(This posting includes handouts which you are welcome to use with your students.)
Several years ago, long before the coronavirus pandemic, researchers found that restaurant workers and hospital staff members were very negligent about washing their hands. This article discusses a clever study that was conducted to find a way to reverse this trend by comparing positive and negative messages. The results from the study can give us some interesting insights into how we might best motivate people in general.
Excerpts from paragraphs 2 and 11
2 We expect doctors and nurses to be aware of how important it is to wash their hands after they have examined or helped a patient. They understand that if they don’t, they could spread a disease from one patient to another. Surprisingly though, a researcher found that only 39% of hospital workers washed their hands properly. That is almost the same as the 38% of restaurant workers who do.
11 In sum, the researchers found that using a positive approach with the electronic board was much more effective than the negative signs about spreading disease. Every time the staff members washed their hands, they received immediate positive feedback. This positive feedback triggered a pleasure signal in their brains which they enjoyed getting. In other words, they tended to repeat this action in order to experience that pleasure signal. After a while, it became a habit, and they continued to do it even after the electronic boards were removed.
Article & Study Guide for Handwashing and Motivation
This is one of the best things we’ve implemented in programs where I’ve taught for three reasons:
1. It has helped students improve their reading and writing skills, and grammar, and vocabulary.
2. It adds NO EXTRA WORK for teachers.
3. It costs relatively little money.
As most teachers in the field already know, one of the best ways for students to improve their skills is to do more reading. (See A True Story to Motivate Students to Read More a detailed example). However, adding more reading assignments usually means more work for the teacher—in the form of worksheets or quizzes or feedback in some way—because students need to be held accountable for actually doing the assignments.