Not that kind of trigger. I’m referring to the triggers mentioned in The Marshmallow Test and in this post from lifehacker.
A trigger is a cue that reminds us to perform a desired behavior. For students, the desired behavior might be to review their A&P vocabulary list or to rehearse the steps in a complex physiologic process. The students then identify predictable moments in their day (blow-drying hair, folding laundry, nuking dinner, whatever) and decide to practice the desired action each time the trigger occurs.
Teachers can use triggers during class. I don’t want to drone on and on without asking the students to demonstrate that some learning is happening. I can set a timer as a trigger or simply note the time on the big clock. (My cell phone can be set to flash silently after a set interval.) I can insert a particular slide at regular intervals in a PowerPoint. The flash or slide means that I need to ask a question or invite the students to participate in an activity.
Identifying triggers that induce undesirable behaviors is also useful. If I know that arriving at my house has become associated with eating a snack, then I can invent ways to bypass the pantry as I come in the door. If I know that a particular student tends to ask questions that get us off track during class, I can plan for polite responses that firmly redirect the discussion.