Influence and Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini

While authoring my forthcoming book Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is the eleventh and twelfth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your professional reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Thanks to John Chrastka from EveryLibrary.org, I learned at the Lilead Project Summer Institute about the idea of expressing one’s “cause” in 27 words with 3 messages deliverable in 9 seconds. I have since been writing and revising the encapsulation of my forthcoming book in terms of 27-3-9. This is my latest version (minus the words in parentheses):

School librarians who build connections transform schools. Instructional partners (school librarians and classroom teachers) practice reciprocal mentorship when they connect inquiry and reading-writing across the disciplines with deeper and digital future-ready learning.

Many (if not most) school librarians and their advocates will need to influence the behaviors of others in order to enact these three messages (transforming through connecting, practicing reciprocal mentorship, and coteaching future-ready learning). Those “others” could be administrators, other educators, school board members and other educational decision-makers, families, and more. For this reason, Robert Cialdini’s books are invaluable to effective future-ready school librarians.

I first learned about Cialdini’s work in 2015 when I participated in the Canadian Library Association and the University of Toronto iSchool’s MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) entitled “Library Advocacy Unshushed: Values, Evidence, Action.” Throughout the six-week course, the presenters and guest speakers made multiple references to Cialdini’s book Influence: Science and Practice. While writing my forthcoming book, I reread it.

Cialdini, a social psychologist, suggests six “universal principles of influence.” Schools librarians can use these principles to achieve their goals.
1. Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor.
2. Consistency – If people commit to an idea or goal, they are more likely to follow through.
3. Consensus – People will do what other people are doing.
4. Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people whom they like.
5. Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures and experts.
6. Scarcity – Perceived scarcity fuels demand (2009).

School librarian leaders can apply these principles to enlist advocates within and beyond the school or library. Advocates can apply these principles as they speak up and out for future-ready school or library program initiatives.

Cialdini’s most recent book Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade (2016) focuses on what to do BEFORE you pitch your project plan or change initiative. I found the research and examples in this book fascinating.

Readers could think of Cialdini’s overarching concept as “foaming the runway.” He writes, “What we present first changes the way people experience what we present to them next” (2016, 4).

Before pitching a new idea, plan, or program, do your homework. Carefully select your “openers.” Be sure you know what is important to your audience. Build on connections and personalize your appeal. Tell a story, preferably a mystery that will keep them on the edge of their seats. Use metaphors. Make your appeal easily understood.

The “privileged moment” was my big take-away from this book. It is the time when the presenter has prepared the listener to receive a new idea. This snippet of an example, which I have adapted for a school environment, is one that is easy to remembered.

If you are asking for funds for a technology initiative, begin by saying, “I know we don’t have a million dollars for this project. I would be crazy to ask for that much but this is what we can do with just a fraction of that amount.” Proceed with the benefits to students, educators, families, and community of this new initiative. Tell a story; provide some data. Then close the presentation with: “Together, we can achieve all of these benefits and we’ll need only $75,000 to do it well.”

Cialdini’s ideas help readers make the most of the “privileged moment.” That moment is when the influencer creates a context in which the listener is receptive to hearing the message and acting upon it.

I recommend both of these books for those who are preparing to launch advocacy campaigns and are leading change in their schools, districts, states, or nation.

Works Cited

Cialdini, Robert B. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. 5th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2009.

Cialdini, Robert. Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016.

Guided Inquiry Design®: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read (and re-read!) many professional books. This is the tenth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your professional reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

I read Carol C. Kuhlthau, Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari’s book Guided Inquiry Design®: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School when it was first published in 2012. In 2012-2013, I was part of the Denton Inquiry for Lifelong Learning Project. We conducted a year-long study centered on this book. Our goal for the study was to increase the understanding and practice of inquiry learning among the various stakeholders in the Denton literacy community. Our collaborators included school librarians from Denton Independent School District, the Denton Public Library, the university libraries and graduate library schools of Texas Woman’s University and the University of North Texas.

There are eight phases in the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) Process: open, immerse, explore, identify, gather, create, share, and evaluate (2). Reflection and assessment are embedded throughout the process as a way for students and educators to monitor learning and ensure success.

The GID is intended to be co-facilitated by an inquiry team that includes two or more educators, including a classroom teacher or specialist and the school librarian. Throughout the phases, educators have shared responsibilities for designing learning experiences and collaborating with students to make school-based learning authentic, personally meaningful, and relevant to students’ lives. Educators also share responsibility for monitoring student progress and assessing student learning outcomes.

