New Year’s Resolutions

new-year-189355_640Every year, millions of people vow to stop smoking. Or drinking. Or exercise more. Or eat healthier. These are all common promises that are made, probably somewhere during New Year’s Eve, after at least a couple of drinks, maybe more. Actually, even if intentions are true, honest, and made while perfectly sober, the likelihood of them coming to fruition arent’ really much better than while drunk at a party. The statistics are out there for those who are really curious. In fact, here’s one that was reprinted on Business News Daily, that quotes Tom Connelan, a self-improvement book author. According to him, by the first week in January, 25 percent of all resolutions are already out the window. This number, according to Connelan will grow to 88 percent by the end of the year. Why? What is it about making changes in our lives that causes us such grief? Surely we aren’t that lazy, or stubborn, or just simply resistant to change.

One could easily philosophize about the psychology behind broken resolutions, but that would detract from the point of this Blog entry. And that is: what does the phenomenon of broken New Year’s resolutions teach us about the nature of adult education? Where is the lesson here?

At least one tech Blog site, Lifehacker offers up some interesting suggestions. According to Jason Fitzpatrick, many resolutions fail because they lack scaffolding… The structure that would make them withstand the many storms of everyday life, throughout the year. Poor planning, vague goals, not knowing how to move forward, negative attitude toward change, unrealistic expectations, and lack of a support network are all cited as very real possibilties why resolutions don’t last.

As an educator, effecting change is a critical part of the teaching / learning process. After all, if a learner leaves exactly the same as when she came in, then what was really the point? I’m not talking about recalling subject matter or being able to re-hash the instructor’s lessons. These are often considered to be lower levels of “knowing.” A brief analysis of Bloom’s Taxonomy will reveal that knowledge is far more dynamic than just that. At the higher levels, which include evaluation or creation, there will have to have been some degree of change, be it psychological, emotional, or physical.

Realizing that my ultimate goal is changing the learner, I have to design my curricula and lessons in such a way that they avoid many of the pitfalls that plague well-intentioned attemps at keeping New Year’s resolutions. Scaffolding is a key concept that can make all the difference. Everything from having realistic goals of what the learners can achieve in a given block of time, to ensuring that the goals set in place are the proper ones to ensure the desired outcome. The task is certainly daunting at first glance, but a good instructor will already be doing many of these things naturally without even necessarily thinking about them. On the other hand, if the outcome of a course or lesson is poor, then perhaps as part of an effective post-mortem, it may be valuable to think in terms of unkept New Year’s resolutions… I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a common theme.

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