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This blog is where we announce new videos & talk about the power of explanation & the change it can create.
1. ‘Know what the students know’ when planning your explanation: All great teachers have an excellent knowledge of their students. This knowledge is paramount in pitching the explanation just right. Vygotsky’s ‘zone of proximal development’ is key here – the explanation should be matched to the audience: not too complex as to be unintelligible to the students, but not too simple or unchallenging so as to bore the students and prove uninteresting. By knowing your students you can adapt your language to draw upon their prior knowledge before activating links to the new knowledge that you wish them to learn.
3. Make explanations simple, but not simpler. [...] Convey a core message: Effective explanations therefore do need to have the power of compressed language. A good proverb, like “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones” has an enduring power. It generates ideas, sparks connections and combines both easily digestible language and memorable imagery. [...] I would argue that most extended explanations can be compressed into such a memorable statement – what acts as the core message of our explanation.4. Engage their hearts and minds: [...] As most charity advertisements will attest, individual stories that spark empathy and interest prove much more memorable than mass scale problems or abstract concepts.5. ‘Paint the picture’ – use analogies, metaphors and images: Cognitive science has proven that analogies and metaphors are crucial to language, thinking and memorising knowledge (see here). [...] By using imagery and metaphors that evoke mental images, students can make mental hooks into what they already know and better organise their new knowledge.6. Tell compelling stories: Memorable personal stories brings History and facts alive; dry statistics become enlivened when in the context of a story. 64% of students achieving A grades in exams is interesting, but not nearly as memorable as stories of individual students toiling and overcomes tough circumstances to gain an A grade.
Marketing genius and author Seth Godin recently wrote about the use of analogy in educating others and frames an idea that's near and dear to my heart:
Marketing, like all forms of art, requires us to learn to see. To see what's working and to transplant it, change it and amplify it.We don't teach this, but we should. We don't push people to practice the act of learning by analogy, because it's way easier to just give them a manual and help them avoid thinking for themselves.The opportunity is to find the similarities and get ever better at letting others go first--not with what you've got, but with something you can learn from.
Slazinger claims to have learned from history that most people cannot open their minds to new ideas unless a mind-opening teams with a peculiar membership goes to work on them.Otherwise, life will go on exactly as before, no matter how painful, unrealistic, unjust, ludicrous, or downright dumb that life may be.The team must consist of three sorts of specialists, he says. Otherwise the revolution, whether in politics or the arts or the sciences or whatever, is sure to fail.The rarest of these specialists, he says, is an authentic genius -- a person capable of having seemingly good ideas not in in general circulation. "A genius working alone," he says, "is invariably ignored as a lunatic."The second sort of specialist is a lot easier to find: a highly intelligent citizen in good standing in his or her community, who understands and admires the fresh ideas of the genius, and who testifies that the genius is far from mad. "A person like this working alone," says Slazinger, "can only yearn loud for changes, but fail to say what their shapes should be."The third sort of specialist is a person who can explain everything, no matter how complicated, to the satisfaction of most people, no matter how stupid or pigheaded they may be. "He will say almost anything in order to be interesting and exciting," says Slazinger. "Working alone, depending solely on his own shallow ideas, he would be regarded as being as full of sh*t as a Christmas turkey."Slazinger, high as a kite, says that every successful revolution, including Abstract Expressionism, the one I took part in, had that cast of characters at the top -- Pollock being the genius in our case, Lenin being the one in Russia's, Christ being the one in Christianity's.He says that if you can't get a cast like that together, you can forget changing anything in a great big way.
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