Teaching Tip #9: The Nudge

What do you and I mean by a Nudge?  Besides knowing it to be something that goads a laggard forward, did you ever think it could assume the role of a methodological approach to get learners to respond? Well, not until I came across some interesting teacher educator blogs. It gets defined in current parlance as interventions based on analysis of human behaviour, including the habits, routines and biases in normal decision-making so as to effect change, gently. They are low-cost interventions that work to influence behaviour by changing how or when choices are offered. It does not call for a stern action or even forbid an action. It is the kind of intervention that would help a learner take a decision. Say you would put a basket of healthy fruits in front of a person who is also considering eating a burger. Now that’s a nudge. It comes free, and does not antagonize the recipient of the intervention! In a classroom it could be something as simple as changing a seating arrangement or changing the way students are grouped in class, sending someone a personalized message that helps her run her last mile.

Larry Ferlazzo, an award-winning teacher of California tells of an interesting story he had read. There was this reading class where the teacher had shown a particular storybook which students could read if they wanted to. There were two copies in the library. The teacher found that nobody issued either of them despite his suggesting the book to them. He brought both copies to class and asked the students who would like to read the books. Five hands went up and he gave the two books to two of the most enthusiastic students. They were waiting for the books to fall into their laps! They were waiting for the nudge! It is worth a think. How often do we as teachers miss out on identifying situations that need the slightest of nudges to get completed?


Author: Sonali Bhattacharyya



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