Teaching is an Act of Persuasion

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In ‘Why Students Don’t Like School’, cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham says that just as an author has to persuade the reader not to wander off, so a teacher has to persuade students to continue learning.

"Teaching is an act of persuasion"

- Daniel Willingham

When I read this, I remembered many lessons where it took all my powers of persuasion to keep my students attention as we heroically battled a particularly boring coursebook chapter.

I cajoled, encouraged, praised and did all I could to stop their eyelids drooping. Another time, teaching a different class, I failed.

What was the difference? How can you persuade some learners to focus, and not others?

How Do You Persuade Students?

To start with, you need respect. As Willingham says, “If you have students’ respect, they will try to pay attention both to please you and because they trust you..”

Gaining respect can take time, and there are no shortcuts.

The single fastest way to get students to respect you, is to respect them first, and show them that you’re paying attention to them, as individuals.

Another way is to take a connection centred approach, where you focus on the learners’ interests.

How do you persuade your learners to pay attention?