If people do not learn then the organization within which they operate cannot evolve. This is true for large organizations with global reach such as the United Nations, and the same is true for a family unit: and every kind of organization in between. It also true of an individual: if a person does not learn they do not evolve.
Most of us are naturally curious and want to learn. However, if we can see an obvious and immediate benefit of learning then we will be even keener to learn. We know this because teens happily study for a driver’s license since that is what it takes to learn how to drive a car; and because they intuitively know that driving means more independence and adventure, and that way lies happiness. Conversely if we cannot see the benefit of learning it becomes a chore.
The pleasure-pain principle is universal. We all respond to stimuli that are pleasurable and avoid stimuli that are painful. “The instinctual seeking of pleasure and avoiding of pain satisfies biological and psychological needs.” Freud.
Since these instincts are programmed into our behaviors it would seem counter-productive to make anything that we actually want to encourage people to do painful. For example – LEARNING. It would be much better for our society if our students saw learning as a psychologically pleasurable, experience not a painful one.
We don’t do that, however. We don’t make learning pleasurable. We make it a painful chore. The evidence for this conclusion is that the majority of teachers and high school students are essentially turned off. Here is my hypothesis: Promises of rewards largely stop working in high school. After middle school student participation and psychological investment in learning plummets to FORTY FOUR PER CENT. That’s over five and half million students for whom high school is largely irrelevant.
THE OBVIOUS QUESTION IS THIS – HOW CAN WE MAKE LEARNING MORE PLEASURABLE?
THE ONLY POSSIBLE ANSWER IS THIS – THROUGH PERSUASION!
- Ordering someone to do something carries the implicit threat – OR ELSE!
- Persuading someone to do something has to contain a different and more humane message – REWARD!
- What to do when persuading someone through rewards (bribery) stops working, but when we know that rewards work?
- Reward them through persuasion.
How to Persuade Students
Robert Cialdini, psychology professor at Arizona State University, suggests we turn for ideas to Pascal and Socrates. “Pascal argued people are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.” And Socrates pioneered this approach. He was famous for persuading others to come into line with his thinking by simply asking them questions. It was those answers that created significant change because they came from inside his audience, not from Socrates himself.” Conclusion: get students to discover their own reasons for learning in a group of their peers.
The messenger matters also. “A messenger who is a third party is not as effective as one who shares common values and perspective,” says Professor Bradley Love of UCL. Conclusion: students will listen to other students rather than third parties.
So, to make learning more pleasurable it is important that learners discover the value of what they are doing by mutual inquiry among their peers.
This is an enormous opportunity to have millions of students make up their own mind about why they should study.
A CALL TO ACTION.
There is one thing teachers can do. BEFORE telling students to open their “textbooks,” organize them into self-directed teams and ask them to analyze through questioning why what they are doing is valuable to them.
If you teach algebra or history, ask your students to decide for themselves why algebra or history is important; that way they buy-in to the need for them to learn algebra or history. The same goes for any subject.
THE TEN-STEP TEREGO METHOD© FOR DISCOVERING AN AGREED POINT-OF-VIEW USING CRITICAL THINKING IN SELF-DIRECTED TEAMS.
Invest 7 minutes watching this narrated video of an actual session on the subject of “Why Thinking Is Important?”