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Edclicking

By Dr. Harry Tennant

Edclicking

by Harry Tennant
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Entries from September 2011
Posts 1 - 8 of 8

Friday, September 30, 2011

Stimulating student enthusiasm

Continuing the discussion of a couple of days ago of The Progress Principle, since progress is so important for motivation, how can it be stimulated? The research described in The Progress Principle was conducted in work environments, not in schools, but the conclusions seem reasonable.

The researchers found that the following events acted as the seven major catalysts to recognizing progress and thus being motivated by it.

  1. Setting clear goals.
  2. Allowing autonomy.
  3. Providing resources.
  4. Giving enough time...but not too much.
  5. Help with the work.
  6. Learning from problems and successes.
  7. Allowing ideas to flow.

These seem mostly self-explanatory. Help with the work is about collaboration. It works in business and we know it works for students too. Learning from problems and successes is about accepting problems and failures as the pathway to success. Allowing ideas to flow is about engaging in discussion and debate about the project at hand.

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Keywords: progress

 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Student enthusiasm

I subscribe to the belief that student enthusiasm for learning is as important as learning the prescribed curriculum. Why? Learning can't stop at graduation. The world changes too quickly. Learning must be lifelong, which means that the enthusiasm for learning must be lifelong.

Can we teach enthusiasm for learning? Probably not directly. But here's the good news: everyone starts life with an inate enthusiasm for learning. It's easiest to see in little kids. They're fascinated by learning. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm for learning is worn down in many students after years of schooling. How ironic, and what a shame!

What can be done about enthusiasm for learning?

One approach is to try to mask learning as games or other fun activities. That can help as long as the learning stays paramount and doesn't become overwhelmed by the game.

Learning is often hard work. It often is not entertaining. The ideal is for that hard work to be enjoyable. But is that possible?

Yes. Hard work in which we are fully engaged, called flow, is intrinsically motivating. We like doing it. So, how do we get to that point where students are engaged and intrinsically motivated by learning the prescribed curriculum?

In business, the most common motivation is extrinsic: carrots and sticks. Give rewards for desired performance and threaten consequences for undesired performance. It works to a certain extent. It works well enough to have been the basis for motivating workers for at least thousands of years.

A new book, The Progress Principle, is based on extensive research in the motivation of workers. The findings are that the strongest motivator for work is making progress on meaningful tasks. It's not the carrots and sticks. It's people feeling good about what they spend a lot of the time of their lives doing.

This translates to enthusiasm for learning. First, it's important to make schoolwork meaningful. Let students know how the curriculum fits into a desireable image of their futures. Take the time for field trips or classroom visitors who can relate lessons to life. Second, emphasize that progress is being made. Rather than just attending class day after day, make it clear to students how they are improving, how their knowledge and skills are growing.

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Keywords: progress

 

Friday, September 23, 2011

The magic of progress

Doesn't it feel great to make some progress?

Our business had a particularly good week this week. Great progress in sales. Great progress on development projects. Solved some knotty problems for customers. It feels good.

Most management books talk about work and motivating employees in terms of the rewards that come from work. They assume that people work for the money. But that is as shortsighted as assuming that students work for the grades.

We spend a large portion of our lives working. It feels great when we see the result as meaningful and when we see that we're making progress. The same applies to students. Kids love to learn. It can be seen most clearly in the youngest children, before they've been confused by seeing learning as a way to get attention and praise.

How can we foster the joy of learning? One way is to make progress visible.

  • Use run charts to show knowledge growth.
  • Use charts to show the reduction of errors.
  • Use checklists to show plans and accomplishments.
  • Use reviews to not only reinforce learning but to remind students of all they have learned.
  • Use and review pre- and post-tests to show students how they've transformed themselves.
  • Celebrate progress, milestones and overcoming barriers.
  • Discuss progress with students to make them aware of their improvement.

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Keywords: progress

 

Monday, September 19, 2011

How did that work out?

We make plans and decisions all day long but tend not to pay much attention to how they work out. If we don't get feedback, how are we supposed to learn?

A simple feedback plan

Here's a simple plan for feedback on decisions and plans.

  • When starting something new, write down a short description of how you think it will turn out. What do you expect to see by when?
  • Save it.
  • Mark your calendar for critical times in the future to compare expectations with reality.
  • Consider what might have been done better.

Most improvement plans talk about charting some parameter over time. For example, you might chart your weight daily or weekly to see if your weightloss plan is meeting your goal. But a lot of the things we do are one-time events without handy parameters to chart. For example, today I decided that we will attend a trade show in Little Rock. So I wrote down my expectations: how many customer contacts we'll collect, how many product demos we'll get from those and how many sales we'll get. I scheduled reviews of the expectations for our first staff meeting after the conference and another for two months out by which time sales decisions will probably be made.

Students learn from feedback

If we are the students of the effectiveness of our own processes, we must devise our own feedback and keep learning.

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Keywords: continuous improvement

 

Friday, September 16, 2011

What have you improved this week?

Have you made any lasting improvements this week? Have you changed some lesson plans that you'll be reusing? Have you come up with a slightly better filing system or a new approach to keeping your desk organized? Have you figured out a new approach to dealing with a behavior problem in class and written it down in your change journal so you don't forget it?

