Consequences of Thinking, Fast and Slow on Teaching

Here’s another post in the series of how the book Thinking, Fast and Slow has made an impact on me. This time, I’d like to concentrate on the consequences I see for teaching classes. For starters, I’m glad to see that the book compliments the things I learned from Sharon Bowman’s Training from the Back of the Room, as well as from Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick.

One thing not addressed in either of those books- don’t give things away to get people to come to class. It cheapens the expected value. Kahneman relates an experiment that people put a higher value on a set of items than the same set, with some additional pieces of lower quality. More pieces that include the original set should be worth more, right? Wrong. Therefore, I believe it’s better to have a class that focuses on what the participants need, and not offer a sales incentive like a free iPad or book.

Beware Happy People by Michael Coghlan

Beware Happy People by Michael Coghlan

I’ve been starting classes with an activity, before going to introductions and logistics. I find that works well, as long as I let people know that this class is different, I’ll cover the introductions later and we’re going to jump right in. While I believe this is the right approach to anchor people to how the class will go, I need to ensure that it’s a fun activity with a happy outcome. I want to show people that collaborative work, and work in general, is meant to be fun and it’s necessary to be happy at your job. Besides the activity, I prime the room and the participants to put people in the right learning mood by making the agenda our progress visible.

I learned from the book to add in a few subtle things. It really struck home with one of the experiments described in the book. Subjects were asked to photocopy something. Sometimes, a dime was left on the machine. The subjects would then report feeling lucky, and happy. Such a trivial amount of money to influence emotion! There were a couple of other examples, but this is the one I think about. I’m not sure what could be subtle yet influencing. Perhaps a picture on the lid of my laptop of people having fun? What would you suggest?

I’ll admit that sometimes I get behind and it’s a rush to the end. Kind of just. Stops. I’m going to make sure to end on a high note, even if it means cutting some things out in the middle. Perhaps I can tie it back in to the opening activity and whatever it is, it should be incredibly enjoyable as well. I think this can reinforce the “work is fun” notion as well as ensure people enjoy the learning, too.

Are you a teacher? What helps the participants enjoy your lessons? Have you recently taken a class? What made it enjoyable for you? Do you agree with the above sentiments? Please leave your comments and let me know!

Aaron is an Agile coach, snowboard enthusiast and probably drinks more coffee than he should. You can follow him on twitter @_aaron_sanders.

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