Unfortunately, research indicates that adult learners can only effectively listen for 15 to 20 minutes before nodding off or becoming otherwise inattentive. Unfortunately, the typical college class meets for 50 minutes to 3 hours. Therefore, teachers should plan to incorporate "mental breaks" or otherwise change up the lecture every 15 minutes at minimum.
An instructor should provide time for students to process information particularly if the content is new to the students. One of the strategies that I utilized was having the students share with the person next to them or behind them. The key is to ensure that the student has time to apply the new information to existing knowledge, learning is accomplished by this type of activity.
Professor David Perkins recommends that a teacher should provide time for students to think particularly if the content is new to the students. The Connect-Extend-Challenge thinking routine is one strategy that provides a process whereby a student can connect new ideas to prior knowledge, extend that knowledge to consider a new direction or application, and even challenge the students to resolve a more complicated problem. The Connect-Extend-Challenge model suggests 3 simple questions that can be used with any subject and any age of student.
- Connect: How are the ideas and information presented connected to what you already knew prior to today’s lesson?
- Extend: What new ideas and information did you learn that pushed your thinking in a new direction, which extended what you knew previously to better understand and extend your knowledge?
- Challenge: What is still unclear/confusing you regarding this topic? What aspect of what we have covered in today’s lesson is still challenging to you?
My challenge is to design several Connect-Extend-Challenge activities to be incorporated in my future lectures. Each of these strategies will be helpful in ensuring that my students are encouraged to stop, think and apply the new information to prior knowledge.
A version of Think-Pair-Share Activity: Before beginning class, I distribute a 3x5 card to each student. After covering the lecture for a period of time, I pause and ask the students to individually respond to a question or define a term or consider a problem. I allow only a short 3 to 5 minutes to consider the request and write down their response. Then I ask each student to pair up with another student to exchange their ideas. After another 5 minutes, I have the students return to their seats. Another 15 minutes of the lecture is covered moving to a more advanced concept related to the task on the card. Now the challenge is resumed with the students forming groups of 4 to reconsider the original problem and given the additional information, determine a response to share with the class. The Think-Pair-Share activity is designed to help students move to higher order thinking and comprehending the concept. One of the reasons that I like using this activity is that it increases the involvement of quiet and shy students. Additionally, the types of questions or problems can vary according to the subject and knowledge/skill of the students.
The One Minute Essay: Another activity that can be utilized during a lecture is the one minute essay. Students are given just 60 seconds to write a response to a question. For example, the instructor pauses after a 15 minute segment of the lecture and asks the students to produce a written response to a specific question from the most recent topic. There are several permutations of this type of question:
- What was the most important thing you learned during this lesson?
- What question do you have regarding this lesson?
- What was the most difficult aspect of the lesson? or
- What was the muddiest point that remains unclear in your mind regarding topic X?
Exam Question: Many times I like to learn what students think might be worthy of an exam question so I utilize this activity. It is just what is implies, the students are asked to draft a question for the next exam over the material related to the topic you just covered. Now it seems easy to write the exam question, but I always have the students turn the paper over and respond to their own question on the reverse. Of course, another version of this activity is to have the students write the question then they are instructed to pass it to the next student who must answer the question. This can be very revealing in highlighting what students think is important to retain but also it indicates how students are able to answer the question.
The Think-Pair-Share, One Minute Essay, and Exam Question activities are adaptations of the Connect-Extend-Challenge strategy that will be useful in helping students to think, discuss with their peers, and process new knowledge in “digestible chunks.” I hope these strategies will help me design a positive learning environment for my classroom. My next challenge will be to adapt these strategies to the online learning environment.
Please feel free to share your own insight and recommendations. I welcome all feedback.