Sometimes in life our actions have unexpected and even undesirable repercussions. I have a 12 year old son. He is an only child and has grown up in a somewhat nerdy household where we read a lot, believe learning another a language is normal and avoid a lot of mainstream media. His generation though are largely connected by the internet. When he started at a new school, we met some of his friends via video conference before we met in them or their parents in “real life”. We had encouraged him to be calm and quiet at home, but combined with his generation’s propensity for screen time, this had unexpected repercussions. We purchased him an exercise tracking device and realised that on a school day he would be lucky to reach 5000 steps – half the daily recommendation. We realised though that he had been merely doing what he was told. His teachers wanted him to sit still and listen – so he did. We drove him to school each day as it there are no buses from our suburb. When he came home, he wanted to read or go online. When was he supposed to be clocking up the 10 000 steps in this kind of lifestyle that we had created for him?
Around this time, I became aware of a concept called “temptation bundling”. This concept is a motivational strategy whereby you bundle an action you want to do with an action you need to do. For example, I had committed to a weekly task that I really wasn’t enjoying. I was beginning to dislike Thursdays because of this weekly commitment, even though the task was only a small part of the day. By contrast, something that I do enjoy is writing in the morning at a café that overlooks a marina. It is my special time to have a latte and look out at the boats as I play around with new ideas for resources or workshops. So, I combined the two in a temptation bundle. I allowed myself to only visit the café on Thursday mornings before I had to attend to the weekly commitment. In this way, I began to associate the commitment with my reward of writing time. The action I needed to do was the Thursday commitment, and the action I wanted to do was the café writing session.
We solved the problem of my son’s inactivity in the same way. The action he needed to do was move more for his long-term health. (I would like to emphasize that we were not concerned about diet or losing weight here, but rather the research into poor health associated with prolonged sitting for adults and children alike.) The action my son needed to do was exercise more, preferably outside in nature, to counteract his largely indoor school lifestyle. The action he wanted to do was purchase a mobile phone. We had told him he could have one when he started high school the following year. We also wanted him to appreciate the cost of such a device and to be responsible with such an expensive accessory. So, we developed a temptation bundle where he earned $5 for each day he walked 10 000 steps. We paid him in cash each week and then he banked it in a mobile phone account. We began by going for a walk after school to make up the shortfall. Soon though he came up with strategies like earning 2000 on the playground before school, and 2000 at recess and lunch. We had a bonus scheme where he earned an additional $5 if he made 15 000 or if he beat my score for the day. As his earnings grew, he came up with other ideas like joining me some days before school on my 6am walk. Exercise became a natural part of his identity as it fitted with his already present identity of someone who loves technology. His exercise was linked to his desire for technology. It has taken him months to earn the money and the habits of daily movement are now ingrained in his life.
So how does this relate to your teaching?
My latest project is called The Platform. This is a formative assessment tool pitched at Year 9 and 10 students. What do most students of this age want to do? In my experience, the answer is while away hours watching Youtube clips and drifting through social media posts. How can we make better use of this natural inclination to achieve learning gains in language study?
The Platform aims to create a temptation bundle where students become a member of a small group (2-4 students) to share videos that have interested them. They must write a minimum of 30 characters about each video and other members of the group have to respond to at least one post per learning cycle. I have created scaffolds to help them with this. Unlike regular tasks though, the students are rewarded for the quantity of writing they do, rather than the quality. We want them to experiment with language here, to focus on communicating with others for a real purpose and to practice vocabulary, grammar and script recognition on a regular basis. The teacher can then set group achievement goals such as a reward when all members of the group have written 100 ji each. Each post or comment is numbered and fortnightly reward draws could be held eg comment 21 wins a Japanese lolly or gets to sit in the tatami space or choose who to sit next to for that week. The more posts and comments you make the more chances you have of both improving your overall grade and winning the reward draw. There are two versions of this task included in the resource pack called Version 1 and Version 2.
This formative assessment tool could be used for writing in lieu of a formal task or it could be used as a tool to improve the learning culture and growth mindset of your cohort. You can read more about this task on our website at https://www.mantenresources.com.au/teachers/assessment/assessment-inspiration/ or email me at email@example.com .)
Good luck with your temptation bundling!