Motivating the Elephant: Persistence in Education

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Motivating the Elephant: Persistence in Education

Imagine your emotions as a elephant and your inner voice of logic and reason as the rider and guide of that elephant. How is your job made easier or harder depending on that elephant’s current state of mind; whether it is playful, bored, frustrated, engaged, angry, or distracted?

Teaching, according to Dave Small, often neglects the elephant. But this shouldn’t be the case because the motivation of the elephant is a great predictor of persistence in learning.

Learners are not just motivated by factors that can lead to a specific measure of success, but also are motivated by what appeals or drives other aspects of their personalities, and have a finite amount of energy to persist through experiences that do not align with their motivations.  As learning designers, we need to find ways to tap into what motivates the elephant as well, to keep the elephant engaged. All too often, our rider gets tired, and then it’s party time for the elephant.

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