Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

20 April 2006

Attitudinal Change

Clark @ 4:55 AM

Sorry for the slowdown, but I’ve been travelling, workshopping, presenting, etc at one of the as-always excellent eLearning Guild conferences. It’s given me great opporunitities for learnings, which will dribble out in spare moments in my upcoming schedule (I’m back for one day then on a plane to Taiwan).

One of the comments I found myself saying to folks here at the conference is “more and more, I’m coming to believe that much of our learning goals aren’t about knowledge or skills, but about attitude change”. People actually have a lot of knowledge they can draw upon in the world, but they have to believe it’s important to act in that way. Their lack of performance in a particular way is not an inability, but an unwillingness.

Because I’ve been interested in looking at all the ways in which people understand the world I’ve looked at things as far afield as machine learning and ritual, and also what’s known about attitude change. AECT’s research handbook entry is my best guide, and it’s become clear that attitude change is not easy (as if we didn’t know that…:).

So how do we do it? I’m inclined to think that a suite of effective steps goes like this:

  • First, we have to make people aware of their own beliefs. Many times we aren’t even aware of our own attitudes towards things. So we need to create an activity that ‘unpacks’ these attitudes.

  • Then we have to present alternative attitudes. These need to be plausible alternatives, and I suspect we need more than just one other (but I’m willing to be wrong about this).

  • We have to support learners comparing the tradeoffs embodied in the different attitudes. They need to be free to explore what the different attitudes or beliefs will provide, both upside and down.

  • We have to support learners in choosing an attitude. They need to commit to the suite of attitudes that characterize what they want to believe.

  • And then, assuming that they’ve chosen a new approach, we need to support their realignment of behavior. Recognize that even a change in belief may not realize a sustained change in behavior if there’s no support around that process (it’s hard to break habits).

So, for illicit use of software copying, this might look like:

Making them acknowledge their own behavior, in this case using illegal software. Then we might talk about different attitudes that could be tolerated: nonchalance, the ‘rationalizing’ approach, an honest approach, and their tradeoffs: potential risk of prosecution, ripping off or supporting endeavor, etc. Then allow the learner to choose, and support them through a change (assuming they choose to move to an honest approach), for instance by giving them some situations where they might be tempted to backslide and give them chances to practice ways to deal with it in ethical but non-confrontational methods.

It may not have to be this exhaustive, but the underpinning structure probably includes this.

I’d welcome feedback on the claim that it’s more prevalent or the approach.

1 Comment »

  1. I’ll contend that an attitudinal change is vital necccesity or a bedruck for an effective sustainable development or in problem solving

    Comment by John kelvin — 27 June 2012 @ 5:04 PM

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