Thursday, 17 March 2016

Motivational research

"[Vance] Packard first gained national attention with the publication in 1957 of `The Hidden Persuaders,` which exposed what he saw as the growing and not entirely benign influence of the nation's advertising industry. Alarmed by new techniques that convinced people to run out and buy things, he detailed advertising's fascination with the school of consumer analysis known as motivational research."

'' `Many of us are being influenced and manipulated, far more than we realize, in the patterns of our everyday lives,`' he wrote. He compared motivational research to `'the chilling world of George Orwell and his Big Brother`..."

"This was followed in 1964 by '`The Naked Society,` which discussed how new technologies and new attitudes allowed a growing invasion of the privacy of the average American. "

These techniques have never gone away and are being used by the Behavioural Insights Team in the UK to affect citizens` behaviour and push through public policy. In order to modify behaviour it is important to understand what motivates people at an emotional and subconscious level.

The Nudge Unit is quite upfront about being prepared to do clinical trials and scale things up when they find WHAT WORKS. So we are all being experimented on, at the population level.

As if all of that was not bad enough, children are being set up with a substandard education in order to prepare them for the 21st century global experiment.

Here is the New Vision of Education from the World Economic Forum:

"The New Vision for Education project examines the role that technology can potentially play to improve education for the future. In phase II, we investigated innovative ways to help students develop competencies and character qualities broadly defined as social emotional skills, which are critical components of 21st century skill frameworks but not a core focus in today’s curriculum."

Of all the possibilities that technology might be used for to improve education, social emotional skills seem the least likely. As if to explain this, one speaker says: "We have a real problem today with the relevance of our students` experience... It`s not directly tied to the learners` personal and professional aspirations."

Why the education of yesterday which brought us the technology of today, is no longer fit for the future is never quite explained, except that it is not what employers are looking for, nor does it tie in with students` aspirations. How and why did learners` aspirations alter so drastically that there is a need for social emotional skills?  None of this really makes sense.

"There are millions of children in school but they`re not learning," says another speaker. So they keep saying it and want people to believe it. Repeat this often enough, and you never know.

Other voices can be heard promoting the `softer skills`. "There`s such a strong emphasis on teaching to the test. Some of these `softer skills` which are foundational for success on the test are seen as somehow less important..."

A woman reinforces the importance of `softer skills`: "Many of the tools being used are meant to use a cognitive approach... Increasingly we are seeing technologies that also focus on social emotional skills."

She goes on: "Children learn better when they learn with a peer with whom they`re friends. I`m interested in technology that makes a bond with students that uses that social bond to improve the educational atmosphere."  How manipulative is that ?

Another of the `soft skills` these social engineers are particularly interested in is motivation which is a topic discussed all over education and may be called student engagement, grit or perseverance. When children are tied to a task on the computer, do they keep trying when things become difficult?  Do they give up sooner rather than later?  Does collaborating with others make a difference?  In what circumstances?  How does the group affect perceptions and attitudes?

What an opportunity the social scientists are presented with in the classroom, where they can go to work on malleable students, to test their intrinsic motivation in order to learn how to manipulate their future attitudes, dispositions and behaviours. How advantageous it is that cohorts of students can be tracked for years to see what works.

This has nothing to do with education. Anybody who believes that `soft skills` are about education has fallen for the advertising.   

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