Success starts with the basics (3 of 3)

Persuasion is an art that, when mastered, will empower your students to connect with what you are teaching in ways you may never have dreamed possible. Aristotle, the master of this art, said that persuasion involves ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos is the credibility of the speaker, pathos is the emotional element, and last but certainly not least, logos is the logical component. In this third article about exercising the art of persuasion in your teaching, we will focus on logos.

Not surprisingly, a recent Harvard research study showed that students are much more apt to be engaged in learning if they see that it has value in their own lives. They need to see the logic in it. When one of our now PhD sons was young, he had such a hard time understanding why he had to repeatedly do homework on something he already understood. He needed to understand the logic for all of his homework. (By the way, researchers debate this issue, too!)

In my previous two articles, I told you about my experience as a student of W. Edwards Deming, the brilliant statistician and consultant. Ethos was displayed in his knowledge and his reputation; pathos was employed in his Red Bead Experiment.

In teaching, we may at times show emotion, and at other times we may need to throw in a little credibility so we are believed. Yet, I believe the one constant needs to be logic.

If Deming had conducted the Red Bead Experiment and had not shown us the statistical facts to accompany it, the experiment might have simply been an interesting episode to watch.

However, it changed how we thought because he played on our logic. We could see the truth in his assertion that results come from the process because he provided statistical information as support for this idea.

When our kids ask us why, or when we see puzzled or frustrating looks on their faces, we can almost be sure that something in the area of logic is not clicking. Of course, sometimes our job is to explain the logic or sometimes the illogic of what is happening.

I sometimes sense from my grandchildren what is fair and what is not. I remember this issue with my own children and even my siblings and me. “That’s not fair!” they say. We said it, too. This might be the time to teach them not to compare because there are always those with less and those with more. Sometimes our job is to use our logic to change the way they think (their logic), as Deming did with us.

Another consultant I worked with said, “Business is a series of human relationships, and the quality of the business is directly proportional to the quality of the relationships.”

This principle also applies in teaching. In the hundreds, if not thousands, of students I have had the privilege of teaching, the relationship is the key. The quality of our teaching is directly proportional to the quality of the relationship with our student, our child, our grandchild.

And our relationships are incredibly dependent on how we use our own ethos (credibility), pathos (emotion), and the one that tips the scales, our own logos (logic)! Our success as teachers depends on this foundation. Success starts with the basics!

How might you activate these three components of persuasion in your teaching in order to inspire and empower your students?

Female teacher helping student


“We were thrilled with the results of the Study Skills System. I didn’t realize that my daughter had never been taught how to study or how to use that knowledge to study smarter rather than harder. A great investment in your child’s educational journey!” Cathy Armstrong, Parent