The Happy Secret to Better [Student?] Work

Hello Everyone:

If you have interacted with me at any point you might have found out that I am a fan of TED talks. I recently watched this one on Netflix and think it would be a great post for the EdTech blog. Shawn Achor, Harvard professor, CEO of Good Think Inc (TED bio here), and winner of multiple teaching awards talks about our tendency to study the average instead of exceptional. And that positivity encourages productivity…

What are we missing when attempt to study a population instead of an extraordinary member of that population? His argument harkens to the differences in qualitative and quantitative research, or the difference between the average and the anecdote. Both are necessary to see the full picture.

Achor argues that “positivity” encourages engagement. A big part of other arguments for motivation is demonstrating relevance to students. Hybridizing these two motivational approaches, I would argue that the more positivity tied directly to the activities in class will better engage learners. The activities that are closely tied to service or that are understood within a larger context of skill mastery will better engage learners.

Additional Resources

  •’s summary of Motivation Theories.
  • Dan Pink via RSAnimate and Youtube: “The Surprising Truth about what motivates us
  • Book (thanks Matt Phelps!): “Shop Class as Soul Craft” by Matthew Crawford on Amazon or via Inter-library loan. Crawford discusses employment in a trade (e.g., electrician, carpenter, motorcycle repairman) versus employment in “knowledge work” and the lack of motivation that sometimes ensues when people cannot see the direct results of their work.

Happy teaching with technology!


One Response to The Happy Secret to Better [Student?] Work

  • Adam Klemann says:

    How can we apply what Achor advocates in the classroom? Do we take time at the beginning of class to do the positive thinking exercises he talks about in the talk? Is there a way to leverage co-curricular activities to motivate classroom learning? How do we encourage students to see what they are currently doing as part of a larger educational story?

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