I frequently hear politicians or senior bureaucrats saying that their Departments are “working hard” on a particular issue. It used to be when writing student reports a common phrase would be “needs to work harder”, however, I am not sure that many students know what this means. (Nice safe phrase to use… a bit like saying “we need to communicate better”)
Intuitively we can understand and see when a student plays hard, or works hard doing manual labour, but I am not so sure when it comes to academic work. And when we bandy phrases such as “work smarter”, “work efficiently”, “work effectively” into the mix we probably confuse them even more. Working efficiently is actually part of the assessment criteria for some assessments.
I think I will ask students what they think “working hard” means when their parents or teachers tell them to “work harder”. The answers, or lack of, could be revealing.