Teachers can spend a lot of time coaxing and cajoling in order to get some students working. They need gentle persuasion. Then there are those that need almost force-feeding to get anything done.
Persuading isn’t easy but one way to do it is flip. I don’t mean lose it and go mad but flip the script and do the unexpected.
According to Kevin Dutton and author of Flipnosis: The Art of Split-Second Persuasion, certain behaviours will disable the brain’s cognitive security system. Basically the brain does a double-take that leaves it open to suggestion. For a split-second after something unexpected happens, cognitive function is disabled which gives us the chance to plant a suggestion. Flipnosis is black-belt mind control.
Dutton identifies 5 principles related to persuasion using the acronym SPICE:
1. Simplicity: simple messages tend to be more persuasive.
2. Perceived interest: recipients of a message subconsciously ask themselves ‘What’s in it for me?’
3. Incongruity: surprise means people notice the message and noticing is a precondition for persuasion.
4. Confidence: confidence convinces.
5. Empathy: you are more likely to persuade others if you are seen to be (or to have been) in the same boat.
It is the incongruous that we can play on in the classroom by doing the unexpected and introducing something that will jar learners and get their attention. For example, rather than tell everyone how to pass their exams give them tips on how to fail them. This will wake them up.
Whatever you are teaching needs to be tweaked so that it doesn’t follow the mindless bullet-points of Teacher Guides. Add an unexpected element, add a shock, add a bit of difference and then, as LouAnne Johnson (2013) says, “grab your students by their brains”.
Incongruity works because it is the psychological equivalent of a magician’s misdirection of the audience’s attention. Plan counter-intuitive approaches into your lesson plans and deliberately ambush expectations and take your learners emotions hostage.
Teachers need to be expert flipnotists and always have them guessing. Jedi mind tricks and the element of surprise is our greatest weapon.