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How to Change Behaviour in 4 Hours

Can it be done? Can lifelong habits be changed sustainably in less than half a day? Are ways of thinking flexible enough to bend into other shapes? Will behaviours modify and stay modified?

Peter and Graham think so. They train for Hampshire's Driver Awareness programme - the educational alternative to 3 points and a £100 fine - and I reckon they do a pretty effective job of it. The course was September's CPD for me and I decided to ask 2 key questions about it:

  1. Was it effective changing MY driving behaviour?
  2. Would it be effective for the other delegates?

i.e.: how did Peter and Graham attempt to offer an effective, memorable and worthwhile learning experience designed to have impact for years to come? Here's how:

Step 1: Build Resonance
From the outset both were respectful, realistic, open, honest and knowledgeable. They quickly built a bond with each person in the the hugely diverse audience. "We're not here to shock, or tell you off, or punish you". Phew. "We realise that for some of you the subject matter might be close to home, so just take the time you need outside if you feel upset". We then got their potted biographies and thought, yes, these guys know what they're about,

Step 2: Inform with Facts
The survival rate for a healthy adult hit by a car travelling at 30mph is 80%. At 40mph the rate drops to 20%. 'Harm factor' is related to a vehicle's kinetic energy. This is related to speed by a square law. Doubling speed quadruples harm on impact. Facts facts facts. The course was awash with them; stopping distances, fatalities, speeds and the finer points of the Highway Code. We were informed.

Step 3: Offer a Reason
P&G skillfully elicited from us a spectrum of consequences for our speeding behaviours plus a host of reasons (actually excuses) for doing so. They threw 'luck' into the mix and allowed us to come to our own conclusions; our own if...thens. If I take this risk, then these are the range of consequence. Can I live with them? At no time did they tell us what to think. The arguments were offered not imposed. We could choose to pick them up or not.

Step 4: Remember the Reward
OK, yes, we're all there because we want to avoid a fine, court, points or all 3. But the reward is greater than that. I felt a kind of RESET to my driving behaviours, founded in decisions I had made. If I'm doing all I can to keep me, my passengers and those around me on the road/pavement safe, then that feels good.

Step 5: Represent it for the Audience
Video, talk, questions, data, charts, discussion, thinking, games, tests, jokes, coffee, voting boxes - this wasn't a dry lecture. There was a mode of access/medium for everyone. They mixed it up without confusing it.

You might recognise the above. They're inspired by Howard Gardner's model of Changing Minds where he offers several 'levers' to pull, the more of which are pulled, the more people are likely to adjust their thinking. It's all about personalising a message so that even in a large audience, the individual thinks it's just for them. I guess that's what P&G did: personalised their teaching to 20 people at once but allowed us each to make our own meaning; to take the message for ourselves and change our behaviours - if that message was compelling enough.

So back to the questions:

1. Yes. 2. Maybe, but if they don't it's not because someone didn't put a whole lot of effort into making it so easy and so compelling for them to do so.

And the classroom? what if we built those 5 steps in to learning. How compelling would that be?

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