Recently, I was talking to my friend Angie Shuler and she shared an analogy that became a huge AH-HA moment for me. We were talking about how a class should end. Angie said she had been teaching a class on generational learning and in that class she was explaining that to really reach today’s generation of learners, we shouldn’t necessarily give them everything in one class, but leave the class with wanting more.
She then asked if I watch the show Scandal. My response was, “of course I watch.” I remembered back to watching the first episode and becoming immediately hooked. I couldn’t wait to see what happens in the next episode. That is when my “light bulb” came on and I understood Angie’s point.
You see, I’ve always focused on the class time itself. I’ve got 60 minutes and in those 60 minutes I’m going to wow you! But I’m also going to wrap it up in 60 minutes. What Angie was saying is that although we need to WOW them in that 60 minutes and have a beginning, middle and end, we don’t have to give them the full thing…. we can leave them wanting a little more, i.e. just dying to see the next episode.
Then, the really big ah-ha moment for me became the fact that this is really a generational issue. It really is how today’s students expects things to be. Let me explain…TV shows today are mostly serial-based, which means I don’t get a full story completed in 60 minutes. Instead, I get a storyline that may last several episodes, a full season, or sometimes, the entire run of the show. Think: Scandal, The Walking Dead, House of Cards, Nashville, Empire, the list goes on. These shows are designed to make you painfully wait for the next episode; they leave you hanging.
TV has not always been that way. Years ago, TV shows were designed to be standalone episodes. Each episode had one story and it was always wrapped up with a nice bow by the time the 60 minutes were up. Think: Law and Order, JAG, Murder She Wrote, or even think back to The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. No matter what drama was created, they had it resolved by the end of the 60 minutes, unless it was a 2-part show.
With all of this in mind, it began making sense to me that I come from a generation where I expect things to be wrapped up nice and neat within an hour, and therefore, that is how I teach. But with today’s learner, who is used to being left on the edge of their seat, it started to occur to me that maybe I should be leaving some anticipation for my next class, giving students not only a reason to come back but to be be excited about tomorrow’s lesson.
I know that we have schedules to keep and limited amounts of time to deliver our content, so I’m not talking about randomly stretching content out over weeks. What I am saying is start considering the way you end a class. What are you doing to help build excitement and anticipation for your next class? What are you doing that makes them want to talk to the other students and discuss what is coming up? How are you going to create that cliffhanger that everyone can’t quit talking about?