In the small–decidedly geeky–circle in which I interact, the recent piece on NPR about persuasion has been a big topic of discussion. In the online “print” version of the radio story, writer Shankar Vadantum briefly explains the major techniques that skilled individuals have used for centuries to coax others into doing what they want.
How does this relate to teaching? Well, the obvious answer is that our students need to learn to be persuasive. Bill Ferriter spent an entire chapter of his recent book “Teaching the iGeneration: 5 Easy Ways to Introduce Essential Skills With Web 2.0 Tools” on an activity for students to practice their powers of influence. It seems clear that being able to make your point of view heard and encourage others to agree is a 21st century skill if ever there was one. But, there’s something more here.
As any practicing educator will attest, more than 50% of our time in class is often spent on classroom management. Engagement is the first step in teaching: those who excel at creating inviting lessons spend much less time managing behavior in their teaching spaces. It’s not enough to be a “fun” teacher or allow your students more freedom than other teachers, you need to convince them that learning what you are teaching is exactly what they want to do.
If that’s not persuasion, I don’t know what is.