In co-facilitating inquiry learning, educators can practice and students can experience the creativity that comes from “two (or more) heads are better than one.” In addition to integrating the rich resources of the school library into inquiry learning, educators have expanded opportunities to launch the open phase creatively. With two or more educators facilitating student engagement with resources and identifying questions, students and inquiry groups will receive more personalized feedback throughout the process. With two or more educators monitoring student learning and providing interventions as needed, student success will be more assured.

Educators will also benefit personally by lowering the stress of guiding “messy” inquiry learning. They will practice reciprocal mentorship throughout the process and have the opportunity to improve their own teaching practices. They will have someone to share the joys and challenges and celebrate students’ success.

The GID clearly aligns with privileging the instructional partner role of the school librarian, my raison d’être!

How does inquiry learning align with your state standards? Although the term “research” rather than “inquiry” is used, one benefit Texas educators have is that the English Language Arts and Reading standards specifically include learning standards that align well with the phases of the GID. These include students developing open-ended questions, a “research plan,” revising research questions, applying information literacy skills (authority, reliability, validity, bias), resolving discrepancies in information, presenting their learning, and more.

When classroom teachers and school librarians coplan and coteach inquiry learning, educators can seamlessly and authentically integrate content-area, digital, and information literacies, competencies such as the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s 4Cs (communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking), and dispositions, such as persistence and flexibility, into students’ learning experiences.

If you do not yet guide inquiry learning in your school, please read this book. Check out the model lesson plans offered at the end of each chapter focused on each phase of the GID.

If you have been teaching another inquiry or research process, compare it to the GID. I believe you will find that the GID offers you, your colleagues, and your students with a framework for guiding future-ready learning in your school.

Work Cited

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2012. (Or the 2nd edition published in 2015)

For Further Reading

Guided Inquiry Design. http://guidedinquirydesign.com

Guided Inquiry Design Blog. http://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2015.

Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions

While authoring my forthcoming book, Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is the ninth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your professional reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

As an advocate for inquiry learning, I am in total agreement with Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana: student-led questioning is an effective way to guide students into deeper learning. When students (or adult learners, for that matter) are invested in finding out why, they are more motivated to pursue answers to their questions and solutions to the world’s pressing problems—especially when the answers are illusive, the process is difficult, and the outcome is uncertain.

In their book Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions, authors Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana note that student-led questioning helps ensure that students are learning and practicing thinking skills. Rothstein and Santana are the directors of the Right Question Institute (RQI), a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit organization.

They developed the Question Formulation Technique™ (QFT), which involves students in brainstorming questions as a way to launch an investigation. All students’ contributions are accepted and weighted equally. The question recorder documents all questions verbatim as asked without comment, response, or discussion. Statements are turned into questions as well. Students then prioritize questions to determine which are most compelling; their priorities set the learning agenda for the next class period (or subsequent lessons).

Educators can guide students in other types of questioning processes such as Question the Author (Beck, McKeown, Sandora, Kucan, and Worthy) during which students discover various aspects of the writer’s and illustrator’s craft as well as persuasive techniques and bias. When readers question the texts they encounter, they are engaged in an active learning process that has the potential to increase their content knowledge as well as improve their overall reading proficiency.

Questions are a way for students to uncover the gaps in their understanding. Questioning can also help them identify misconceptions. The ability to question, whether applied to reading and responding to literature, identifying bias in a political cartoon, or analyzing data in a scientific journal article, is an essential, lifelong-learning skill.

Santana and Rothstein call student-led questioning a “shortcut” to deeper learning. I agree. If you have not used the QFT™ in your teaching, I hope you will check out the RQI Web site and read their book. (Side note: One area RQI is exploring is “microdemocracy.” Their idea is that “ordinary encounters with public agencies are opportunities for individual citizens to ‘act democratically’ and participate effectively in decisions that affect them.” Brilliant work, if you ask me.)

That said, my experience tells me that educators who are teaching future-ready students need to do more than just this one thing to help prepare students for today and tomorrow. Honoring students’ agency and helping them explore their interests through student-led questioning is an essential and critical place to begin. Inquiry learning can be an essential part of the next steps, the “more” that future-ready students need.

Works Consulted

Beck, Isabel L., Margaret G. McKeown, Cheryl Sandora, Linda Kucan, and Jo Worthy. “Questioning the Author: A Yearlong Classroom Implementation to Engage Students with Text.” The Elementary School Journal, vol. 96, no. 4, 1996, pp. 385-414.

Rothstein, Dan, and Luz Santana. Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2015.