In the ‘Three A’s of Motivation’ proposed by Alan McLean, AFFILIATION is described as follows:

“The first one is Affiliation, which is basically a sense of belonging, a sense of being valued, connected, and the opposite of that is alienation. And that is a fundamental need that probably underpins everything, and I often say that’s why 12 million people are on Friends Reunited websites.” 

We learn best when we feel safe enough to be able to learn. Learning is accelerated when communities are established. Progress is accelerated as a result of strong relationships and effective communication. So what steps do we need to take to ensure that everybody enjoys a balanced learning environment where communication enhances the relationships and vice versa?

Focusing on developing affiliation as part of your MLG work will result in an emotionally intelligent learning environment, for you and for your students alike. A learning environment that has strong affiliation is characterised by a balance between high quality communication and relationships. Your first step is to reflect on how it feels to be part of your lesson; for you and for your students. How do you welcome students into the room? Is the beginning of the lesson calm and purposeful? Are students clear from the outset about what is expected of them? More to the point, have they developed their own sets of high expectations of themselves, of you and their learning?

Just one way to be explicit about building such levels of affiliation from the outset of the lesson is to use a ‘readiness to learn’ self-assessment scale (also known as the ‘Pooh-Scale’…for obvious reasons).

Consider the way you actively seek to engage all members of the group as quickly as possible:

When you use creative starters, make sure you give students THINKING TIME (30 seconds minimum) to think about their responses first and come up with a SPECIFIC number of responses (1-3) before  they then discuss with a partner. By discussing with a partner early on, they get to HEAR THEIR VOICE OUT LOUD, which is critical when establishing a new group.

Then…let students know that when they feedback their responses, you will be asking them to say what they have just heard, not what they ‘talked about’. In this way, you can explicitly communicate to them how much you want them to value the PROCESS of LISTENING and BEING HEARD. By giving them prior warning, you can ensure that they are focused on listening to each other well (some may even take notes as they listen to their partner) and, probably most importantly, you give a heads-up to the fact that whatever they have just discussed will be shared with the wider group. This is helpful in avoiding ideas and conversations being shared that the students do not want to be shared publicly. In doing so, you are also ensuring that the learning talk is about the question you have just posed and not 10 seconds on the question and 45 seconds on what they did the lesson before (high expectations). The ‘Feedback what you have just HEARD’ strategy works well to avoid the dominant voice being the only one that gets to both SPEAK and BE HEARD during discussions.

This is a very deliberate way to explicitly value everybody’s ideas and thinking and establish quality relationships in a high-trust community through effective communication.

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