Our school location

  • Demographics – our children and parents, their capacity for change or input or whatever we need/require from them

  • State of being – what are they doing in that moment

  • Resources – have them ready to go – no prep needed

  • Classroom environment – set it up to help you achieve the outcome

  • Defined outcomes – actual outcomes versus hidden or implied outcomes, unstated or emphasised without us realising – example write a great exciting story becomes write a great exciting story that has few spelling errors with neat handwriting and paragraphs and is finished!


“Find smaller achievable changes that have maximum effect on reducing response effort and increasing the likelihood of behaviour change.”

Here are 3 activities that frequently cause concern, and where problem behaviours may arise.



The chart reminds us as teachers to;

  • Focus on a simple, defined outcome that is measurable

  • Avoid asking for multiple behaviours and thereby increasing response effort

  • Reflect on our assessment of capacity

Note - maybe they should do it anyway, but if they aren’t we can’t make them! Instead let’s reflect on our own response effort involved in creating a great lesson plan!


Final thought - Challenge yourself to take up something you find difficult to do. Look at your excuses and decrease the effort required to do the right

thing! It’s not about being lazy – it’s about understanding some basic behavioural principles, and how to apply them for better outcomes – all creating

behavioural momentum…a topic for another article!

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