What Small, Tiny Move Can We Leverage to Re-Energize Learning?

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past 19 years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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Many of us entered this holiday break needing a break more than we ever had before. Teachers, parents, students, and administrators have all had their fair share of difficulties with school as it’s been amidst Covid-19.

As we approach the second half of this school year and a fresh calendar year, we must place a restored level of sanity and humanity around learning at the top of our priority list.

The question is whether we can do that with the current state of the world.

I recently read Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg. He proposes that only three things will change behavior in the long term:

Option A: Have an epiphany
Option B: Change your environment
Option C: Take baby steps

It’s interesting to start thinking about how you can take this grand aspiration of sanity and humanity and break it down into a small, tiny habit that can be done with relative ease and makes it feel like it’s something worthy of doing in the first place.

How can we create small moves in service to a big aspiration during this holiday break?

For example, you are desperate for your kids to become more engaged in class conversations, or – as a building principal – you are longing for faculty members to become more engaged in an afternoon Zoom conversation.

How do you begin to make a small, tiny move so that the behavior is more likely to happen?

First, you can start thinking about a prompt.

Prompts are incredibly important; they are clear and actionable.

Next, think about motivation.

There has to be a small, motivating desire pushing us forward. In terms of engaging students or faculty, we know that engagement is something that we all very much crave.

Finally, you must celebrate.

No matter what you choose as your small, tiny move, celebrate the accomplishment when it’s over. The celebration should match the action. If you complete a successful call, maybe you celebrate with yourself in the mirror.

Circling back, we should be asking ourselves: how can we motivate our learner – whether it’s a five-year old, a 15-year old, a 50-year old – to actually want to participate?

I would love for you to come up with your own small, tiny move that could propel us toward engagement and share it below.

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Meghan Raftery
3 years ago

I love this idea of small, tiny moves. I ordered this book to think more deeply about the idea, but my gut instinct is this: ask more questions. I tend to think aloud in conversations, which inhibits my ability to listen deeply. I want to ask more questions, listen in the moment, and suspend my thinking until later, when I have more data with which to make sense of ideas. Specifically, I’d like to talk to more students and parents about their perspective on what can and should change in schools and education.