(203) 453-5067 Laura@HandleEducation.com

The “Secret” of Intrinsic Motivation

What constitutes a rewarding life?  What spurs some people to pursue their interests actively, while others remain passive observers?  Motivation is a crucial factor for achievement in personal and professional pursuits.  Yet, working for some extrinsic reward, whether tangible like money, or intangible, like fame, may not provide a deep sense of fulfillment even after one does achieve the pinnacle of “success.” One need only glance at headlines to realize the hollow success of many cases of celebrity. On the other hand, working at something for the sheer enjoyment is the hallmark of intrinsic motivation:  Intrinsic motivation is defined as performing an action or behavior because you enjoy the activity itself . .  . the inspiration for acting on intrinsic motivation can be found in the action itself. Shouldn’t the goal of education be much more than the recitation of facts for content areas? Wouldn’t helping students find their passion provide them with a pathway to a fulfilling life? To quote Maya Angelou: “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them . . .” The lesson here is that learning for its own sake can be enormously rewarding. It  can perpetuate a sustained desire to become proficient in an an academic subject, a skill, or a talent.  Couldn’t the development of the intrinsic motivation to learn help to decrease the drop-out rate in some of our nation’s communities?  Is it well worth attempting, as the world becomes increasingly dependent on knowledge workers? While research studies point to the importance of intrinsic motivation, few actually provide the “how to.”  Teachers can… Read More »

Amazing Evidence for the Mind/Body Connection

In a past blog, I discussed how use of language affects morality. But the power of language expands far beyond moral issues.  In a lecture series in Great Courses,  Dr. Peter Vishton elaborates on the intricate connections between language and mind/body. He provides research-based proof that an individual’s thoughts manifest themselves even on a person’s physiology. Dr. Vishton states, “Language is a central feature of how our brain makes sense of the world around us . . . so the language we use can greatly affect our thinking.”  He cites research by Dr. Vanessa Patrick regarding the effects of self-talk and motivation. Her research paper, “I Don’t versus I Can’t: When Empowered Refusal Motivates Goal-Directed Behavior,” demonstrated that when a group of dieters were offered a piece of chocolate cake, those who replied, “I don’t eat chocolate cake,” were much more successful at resisting temptation than those who responded, “I can’t eat chocolate cake.” She maintains that the word “don’t” indicates intrinsic motivation, so dieters who had that self-talk were making a choice and, thus, felt empowered. Yet “can’t” indicates asking permission, which is related to extrinsic motivation.Thus, the concept of Think Yourself Thin may appear to have some basis in reality.  Furthermore, she contends that this principle extends beyond dieting. If someone wants to eliminate a bad habit, using self-talk with don’t versus can’t appears to be a more effective strategy. Furthermore, Dr. Vishton discusses another research study that indicated that the language centers of the brain influence calorie expenditure. He cites the work of Dr. Crum of Stanford and Dr. Langer of Harvard, who enlisted hotel housekeepers to test their hypothesis about changing their mindsets regarding how they viewed their work.  The… Read More »

The Effect of Digital Devices on Children’s Brains

A recent article on the Market Watch site features a disturbing headline: “Screens are hooking kids on ‘digital heroin.’”  The article chronicles the case of a young child who became disengaged from his previous physical activities like outdoor play and sports in favor  of his digital device. In fact,  he became so addicted to his iPad’s Minecraft game that he exhibited signs of catatonia.  While that instance provides an extreme situation, research now demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices has a detrimental effect on brain development. “Those iPads, smart phones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex—which controls executive functioning, including impulse control—in exactly the same way that cocaine does.” According to a 2013 Policy Statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 8- to 10 year-olds spend 8 hours a day with various digital media while teenagers spend 11 hours in front of screens. Years ago, I advised parents to “Kill your television” in order to promote creative thinking and physical activity. Now the list of undesirable devices has grown: computers, smart phones, and tablets, to mention a few.  A number of tech designers such as Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos,  and Silicon Valley tech executives and engineers enroll their kids in no-tech Montessori or Waldorf Schools.   Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has a foundation called Vroom that addresses this digital problem. The foundation report found that screen time is no substitute for one-on-one spoken interaction and play that nurtures babies’ language development. Rather than plopping a digital device into a baby’s hands, parents should read to them or engage them in conversation.  Susan Neuman, Professor of Early Childhood and Literacy Education at New York… Read More »

Improving Critical Thinking

How important are critical thinking skills? College professors and business leaders complain that their students and employees lack these skills. Developers of the ACT and the SAT are reacting to these concerns by altering the current  forms of the tests, so that they l emphasize mastery of critical thinking skills. Available samples of the new SAT indicate that the “plug and chug” method of answering multiple choice questions math questions will not be enough to attain a high score. One section of the new format will disallow calculator use.  Instead, students will have to  apply concepts rather than perform simple computation of formulas .Furthermore, both the ACT and the SAT are placing more emphasis on critical thinking for the essays.  Both exams will require students to read texts (some of which are historical documents) and then analyze the writer’s methods of achieving the argument. In addition the other sections of both exams  will include charts and graphs that a student must analyze. But how and where are students learning these skills? One way of helping students to develop critical thinking is through writing. Providing students with opportunities to produce informational writing that analyzes, criticizes, or explains helps them engage in “”meta-cognition” or thinking about thinking. A recent abstract in “Life Sciences Education“ indicates, “As an instructional method, writing has long been perceived as a way to improve critical thinking.”  Students enrolled in a general biology laboratory course who wrote about the experiment outperformed those in the same course who were in the “non-writing” group.  “Results indicated that the writing group significantly improved critical thinking skills whereas the non-writing group did… Read More »

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This training will help to raise test scores for your students, decrease discipline challenges, and improve classroom rapport. You will learn how to meet students where they are and lead them where they need to be, capture attention, and promote deeper learning.