David Perkins’ book, Making Learning Whole: How seven principles of teaching can transform education, looks at the education system in the United States as being wholly un-holistic and offers seven principles that focus on looking at the big picture when educating. As opposed to only offering on the specifics of a subject (say, writing a topic sentence for a paragraph), Perkins claims that offering the big picture early on helps learners get excited to learn because it gives context. Instead of focusing on forming a topic sentence, give the students a choice of what to write about and focus on the content they provide; the topic sentence will come from contextualized information the learner cares about, thus making stronger connections with learner’s prior knowledge. This week, I’ll look at Perkins’ idea of “The Game”, see where emotion fits in to all of this, as well as why practicing with “The Hard Parts” is so important.
Perkins (2009) second principle of ‘Learning by Wholes’ is to make the game worth playing (pp. 8-9). Intrinsic motivators are key to student achievement; extrinsic motivators can even be shown to negatively impact achievement (Perkins, 2009 p. 55). In order to make the game worth playing, the educator should find some way to foster intrinsic motivation within the student. Demetriou and Wison (n.d.) state that researchers have linked student motivation to affect, which includes emotion, and have found that by being student-directed with less on an emphasis on the subject as apposed to the student, “teachers felt that they were able to communicate more effectively with their students and thereby disseminate the subject knowledge more successfully” (p. 3). Emotions can even determine the way we remember events, having a direct effect on the way learners construct new knowledge (Pessoa, 2009). This documentary looks at how a 4th-grade teacher in Japan makes the game worth playing by contextualizing all of the subject matter in a way that teaches the children about life, overarching themes/concepts and being happy.
How I play/ed “The Game”…
As a child in an academic setting, I was motivated more by external stimuli such as grades and rewards. During informal learning, I was motivated more internally, as a drive for knowledge. Now, as an adult, I have internal stimuli figuring more into my academic setting; Malcolm Knowles’ atheoretical model of andragogy affirms that “the most potent motivators are internal pressures” such as self-esteem (p. 91). This corresponds to Houde’s (2006) description of self-determination theory in that the former “asserts that intrinsic motivations are more effective motivators for all humans, including children” (p. 91). This would explain why I can more easily recall information I learned about in an informal setting than a formal setting: internal motivators seem to be the strongest. Memory has been shown to be influenced by emotion, perhaps my emotions toward my informal learning subjects as a child allow me to have better recall as an adult (Pessoa, 2009).
Within my own educational setting in Thailand, both at the university and secondary levels, I see external/extrinsic motivations of grades as a leading motivator for most students, but for a minority I would say internal/intrinsic motivation is more of a factor. There are some students in each class that are consistently engaged in the lessons, turn in original work on time and ask questions inside and outside of the classroom; I would classify these students as intrinsically motivated. The majority of students classified as extrinsically motivated would be those who do not pay attention during lessons/non-engaged, turn in copied homework on-time or late and do not ask questions. The fact that students cannot fail a class (Thai teachers generally do not fail students and foreigners cannot) may have an impact on motivation in my educational setting.
Demetriou, H. & Wilson, E. (n.d.). A return to the use of emotion and reflection. Psychologist. British Psychological Socity.
Houde, J. (2006). Andragogy and motivation: An examination of the principles of andragogy through two motivation theories. North Carolina State University.
Pessoa, L. (2009). Cognition and emotion. Scholarpedia, 4(1): 4567.
Perkins, D. N. (2009). Making learning whole: How seven principles of teaching can transform education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.