Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
The posting below an important yet often neglected element of class presentations, the ending. It is by Linc Fisch, Lexington, Kentucky. It is number 16 in a series of selected excerpts from the National Teaching and Learning Forum newsletter reproduced here as part of our "Shared Mission Partnership." NT&LF has a wealth of information on all aspects of teaching and learning. If you are not already a subscriber, you can check it out at [http://www.ntlf.com/] The on-line edition of the Forum--like the printed version - offers subscribers insight from colleagues eager to share new ways of helping students reach the highest levels of learning. National Teaching and Learning Forum Newsletter, February 2002, Volume 11, Number 4. ? Copyright 1996-2002. Published by Oryx Press in conjunction with James Rhem & Associates, Inc. (ISSN 1057-2880) All rights reserved worldwide. Reprinted with permission.
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Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
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In several earlier Ad Rem columns, I've drawn ideas for college teaching from the theatre. One concept remains: the exit, the final moments of an instructional session.
Arguably, the exit is even more important than the entrance because it should send students away with more to do and an eagerness to do it. Designing and executing an effective exit is probably more challenging than any other segment of a class.
For many years my exits were considerably less than thrilling. They fell into two general patterns. If I had reached the end of what I intended to do, I'd likely ask, "Are there any questions?" and follow an instant later with, "Well, I guess that's it for today."
If I had not completed what I had planned by period's end, I might say something like "Gee, I wanted to cover Alkschmeer's formula today, and we're out of time, but let me just give you a little introduction to it . . ." By the time I realized I was wasting effort in a lost cause, half my students might be off to their next class or a local pub.
You don't have to be a Sophocles or a Shakespeare to know that not only is the play the thing but the ending is the thing, as well. Even novice playwrights realize the importance of sending audiences away still caught up in the emotion, content, and issues of the production. In a musical, send them away singing. In a drama of conflict or controversy, send them away arguing. But never, never send them away thinking, "Ho-hum . . ."
Alas, sending them away from the classroom eager and vibrant is more easily said than done. Having come to this matter rather late in life, I don't have a plethora of experiences to draw upon. Let me present a few instances in which I've succeeded in classroom or workshop, then generalize therefrom.
In my mathematics courses, where concept builds upon concept, I've often spent the last few minutes of a class exposing a new challenging situation that evolves out of topics that have been resolved earlier in the class-say, a problem that seems like those just mastered, but whose subtle differences demand a quantum leap in strategic attack.
On occasion in workshops, I've opened with music that is relevant to the subject. The final event of the workshop then can be either a reprise of the music that stirred participants at the beginning or a new piece that inspires them or extends their horizons further.
Quotations work into closings well, particularly when matched with appropriate images. In workshops on strategic teaching, my displaying the words "What's so amazing that keeps us star gazing, and what do we think we might see?" along with a sketch of Kermit the Frog (and accompanying music) has moved participants deeply and powerfully. (You have to have been there to feel the emotion.) Quotations by Helen Keller, John Dewey, Eeyore, Sigmund Freud, and Thomas Edison are among others I've used.
When I've opened with a problem case and spent the session exploring its resolution, I might well close with presentation of a brief sequel or variation of the original for students to consider on their own.
These examples suggest that the best exits devolve naturally from the material; they are not add-ons designed merely for effect.
Emotional and visual elements enhance the impact of exits. A few well chosen still frames may be worth thousands of words.
Building challenges and intrigue into exits also enhances their impact. Sometimes it's the "twist" from the ordinary that makes them stand out vividly in students' minds.
And not all exits need be Grande Finales. Often simpler and subtler closings work best. Their effect well rewards their effort.
Email Linc. Fisch at firstname.lastname@example.org.