"ATTITUDE IS A CHOICE," a classmate said last Monday evening in response to a question from A/P M. on what "attitude" is, as differentiated from "motivation". We were having a lesson on training methods and strategies for teaching attitude.
Was quite struck by the statement. It wasn't new. But so it is. When we write learning objectives for a desired attitude in an earlier module ("MID801 Instructional Design Models & Practices"), we had been taught to write, "The learner will choose to behave [in a certain way]." Yes, regardless of whether s/he likes or dislikes that particular behavior. And often, when someone has a bad attitude, it's not so much that s/he does not know how or does not have enough practice, but rather s/he is not convinced by the why.
Other verbs often used for writing attitude-related learning objectives include: "accept, adopt, advocate, approve, assess, challenge, characterise, criticise, defend, evaluate, formulate, judge, justify, manage, model, persuade, recommend, resolve, select, specify, value, re-assure, empathise."
An extract from Instructional Design, a book by Patricia Smith and Tillman Ragan:
"AN ATTITUDE is a mental state that pre-disposes a learner to choose to behave in a certain way (G. Gagne, 1985). Gagne describes attitudes as having cognitive, affective and behavioral components that interact. Attitudes influence the choices that learners make. For instance, an individual's dislike for math may cause him to choose to avoid all courses that contain a math component. A child who loves animals may choose to purchase a pet. Certainly attitudes play a strong role in learners' motivation to initiate and persevere in learning. (p.68)
"... The basic idea of attitudes is captured in the idea of choosing to do something... they are generally "affective" in nature ... [that is,] the "knowing why" ... The most fundamental condition achievement of the affective component is provision of a role model ... a respected person who demonstrates the desired behavior. (p.252)
"... Gagne (1985) underscores the utility of modeling as an instructional technique ... [and] presents a four-step procedure for the use of human models in attitude learning:
a. Establish the appeal and credibility of the model.
b. Stimulate the learner's recall of relevant knowledge and concepts.
c. Demonstration or communication of desired action by the model.
d. Demonstration or communication of reinforcement of the model as a result of the action taken.
"... According to Gagne, in addition to particular role-playing methods that may be employed, such as case studies and simulations, conventional group discussion is also a legitimate means for practice of a desired behavior. In a discussion, as each student contributes from the point of view of the attitude at hand, that student serves as a role model for the attitude. The discussion leader has the opportunity to provide reinforcement for the discussion participant/role model, and as the discussion progresses, the attitude may be expressed with more and more precision.
"... the most powerful reinforcers seem to be those that we can call "natural consequences." The thanks from someone you have helped, the safe passage through a dangerous situation, and observation of the benefit gained from help you supplied are all much more direct and powerful reinforcers than praise or reward from a teacher. In fact, in many situations, praise and reward can be worse than no attempt to reinforce at all." (p.256)
(See also Attitude Is A Choice II. By the way, according to research, "persuasive messages" and "dissonance" are two other fundamental sources of attitude change besides "modeling" (p.252).)