On Sunday afternoon, we had coffee with our neighbours. They have an eight year old with a few as yet undefined learning difficulties, who is somewhat behind on his development. Nevertheless, his mother asked him to offer my husband a slice of cake from a large plate containing several slices. "Keep it level," she said, "Well done."
I was struck by the fact that (a) she started from an expectation that he would succeed and (b) she couched the guidance positively. Not "Mind you don't tip/drop/break it." What to do, as opposed to what not to do.
It put me in mind of the the things we hear people say to their children:
- Mind you don't...
- You're going to fall off there
- Don't spill it
- You're going to bump your head on that corner
- Don't drop those
- Don't mess
- Don't splash
- Put your shoes on or you'll cut your feet (a favourite in England, while we barefoot Africans wonder what on earth there is to cut your feet on in this green-and-thornless land)
I wonder how often we unconsciously even build that in to our learning resources for adults. Many of our clients seem to be trying to move towards a more positively couched, empowering design for learning resources, but even so, I think it sneaks in unnoticed. Think about:
This is an assessment that will tell you what you already know and where you need to focus your attention.Wow! Personalised learning! But hang on. Suppose we start each module with a single sentence that says this module/section covers xyz and is aimed at users who abc. Maybe, just maybe the users are smart enough to figure out for themselves whether the module/section is something they need.
What you have learned in this section can be applied in xyz situations and will benefit you in abc ways.Ooh! Skills transfer. Application. But suppose we asked the user to think about situations in which the material can be applied and what the benefits of these might be.
Just a thought.