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The Value Of Student “Ownership”

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Source: pinaquote.com via Larry on Pinterest   

Most teachers understand the value of students feeling “ownership” of their learning, and I’ve written a lot about how inductive learning, student autonomy and choice contribute to that happening. Of course, many others have contributed much more to that understanding, including John Dewey and William Glasser.

Dan Ariely has written about something similar that he calls The Ikea Effect.

Today, Scott Keller wrote a post at the Harvard Business Review blog site that reinforces this perspective. He describes a study reported in a book by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman (I’ve previously written about his work).

Keller’s post is worth reading in full, but I just wanted to quote from its beginning:

In a famous experiment, researchers ran a lottery with a twist. Half the participants were randomly assigned a lottery number. The remaining half were given a blank piece of paper and a pen and asked to write down any number they would like as their lottery number. Just before drawing the winning number, the researchers offered to buy back the tickets. The question researchers wanted to answer is, “How much more do you have to pay someone who ‘wrote their own number’ versus someone who was handed a number randomly?” The rational answer would be that there is no difference (given that a lottery is pure chance and therefore every ticket number, chosen or assigned, should have the same value). A more savvy answer would be that you would have to pay less for the tickets where the participant chose the number, given the possibility of duplicate numbers in the population who wrote their own number. The real answer? No matter what location or demographic the experiment has taken place in, researchers have always found that they have to pay at least five times more to those who wrote their own number.

This result reveals an inconvenient truth about human nature: When we choose for ourselves, we are far more committed to the outcome — by a factor of five to one.

Something we should probably all keep in mind when we’re teaching…

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

3 Comments

  1. Your powerful argument for the value of student “ownership” is equally valid for recognising the importance of teacher “ownership”, explaining why teachers put so much more into lessons and activities that they have devised and created themselves.

  2. At the beginning of the year I polled my students. I asked them if they would rather work less on things that I picked for them or work more on things they chose themselves. Overwhelmingly, the students chose to work harder on subjects they chose for themselves. This surprised me a little bit but it showed me the power ownership has on student motivation.

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