1. Deck, Michele L. MEd, BSN, RN, FACCE

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A question that I am often asked by staff development and healthcare educators is, "How do I motivate learners who are not motivated?" This is a universal challenge to those of us in education roles. To find the answer, we must first ask what behaviors we are observing that make us ask this question. Is it learners who blast us with negativity because they are not in the right frame of mind to learn? Are there multiple demands on the learners' time that make them hostile to us? Is it apathy and defeat from a history of little learning success? Is it just because they have been forced or mandated to attend by someone else?


As educators we spend many hours planning programs that meet learning needs in the cognitive domain. This allows teaching and training to be fact-based, accurate, and needs-driven. We also plan for the psychomotor domain by having people learn to demonstrate skills, developing and increasing motor skills necessary for success on the job. Many times educators spend hours planning and designing for these two domains. The third domain, the affective, is sometimes neglected. I think creating the emotional ties and links to what is important to the learners is just as critical as the other two domains. We must get the learners to realize the relevance and importance of what they are learning to achieve complete success.


We want to tap into WIIFM with our audience. That stands for "what's in it for me?" One way to do this is to say, "Here are three reasons you are learning this today[horizontal ellipsis]," but that is not the most powerful way to reach them. Frequently, learners will argue with your reasons, as they are not seen as relevant in their lives. The most powerful way is to ask them, "What's in it for you to be here?," and let them tell or show you. The reasons they list are relevant to them, and people do not argue with themselves. If a learner says something is important, it is not a debate point with the educator but a peek into what motivates that learner. Creating emotions and anchoring them to the lesson cements in the learners' minds why they should participate, gain knowledge and skills, and incorporate them into their lives and practices.


I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity in 2004 to meet a plethora of creative educators who have shared their successful ideas with me. I have been amazed, awed, touched, and honored to be a part of their breakthroughs. This year, I would like to highlight just a few of those talented people in this column.


I recently met a educator in Baton Rouge, LA, named Beth LeDuff (, director of placement at a career school called MedVance. She teaches a variety of learners career readiness and math. The program itself lasts 12 weeks, meets twice a week, and includes people of all ages and backgrounds. Beth immediately taps into the internal motivation of the learners by asking each to create a "scrapbook" of WIIFMs to go back to school at this point in their lives and be motivated to succeed. She shared with me one of the scrapbooks that a student had made. One of the pages had a picture of a beautiful girl of about 2, with a mortarboard taped to her head with the caption, "So my daughter can have a good education" under it. The last page addressed the student's need as a single mom to give herself and her daughter a good life. Once a learner creates such a moving representation of what she has to gain from her success in school, she will not question why she must study for tests, or read the textbook, or come to class.


Beth also shared with me a unique way to get learners to remember Roman numerals. She writes the following on the board, "I V X L C D M." Beth starts by saying her students will now be in the healthcare field, so they should remember the initials IV. She gets students to giggle by pointing out she wears an XL (extra large) in clothing. She then calls out, "cat, dog, monkey." She has the group repeat the "IV, XL, cat, dog, monkey." She then has them repeat with her, "1, 5, 1, 5, 1, 5, 1." She then puts those two items together with zeros and tells them they now know the Roman numerals.

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Maybe this touched me in a special way because I have never been able to remember my Roman numerals beyond 10 (X)! I will never forget Beth's lesson. In less than 5 minutes, I learned something valuable in a way that makes it memorable to me forever. Thank you, Beth, for being the talented educator you are. Thank you also for closing the circle of emotion in demonstrating that tapping into WIIFM is a wonderful idea that works with your scrapbook idea.