How I can help you
Whether you work in a museum or you're taking part in some schools' outreach for your university, holding the attention of learners can be a challenge, at times.
Yet without their attention, you cannot achieve any of your deeper objectives. I know that this is blindingly obvious. The trouble is that research suggests we think we have their attention much more than we actually do.
Yes, you may have novelty on your side, but nowadays novelty can get old fast.
You're always battling with the uncomfortable reality that they don't have to listen to you.
They know this.
They know you know this too.
Like every educator, I understand what it’s like to visibly lose your audience. But I also know the joy when you see that audience become enthralled by a topic that you're passionate about.
Helping you engage your learners
I'm Paul McCrory and I run a company, HOOK training ltd, that helps informal educators reflect on how they engage their learners. The resources on this website provide professional development for educators who engage children, families and adults outside of formal education.
Two things you should know about me upfront:
- I am fascinated by the psychology of interest - why are some things interesting to most people and other things aren't?
- Ironically, having a PhD in being interesting is one of the few interesting things about me.
Paul McCrory is one of the few people who has got to the core of what makes people engage with a topic. The best teachers do it instinctively but through his research Paul helps everyone to improve their delivery to the benefit of their audiences and themselves.
Head of Education, Centre for Life, Newcastle upon Tyne
There are several core themes underlying my approach to engaging people. If these themes appeal to you as an educator, then this website is the right place for you.
- emotional engagement - how to model and elicit emotions e.g. curiosity, anticipation, surprise, amusement, wonder and the sheer joy of understanding something for the first time;
- connecting through your character - relaxing enough in the spotlight so that your authentic personality can emerge in a heightened way;
- liveness - presenting material as if it is for the first time and allowing the audience to co-create a unique experience with you;
- interactivity - genuine interaction is intoxicating for your audience, but it requires careful management;
- play - being playful draws in learners of all ages, especially when they might feel threatened by your subject;
- story - stories are "emotion simulators" for our brains and the most powerful known framework for communicating information.
I usually frame these themes under the banner of "interactive performing skills" because it turns out that the best professional performers excel at them. Like us, magicians, stand-ups, actors and street performers are constantly fighting for the attention of their voluntary audiences in distracting environments.
In addition to learning from the practical wisdom of experienced educators and performers, I also use the filter of relevant educational and psychological research to inform these approaches.
Paul is a scicomm yoda. I met him many years ago and was impressed by his astute comments on performance, choreography, volunteer interaction and so much more across both theory and practice.
I’ll employ Paul’s Jedi skills to help reflect on the engagement and interaction behind any live project I develop (eg my nationwide science theatre tour) or, in fact, any scicomm project (eg the first youtube course on science communication). Priceless his input is.
science presenter and producer