If a picture's worth a thousand words, then take a look at this:
It's a side-by-side comparison of two activities, but I'm not going to share with you yet which activities. The image is from a study conducted by an MIT professor in which students were equipped with wristbands that measured skin conductance as an index of the “arousal associated with emotion, cognition and attention.” The students wore the wristband for one week. These are images of "highly-spiked" activities, or activities that stimulated strong physiological enthusiasm from one student:
The obvious conclusions we can draw from these images aren't too much of a stretch: the more intellectually stimulating the task, the more the brain is engaged, right? So, studying, homework, and testing all create tangible spikes.
Okay, ready for the big reveal?
Yep...sitting in a classroom is about as intellectually stimulating as snoozing. Digging deeper, we can reasonably assume that this particular classroom activity is most likely lecture-based.
Did you know that since the establishment of the university system in 1050, class-long lecturing has been the predominant method of instructional delivery? Let that settle in for a moment: we've talked at students for almost 1,000 years. Despite recent studies that confirm fifteen minutes is about the maximum amount of time students can focus on lecture material, we're still encouraging students to passively accept our content knowledge. Or, to quote my math coach buddy Mike Lipnos, "We have no idea how much we take from children when we give them our thinking."
What Can Be Done?
Fortunately, this is an easy fix, and I'm certainly not endorsing a complete ban on direct instruction; sometimes it's necessary. However, it's not our only option. Vicki Halsey, author of the book Brilliance by Design, suggests a six-step ENGAGE model for instructional delivery, and you can read more about that in more detail here. Distinguished teacher Angela Watson provides eight quick-start ideas we can immediately implement to get our kiddos actively talking more, such as:
In other words, keep it brief, keep it active, and keep it about the students.
What strategies do you use to cut down on the amount of time you lecture?
Learning Designer. Instructional Coach. Trainer. Working my hardest to create Teacher-Bordered Classrooms.