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7 triggers that guarantee student engagement: Part II

Okay . . . the question is:

How can we as teachers engage kids in content and improve learning?

Economists have always said that to get people to do something, you have to provide incentives. Sally Hogshead in her book, Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation,
says basically the same thing. She calls her incentives “triggers.” Sally says that a trigger is

a deeply-rooted means of arousing intense interest.

In Part I, we looked at Lust, Mystique and Alarm. Today . . . the last four triggers you can use to fascinate your students.

Trigger Four – Vice

Sally says that this trigger encourages new behaviors. One person commented that vice is going “just over” the edge of what is acceptable behavior.

Bland and predictable is safe but it rarely changes behavior. Too often, we teach history in bland and predictable ways. When we do, kids rarely learn anything. We need to be willing to go beyond predictable.

How to integrate vice into your instruction:

  • Share all of history – not just the happy, cheery bits but the ugly and dirty as well.
  • Be willing to bend a bit when it comes to traditional educational practice – have your kids use cell phones to do research & respond to prompts, for example.
  • Encourage kids to create counterfactual history, the “what if” scenarios that let kids imagine all sorts of historical possibilities.
  • Every once in a while, admit that you don’t really know very much about a particular topic and allow them to become “10 minute experts.”

Trigger Five – Prestige

Think of prestige as your brand. In the “real” world, people will pay money to be associated with prestigious brands. In education, your task is to find ways to make yourself and your content prestigious.

How to integrate prestige into your instruction:

  • Sally says that sometimes you have to “borrow” prestige by connecting with other well-known people in the field – so be sure to cite famous authors, books and magazines when teaching.
  • Live where the kids live – if you don’t already have an academic online presence, you need one. Create a Facebook page for your classes, publish a blog, use tools like TxtBlaster to communicate with your kids concerning academic issues.
  • Continue working to connect historical themes with current issues.

Trigger Six – Power

Show strong leadership and your students will be captivated. We’re all attracted to power and prone to obey it. Use the power trigger by projecting certainty and taking control of situations.

How to integrate power into your instruction:

  • Know your content. Know your content. Know your content.
  • When speaking, be firm, confident and don’t use weak words such as
    – kind of, sort of, rather, somewhat, really, pretty and any self-deprecating phrases
  • Be clear and concise when giving instructions.

Trigger Seven – Trust

Sally suggests that trust is built up by being consistent over time. If your audience trusts you, they will be fascinated. So focus on building trusting relationships with your students.

How to integrate trust into your instruction:

  • Be consistent in your classroom management style & message.
  • Create a safe classroom environment.
  • Greet students at the door.
  • Work to find out more about your students.
  • Use positive presuppositions when speaking with your kids.

I’m still wrapping my head around these seven triggers. And I know that it’s not possible (and sometimes not even desirable) to make direct connections between business theories and education. But it seems like Sally’s suggestions on how to influence buying behaviors do have some similarities with education’s attempt to influence learning behaviors.

I also like how Sally suggests that we each have a specific combination of triggers that we use best. She provides a test that helps you understand which combination you use and suggestions on how to better use others. (In case you’re curious . . . the two triggers that work best for me? Lust and mystique.)

I’d be curious to hear what others think. Are Sally’s ideas transferable to the classroom?

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for the very interesting Part II. Your translation of Hogshead triggers to the realm of education is helpful and relevant. The prestige factor is very interesting: It’s essential to find and engage students where they are — online, on their phones, etc. The challenge is to do so in a credible way that motivates students while maintaining educational fidelity.

    January 26, 2011
    • glennw #


      Thanks for the comment! Like I said, I’m still struggling a bit on the best way to incorporate all of the triggers into teaching. But am convinced that teachers need to think more intentionally about how the brain works when planning instruction. Hogshead’s triggers provide at least some structure I can use to help me plan.


      January 26, 2011

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