John Dewey on Interest, Motivation, and Engagement

“Much assistance in the selection of appropriate material may be derived by considering the eagerness and closeness of observation that attend the following of a story or drama. Alertness of observation is at its height whenever there is plot interest. Why? The balanced combination of the old and the new, of the familiar and the unexpected…alternatives are suggested, but are left ambiguous, so that our whole being questions: What happened next? Which way did things turn out? When an individual is engaged in doing or making something, there is an analogous situation. Something is going to come of what is present, but just what is doubtful. The plot is unfolding toward success or failure, but just when or how is uncertain. Hence the keen and tense observation that attends construction. [Even] when the subject matter is of a more impersonal sort, the same principle of movement toward a denouement may apply. Mere change [in the experiences and situations] is not enough. The changes must (like the incidents of a well-arranged story or plot) take place in a certain cumulative order.”

John Dewey

How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking to the Educative Process

Excerpted from: Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1998.

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