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Helping Students Understand the Benefits of Using Leadership Amplifier


Teaching is not just about imparting knowledge. It is also about motivating learning: helping students to understand why they should care about a topic, so that they will want to keep learning and improving themselves even when class is over. This is especially true with positive leadership. As we discussed previously, exhibiting virtues with excellence requires learning in each new circumstance, even after the class is over, so continuing to learn is part of living a life of meaning, impact, and character development. Students who are motivated to learn also makes class more interesting for everyone. Leadership Amplifier is a tool designed to maximize students’ efforts to learn how to exhibit virtues in concrete circumstances. Here, we offer four tools in this chapter that have helped us in motivating students to use get the most out of Leadership Amplifier.

Tool #1: Give them a complex challenge that Leadership Amplfier can help them solve

One way to give students an experience that will motivate them to learn positive leadership and use the Leadership Amplifier is by giving them a leadership challenge that is hard to solve, or a challenge which has an easy solution but the easy solution is significantly less beneficial than the leadership solution. Challenges like these are often most impactful when instructors confront students with them as the first thing they do on the first day of class. When students struggle to come up with a solution, but then see how the leadership model built in to Leadership Amplifier helps them come up with solutions, it motivates them to use Leadership Amplifier. Alternatively, if students come up with an easy but less-than-ideal solution, and then see how the model built into Leadership Amplifier helps them come up with much better solutions, it can also be quite motivating.

One source of challenges can be found in the Leadership Overview Tools of the Repository of Instructional Tools. This section of the repository contains case studies that can serve this purpose well. Another source of challenges includes scenarios that students need to act out. For example, one scenario that is useful is the challenge that Colonel Chamberlain of the second Maine regiment faced before the battle of Gettysburg during the United States Civil War. Just days before the battle he was assigned to incorporate 120 mutineers into his regiment. An instructor can show the clip from the movie, Gettysburg, stop the movie before Chamberlain actually speaks to the mutineers, and ask the students what they would say if they were Chamberlain. Most students struggle with this leadership challenge.

The instructor can then ask the students what it would mean to exhibit exceptional virtues in this circumstance. For example, the instructor could ask how Chamberlain could show ambition, integrity, trust, and flexibility toward the mutineers, his own regiment, the families back home, and the enslaved people whose freedom is at stake when he speaks to the mutineers. This works best if the instructor has the students think about each virtue individually, before trying to integrate their answers. If the instructor then shows the clip of Chamberlain’s speech, the students are likely to be impressed with how closely the material they generate mirrors Chamberlain’s speech.

The circumstances in the movie have, of course, been adapted for Hollywood. This would be true of most movie-based exercises. However, they are close enough to what actually happened to still be useful for the exercise of learning how to handle challenging leadership circumstances. The fact that Chamberlain’s actions were so consequential for history is also motivating, because it helps students see how small episodes of leadership— such as those they will be practicing with Leadership Amplifier — can have surprising impacts on how history unfolds.

Tool #2: Make the personal connection

Although the focus of Leadership Amplifier is on influencing others, the effort to exhibit exceptional virtue tends to make one’s own life better as well. Helping students see, explicitly, how this improves their emotional experience of life’s events can be quite motivating. To help students see this, one exercise we use involves asking students to fill out the following chart before they use Leadership Amplifier:

Some students may come up with answers to put in the second column of this table easily. Others may struggle. The word, “source,” in this table, is intended to be general. If students struggle to come up with answers, you can help them by asking them about times, recently, when they have felt these emotions. It does not matter if the emotions they felt at these times were strong and powerful or small and fleeting. If they were strong and powerful, tell them that you are willing to help them break down sources of those emotions into more manageable issues. If the causes of these emotions in their lives are just small intimations of worry, or a moment of not knowing what to do, those are also sufficient for this activity.

If the sources of these emotions no longer exist in their lives, ask them about other, similar issues in their lives that may cause similar feelings in the near future. If the sources of these emotions are not yet resolved, then have them write those answers down and move on to the next question. The purpose of the first column is simply to brainstorm potential causes of negative emotion in their lives, or potential sources of opportunity.

Once students identify a handful of answers for the second column, have them fill out the third column. This can be tricky for some students. Some will want to address the source of the negative emotion as a whole—to solve the whole “problem”—or to claim the whole opportunity. Focusing on a single event, rather than an entire problem or project, requires a change in how they think. However, this is an important step, both for preparing to use Leadership Amplifier, and also for developing motivation.

Once students identify events, consider asking them to put any events that they do not already have scheduled into the calendars on their smart phones. Thus, if a student is confused about an assignment she received from her boss, but has an appointment to discuss the assignment with her boss tomorrow morning, she does not need to add anything to her calendar. However, if a student is worried about a friend who seems to be making bad decisions, and there is no event in which the student can do anything about his friend, then the student could contact that friend, set up an appointment to meet, and that appointment now becomes the next event at which the student can do something about his friend. The goal, when the activity of filling out this table is complete, is for students to have as many events entered into the calendar on their smart phones as possible.

Students will claim multiple benefits from putting events into their calendars that are related to the emotions and opportunities listed in the first column of this table. First, they will have many events from which to select when they use Leadership Amplifier. Also, for most of these events, as students go through the planning process, they will generate moral insights into how to handle these circumstances. As they acquire moral insights into those events that were driven by negative emotions, the negative emotions will begin to diminish and new, positive emotions will begin to emerge. The ideas they generate will not only help them in the event for which they are planning, but will also help them acquire insight into the larger problem or opportunity as well. Also, if students experience multiple instances of negative emotions changing into positive emotions, they will begin to develop the positive habit of thinking that they should seek moral insight when they experience these emotions. This will make them more motivated to use Leadership Amplifier and to learn about positive leadership in your class.

Tool #3: Explain the benefits directly

It is also helpful to simply explain to students how their use of Leadership Amplifier will benefit them. This can include listing the benefits described in the tools above, teaching the positive leadership model and explaining it to students, and also include explaining how Leadership Amplifier helps specific types of learning. For example, instructors can display some version of Bloom’s Taxonomy and explaining how Leadership Amplifier helps with each type of learning:

  • Remember – Repetition helps remembering. The requirement to use Leadership Amplifier repeatedly throughout the class makes it less likely that students will forget concepts because of the need to apply them again and again.
  • Apply – The purpose of Leadership Amplifier is to get students to apply positive leadership in their lives. Application is what helps students turn abstract ideas into concrete implementation.
  • Understand – Students cannot apply what they cannot understand. The requirement to apply the concepts from class in real life helps students to see what is missing in their understanding so that they can return to class with questions and ideas that help everyone.
  • Analyze – When Leadership Amplifier users make action plans, it requires them to analyze their circumstances using a series of questions based on class concepts.
  • EvaluateLeadership Amplifier requires users to assess how well they executed their own plans, and also to offer advice and feedback to others. People often learn as much, if not more, from teaching others as they do from learning the concept alone.
  • Create – Action plans are creative outputs, especially when they involve exhibiting virtue with an excellence that people would not have exhibited if they had conformed to convention. It takes creativity to act in unconventional ways, and also to integrate different virtues and different constituents’ perspectives.

Tool #4: Set the example

The tools above can all be compelling ways to motivate students to learn, but the motivation acquires moral authority if instructors can give specific, concrete examples of how they are using Leadership Amplifier to practice positive leadership as well. Join the community with your students. Let them give you feedback and advice. Even better, use the app before class begins, so they can see what you have already done before the class.

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