The altruistic paradox

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Value creation pedagogy draws much of its power from something that we could call an altruistic paradox. Judging from the examples we have studied, it seems that most people become more motivated by creating value for someone else in 10 minutes, than by creating value for oneself in 10 years. If this is the case, it makes more sense for a teachers to ask their students “For whom could this knowledge be valuable, today?”, than to tell them “You will have use for this knowledge in your future life”.

A motivation deficit in education

Many teachers say that they more or less daily have to answer student questions around “Why are we doing this?”. Answering that they are learning in order to succeed in a test or an exam works quite well for some students. But other students do not succeed in motivating themselves to perform academically based on such answers from their teacher. They want to see meaning with what they do here and now in their life. For these students, value creation pedagogy can provide a new way for teachers to manage and boost student motivation. Connecting the curriculum to some value that is being created here and now for someone else adds a strong sense of meaning to the educational experience for many students.

Altruism is deeply human

Labeling altruism as a paradox does not resonate well with evolutionary biologists. For millions of years, humans have been deeply social, caring and collectively oriented beings. Empathy with others in need is deeply rooted in humans, and some even claim that it is the very trait that makes humans both special and successful. In light of these biological facts, it is perhaps odd to see how little emphasis is given to students creating value for others in most kinds of education today. In the quest for academic rigor and efficiency, some basic elements of humanity were perhaps lost?

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