Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Selling School?

For decades, marketers have been developing and perfecting methods to convince us to buy things that we don't actually need an often didn't even want until we were told we did.  In the article we read this week it was proposed that perhaps we could take some of the lessons learned from the marketing gurus and apply them to education.  If only we could convince our students that they want to study, the hard work required for success is actually fun and that the academics wing is where all the cool kids hang out.  The problem is that many of the techniques employed by the marketers are precisely what we work hard to help our kids combat.  Many of the marketing techniques employ variations on pride, gluttony, envy, greed, and laziness (convenience) not to mention fear and shame and lust.

Even assuming that we could come up with new, less psychologically damaging marketing techniques, it does seem a little like tricking our students into learning.  Isn't learning something that we want to be inherent?  Don't we want our students to see the joy of learning and to recognize that feeling of ownership when they have mastered a new skill or concept?  I think we would all agree that this is exactly what we want but we are faced with the reality that the students that we are teaching are living in a world where they are bombarded with constant media messages that shape their lives and the way they think and feel about pretty much everything.  Education obviously needs to be reshaped.  We are living in a 21st century world and are using a largely unchanged 19th century model of education.

In the past, with the hard core 19th century model of education, there was little concern as to whether a student was intrinsically motivated to learn or not.  In fact, the model was based on an extrinsic motivation.  If the student was interested in the subject matter, that would be fine but is largely inconsequential to the process.  Today we are very (perhaps too much) concerned with the motivation of the students and work to ensure that the interest of the subject matter is such that it inspires the student to want to learn. 

I don't think the answer is in using skills from marketing to convince students to want to learn.  I think we are inherent learners.  What is needed is a new pedagogy which taps into the students inherent desire to learn to work with them to channel this desire into various subject areas.

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