How can you boost interest and engagement among learners?

Conventional wisdom says you should show them how the material is important and relevant to their careers. But research suggests this approach could hurt more than it helps.

In a recent study, uninterested learners who didn’t like math actually performed worse when their instructor told them how important math is. In another study, by contrast, nobody tried to “sell” the subjects – researchers simply asked learners to write about what they were learning and its relevance to their lives. The exercise boosted every learner’s interest, especially those who previously said they weren’t interested in the subject matter.

Takeaway: Don’t tell learners why a new concept is important. Ask them why it’s important. Ask them to reflect on how a new skill is relevant and beneficial.

Durik, A. M., et al. (2007). Different strokes for different folks: How individual interest moderates the effects of situational factors on task interest. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(3), 597-610.

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