What performance parameters do your currently track? If none, are you really expecting to improve? If you are tracking some, are you experimenting with better ways of doing things to improve those parameters?

Compare this week to the comparable week last year. In what ways are you doing things differently? Doing things better?

Students don't learn without paying attention to what they need to learn. Mental focus and mental effort is required. In exactly the same way, we don't improve our own performance if we don't pay attention to improvement. We are the students of our own processes. The practices of continuous improvement are our learning activities. Focus. Priorities. Feedback. Experimentation. Analysis. Processes. Reflection.

If you realize you haven't improved anything this week, when do you expect improvement to start? When you're not so busy? Guess what: that day never comes. Start now.

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Keywords: continuous improvement

 

Monday, September 12, 2011

What's important?

I advocate that educators must make continuous improvement as high priority as teaching itself.

What the heck do I mean by that?

First, what I do not mean. I do not mean that teachers should spend as much time on continuous improvement as on teaching and preparing to teach. Teaching obviously requires far more time.

By priority, I mean that the tasks and processes of continuous improvement should not be allowed to be ignored from day to day. Would a teacher consider not teaching one day just because he's busy or doesn't feel like it? No. The kids are there, the lessons will be taught. It's going to happen. It's a priority.

The same applies to continuous improvement. Many times we think that we can let our continuous improvement habits slide because we're busy or we don't feel like it. That must not be the case. Make your continuous improvement practices things you will do every day, no matter what. They may take only five minutes to do, but cumulatively, they are likely to have a greater effect on your students and your career than any other five minutes of the day.

Make continuous improvement as high priority as teaching itself.

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Keywords: continuous improvement

 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Can you can change anything?

The book Change Anything: The new science of personal success by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler brings together ideas and prescriptions for change. The premise is that expecting to change yourself in significant ways based on will power alone is likely to fail. Successful change is not a matter of will power but is based on a collection of skills. And the good news is, the skills can be developed.

Six sources of influence and what to do about them

Motivation Ability
Individual

Connect with goals at crucial moments

Visit your default future if you don't change

Motivate yourself with vivid stories

Link desired behaviors to your values

Make it a game

Create a personal motivation statement

Change involves learning new skills

Start with a skill scan

Employ deliberate practice

Will is a skill, not a character trait...develop it through deliberate practice

Social

Turn accomplices of your bad habits into friends helping you change

Know who perpetuates your bad habits (accomplices) and who helps you change (friends)

Redefine "normal"

Get a coach

Hold a transformation conversation to turn an accomplice into a coach or fan

Add new friends

Distance yourself from the unwilling

Structural

Link short-term rewards and punishments to the new habits you're trying to form

Use carrots and the threat of losing carrots

Use incentives in moderation

Reward small wins

Change your environment to help you focus on goals

Build fences: things you will not do, places you will not go

Keep good things close and convenient and bad things distant and difficult

Use visual cues

Make desired behavior the default behavior

Use tools such as computers, calendars, your phone, a change log and others to keep your goals in mind

 
"Those who marshal the six sources of influence are  ten times more likely to succeed than those who don't."
 
Turn bad days into good data
I like their approach of viewing yourself as a subject of study rather than as someone who shall be judged based on behavior. We all stumble along the way. The point is to learn from the mistakes and move on. That's how you change a bad day into good data.
 
You may look at this table and think, I know all that stuff. Nothing new here. But here's the point: knowing it doesn't help much. They key is to develop and apply the skills. There are lots of forces in our lives enticing us to our undesirable behaviors. It takes serious effort to counteract those and make change happen. The more of these skills that support change you can bring to bear simultaneously, the greater the likelihood of successful change.

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Keywords: change

 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Be the change

Gandhi said,

You must be the change you want to see in the world.

So, I keep talking about continuous improvement. It's only fair that I improve something. So here it is:

I will lose 20 pounds in 20 weeks by losing a pound a week. I am giving a friend $200. If I am above my goal weight for that week, he is to immediately donate $10 to a Presidential candidate that I intensely dislike. Otherwise, he gives $10 back to me.

Here's what I like about this plan for improvement.

  • It's important. I will be better off losing the weight.
  • It's challenging. I don't lose weight easily.
  • It's doable. We're not talking Biggest Loser weightloss here. Twenty pounds in twenty weeks requires no miracles, just perseverence.
  • It's measurable. Easy to verify success.
  • It has a deadline.
  • It proceeds in small increments, week by week. If I just said 20 pounds in 20 weeks, see you in five months, there's little chance I'd be successful.
  • It leverages loss aversion. We tend to feel worse losing something than gaining an equal amount. So instead of gaining $10/week, I will prevent losing $10.
  • It leverages a very unpleasant outcome. Losing ten bucks is one thing, but going to that duffus? Unthinkable!
  • It leverages the support of others. I set up the arrangement with a group I eat lunch with once a week. Most of them also dislike that candidate, so they'll all be on my side for the weekly weigh-ins.
  • It's fun. In general, I don't think denying myself desserts is fun, but this twist has added some fun to the enterprise.
  • It will last long enough to build new habits. The real goal isn't to lose 20 pounds but to be at least 20 pounds lighter from then on. Building better habits is the real goal.

Do you see any similarities to continuous improvement in education? I'll keep you posted on my progress.

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Keywords: continuous improvement, weightloss

  Posts 1 - 8 of 8
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