Thursday, October 24, 2019

Even Mr. Miyagi Had Student Buy-In Issues Initially (Humor)

Even Mr. Miyagi had student buy-in issues. If you've seen the movie, The Karate Kid, you know these "wax on, wax off" training scenes, which is clearly active, Daniel-san-centered teaching. You wouldn't just want to only watch videos or watch demos, if you need to face real humans in a karate tournament. It seems like avoiding a kick to the head might require more than factual knowledge of what a kick is and knowing about the existence of a block or an avoidance move.

Let's take a look at a key segment, where Daniel doesn't see the point of all his practice, and has a blow up.


When viewing this scene from a teaching point of view, it comes down to Mr. Miyagi not framing and signposting the activities.  "You're doing this to get stronger at ..."  Instead, he assigned Daniel exercises, and did not tell him what these exercises were for. So naturally Daniel was upset, because he could not see the connection to learning karate. Finally, Mr. Miyagi does some student buy-in work, and has Daniel demonstrate that he actually has strengthened his defense abilities. At that point, Daniel made a big step forward in student buy-in, after getting some positive feedback from this teacher.

(Now of course this a movie, and drama is needed. I wouldn't change the movie, nor is this a film critique.)

If we boil things down to their essence, the situation is (a) instructors know what the connections are and the purpose of the work, however (b) students don't always see (or can't see) these connections, since they lack expert insight.  Hence, it's vital for teachers to signpost, "We are learning in this way, because..."

Returning to The Karate Kid, at some point, there has to be authentic meaning to the work. Daniel fully buys in after the "anniversary scene", where it is revealed that Mr. Miyagi had suffered tragedy in his family life, while earning a congressional medal of honor for his military service to the United States. This experience provides much needed perspective for the young man. The next scene is Daniel practicing with intent on his own - a sign of full buy-in.  Game on!


This suggests that buy-in has multiple levels. It's one thing to see why you are doing an exercise. It's another to be fully committed to the path forward. This is where assignments and activities focused on the meaning and value of the work can be useful. This can include but is not limited to the value of problem solving, growth mindset, and inspirational content, where students have an opportunity to learn universal lessons about what their education is for.

Wax on, wax off,
Wax on, wax off...