Tuesday, 3 August 2010

I'm Listening... Creating a Rapport

There is yet another great article on Moodle News (if you haven't signed up for their tweets/feeds/emails then you really must). This is a recap of Dr Richard Clark's Texas MoodleMoot keynote speech "Failure of Constructivism", here.

I found the issues raised by Dr Clark absolutely fascinating. Two items caught my eye. Take a look at the list of 11 tips for increasing the effectiveness of online learning. Item 10, "human voice is always better than mechanical narration" is one. But the statement I've been reflecting on is:

adjusting instruction for different learning styles does not increase learning (accommodation = fail)

Tomaz Lasic has just today asked this question on Twitter:

If there were a 'scientifically proven' best way to teach but clashed with your style/values, would you change? Why (not)?

To which I answered that it basically depends on my audience. I'll change my manner of teaching depending on the rapport I have with the class. What do I mean by that? I'll try and explain...

I was involved in some sales training when I was younger and I found it interesting that salespeople (at least those in the UK) tend to have a standard approach when meeting new clients. Here are the standard steps:

  • Full-on stare your new client in the face and say "Pleased to meet you I'm XXXX [complete as appropriate]"

  • Quickly follow up wide-eyed stare with (usually over-) firm handshake

  • Thrust business card over to client

  • Immediately proceed with demonstration of product (either virtual - read "PowerPoint" - or actual)

It's not particularly slick and it rarely works. So how should you do it?

As any successful salesman will tell you, the very first step is engage your potential client in an interaction, usually a conversation. If it's a conversation you've started then you can then look for the predicates in the sentences they use - specifically looking out for visual, auditory or kinethesthetic (emotive/emotional) representations. Don't worry: this isn't Neural Linguistic Programming, but the deep underlying principle is roughly the same (based on work by Chomsky, Jung et al.). Let's see how this might work in practise.

Imagine the following interaction:

Pupil: Sir, I was listening to what you were saying earlier but I didn't really understand what you meant about denominators. What do you have to do with them?

Teacher: Have a look at the board. Can you see how I've multiplied them together?

Pupil: Erm... not really. I couldn't quite hear at the time so I didn't know what you meant.

Teacher: Look at the numbers on the bottom. Can you see that you need to multiply them?

Pupil: No. It doesn't matter. I'll have another go. Thanks anyway.

The pupil feels let down by the teacher because they don't feel like they've been understood. The teacher is left feeling frustrated that they didn't get their point across. What went wrong in this interaction?

If we were a salesperson then we'd be thinking about the language the pupil and teacher used. Have you noticed that they are, at this moment, using completely different representations - the pupil is hearing what the teacher is saying, the teacher is looking towards what's represented on the board. Personal chemistry between the pupil and teacher aside, there is very little "linguistic rapport" in the language the teacher and pupil are using to interact with each other. If the teacher had used auditory words rather than visual ones would the teacher have been better able to put their point across?

It seems to work for me but I'm not sure how you'd test such a pragmatic approach scientifically.

The best salespeople will sell you something you didn't know you wanted at a time you don't need it.

To my mind that very much applies to being a teacher.

So... have you been paying attention at the back? Here's a test:

What kind of language have I used in this short piece? Is it visual, auditory or emotive? What would be the best way of attempting to sell me your idea? As ever: I'm interested to know what you think. I'll post a followup on this later in the day.

1 comment:

  1. I promised I'd post a follow up on this regarding the kind of language I'd used in the piece...

    In fact once I'd read the article I made sure there was a mix of auditory and visual representations, but I tried to emphasise the visual...

    "Two items caught my eye."
    "... look for the predicates..."
    "... specifically looking out for visual..."
    "Let's see how this might work..."

    See what I mean :) ?