Best Practice

The messenger and the message: Using role models in the classroom

As well as telling distracted and disengaged students why they should do something, Harry Fletcher-Wood says we could spend more time showing students who else is doing it

We’ve all been there. The lesson has barely begun when a student challenges us.

They may ask: “What’s the point in studying this?” Or tell us: “I can’t wait to drop this subject.” Or simply complain: “This is boring.” Now what? How can we convince them that the subject, topic or skill is worth their effort?

Our immediate reaction is often to highlight the value and worth of what we are doing. We may explain that it will matter next lesson, in the exam, or for future employment. Often, however, this leaves students unmoved.

We could try to make our explanations more compelling. But while studying the evidence from behavioural science, I have come to see the potential of another approach. As well as telling students why they should do something, I think we could spend more time showing students who is doing it.

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