Mark began with a guessing game. Participants had to guess the word “attention” by seeing phrases and collocations with which it occurs. He then went on to point out the importance of attention for learning, and defined the job of a teacher as a “sculptor of learners’ attention”. He then compared two different was of manipulating attention – directing it and attracting it. With the first, the attention is forced extrinsically. With the second, the attention is volunteered because of the intrinsic appeal of the object. The object attracts attention like a magnet.
Mark went on to relate the idea of directing attention extrinsically and attracting it intrinsically to extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. He said that both kinds of motivation are valuable, but that too much appeal to extrinsic motivation can have a very damaging effect on intrinsic motivation. He illustrated this with a story from Leo van Lier. The story showed that if you pay somebody to do something, they will never again do it for free. Extrinsic motivation can kill intrinsic.
Mark then went on to show how the idea of intrinsic appeal can be useful in English teaching. He introduced a classification system of classroom material and tasks which tend to act as attention magnets. The system is summarized with the intials IPEC:
I: Interest – Material which aims to provoke cognitive and sensory curiosity. This would include real world articles and images: human interest stories; amazing and curious facts; surprising customs; striking and incongruous photographs.
Material and activities which give learners the opportunity to express themselves and exchange information about their lives, beliefs, belongings, experiences, ambitions, habits, interests and so on. While the category Interest relates more to input material, usually texts, Personalization relates more to student output.
Material which aims to attract learner attention because it is funny, amusing, gripping, aesthetically pleasing, engaging or involving. Unlike the category Interest which addresses real world issues, this material is fictional, and examples would include short stories, plays, jokes, comedy sketches, films, music, poems, songs, cartoons and art.
Material which requires learners to test their skills and luck in situations with an uncertain outcome. Like Personalization, this category is more about learner output than input. Examples would include puzzles, quizzes, guess work, detective work, collaborative games and competitive games.
Mark suggested that when preparing a class, teachers could look at the lesson in the coursebook and try to identify which kinds of attention magnets it contains. Having done this, they should then make sure that they put a strong focus on that aspect of the lesson, to maximize its potential as a generator of intrinsic motivation.
More information about Mark Hancock and this talk is available at http://hancockmcdonald.com