How to Capture and Retain Learners’ Attention in One Sentence

This post, How to Capture and Retain Learners’ Attention, discusses professional approach to make learners’ willing to learn.

Introduction to How to Capture & Retain Learners’ Attention

The problem

Among the many feedbacks that I received over the last one to two months, is this recurring question. A good number of teachers, especially parents and new ones seem to find it difficult to teach their wards. This is not because the wards find it difficult to learn. But it is because the teachers find it difficult to capture and retain the learners’ attention throughout the lesson period. For a few moments, such teachers capture the learners’ attention. Then in the next moment, the learners are doing something else or not paying attention to the teacher. They just will not listen. The teacher that hasn’t yet the experience will feel frustrated. But there is no more cause for alarm. There is no experienced teacher that is so unfortunate as to not have had such type of learner under his tutelage in the past.

A Fact Leading to Solution

Off course, learning is a willful act. This means, except the learner is willing to learn; no teacher can make him/her learn – except by means of the style of the ancient cruel lords of the fields and industries. There is no teacher nor parent that I know who want the ward to remember them as cruel lords of the arena.

Why would any teacher want that when there is an alternative, a better and professional approach?

Over the years; experts in the field of education, philosophy and psychologists – who took time to study the science and art of learning – have come to arrive at proven facts about the matter. In continuance, professionals in education including curriculum specialists, instructional designers and teachers are able to formulate specific solutions to the issue from the known facts.

Any experienced of the aforementioned professionals is able to proffer this kind of solution almost instinctively. In fact, learning how to capture and retain learners’ attention is one of the cardinal points of our instructional design training.

That being said, this post describes one of such solutions in layman’s language. This is to make possible for just about anybody with genuine desire to help learners to be able to capture and retain the learners’ attention – to make the learner willing to learn.

Where this solution ends: for you to seek outside assistance

Inasmuch as this post guides you to capture and retain learners’ attention; there are situations that you will need professional assistance. Such situation is when a child’s lack of attention is due to mental health condition. There is a mental health condition in which children are often in a state of activity or excitement and unable to direct their attention towards what they are doing. This condition is called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This condition normally requires the assistance of a professional to resolve. Thus, you may consider it beyond what a parent or (unspecialized) teacher can handle alone. As such, it is also beyond the scope of this guide.

Very Well Mind has a comprehensive discussion on ADHD. This include guide to help you know if your child has ADHD and what you can do. Click here to check the article on Very Well Mind.

Assuming your child does not have ADHD, but the “regular” difficulty in concentrating at studies; or if you are a teacher and seek ways to capture your learners’ attention and retain it throughout the span of your lesson – for effectiveness; the following guide should be of help.

The Model to Capture and Retain Learners’ Attention

I noted earlier that experts in education and/or psychology took time to study the art and science of learning. I also pointed out that from their studies, they have come to arrive at proven facts about the matter. One of such experts whose work is central to this guide is John Keller. John Keller is an American educational psychologist. Keller worked on an aspect of instructional design, motivational design.  The motivational design opines that learners learn more and better when they are motivated to do it willingly – when they see reasons to learn.

Consequently, based on his research findings; John Keller formulated the ARCS model.  The ARCS model serves as a template for instructors/instructional designers to incorporate learner’s motivation into their instructional contents/activities – so as to make and keep the learners to want to learn thereby ensure higher productivity.

The ARCS Model

Keller’s ARCS model broke learner motivation down into four components. These components are Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction. While attention describes ways of making the learners notice the teacher and the interest that the learners display in what the teacher is teaching; the other components explains motivations that will make the learners to want to keep learning.

Going beyond capturing attention

The fact that your learner notices and picks interest in what you are teaching does not mean s/he will want to keep learning. To do this, you must ensure that certain conditions are met. In this post, I describe ways of making the learners notice the teacher with interest in what the teacher is teaching. Then in another post, I succinctly addressed the other components.

Levels of Motivation (Needs)

However, before I describe attention in detail; it is important to note that motivation theorists have proven that motivation is both spontaneous and induced. Inducing motivation is rather by gratification or satisfaction of motivation needs. Hence, theorists have identified different motivation needs. Further, they categorized these motivation needs into higher and lower orders.

For example, consider Abraham Maslow’s categorization of motivation needs below.

Maslow’s Theory of Motivation

Abraham Maslow in his theory of human needs identified seven vital human needs according to level of urgency or exigency. These are:

1.       Physiological Needs

These are the biological or survival needs of man – including the desire to eat food when hungry, drink water when thirsty, the need for rest, sex, air and to excrete unwanted materials from the body systems.

2.       Security and Safety Needs

The need for safety and protection from danger or external aggressors. The desire to seek for conducive or peaceful abode.

3.       Love and Belongingness Needs

This involves the aspiration of man to establish a cordial relationship with others. The desire to love and be loved.

4.       Achievement Needs

The desire to attain success or freedom drives man to go extra miles.

5.       Self-Esteem Needs

These are the things we desire in order that our ego will be boosted.

6.       Aesthetic Needs

The desire to pursue or admire beautiful things.

7.       Self-Actualization Needs

The desire to have uncommon opportunity to differentiate oneself from others.

General Rule of Motivation

And the general rule is that if a higher order needs in not satisfied, then lower needs will be irrelevant and will not be pursued. From this categorization of needs, we know that a learner will most likely neither pay attention to you nor learn when s/he is hungry; thirsty; tired; sexually excited; in want of fresh air or when in a smelly environment; and when s/he need to urinate/defecate.

Similarly, a learner may not pay attention to you or learn if s/he is afraid for one reason or another. This is why you cannot beat a student into understanding or learning. We can say the same for love and belonginess need. It is a common experience that students hardly learn if they dislike the teacher for one reason or another.

With what we know of self-control, we know that these things are truer with younger learners. Schools and teachers understand this. As such, they always try as much as possible to satisfy the higher order motivation needs of the learner before teaching. But parents who teaches their children at home have to ensure that the higher order needs are satisfied to maximum impartation.

How to Capture and Retain Learners’ Attention

Now that we understand some important motivation concepts, let us look at the ways to capture and retain learners’ attention:

To Be Continued