We live in a world where at any given moment, there are about a hundred things competing for your attention. Whether it’s monkeys outside the windows, sounds of pens clicking or someone tapping their foot. Your attention is prone to constant fluctuation, and your neurons are constantly shifting signals to help you stay focused on the task at hand. It becomes problematic, especially in a classroom setting. Eventually, learning fatigue is inevitable, and there isn’t much you can do to stop yourself from spacing out or falling asleep in class. No matter how high of an achiever someone is, there are always those days where learning about covalent bonds or irregular french verbs seems impossible and on those days 50 minutes feels like 2 hours.
Recently, Woodstock introduced 50-minute periods for their students instead of the regular 40 minutes. This means that students sit for a single class for around 95 minutes if there is a scheduled double block. As a result, several students have been complaining that classes are too long now. Someone even mentioned that they countdown the minutes to the end of certain classes instead of paying attention and overall the shift to longer periods didn’t seem very conducive to learning.
However, the fact is that there isn’t actually a common consensus on the ideal class length as it is dependent on many different variables. Each subject is different. In subjects like math, shorter but more frequent blocks have proven to be most effective to engage students but, in subjects like English, teachers want longer less frequent blocks to make space for more engaging discussions.
With this change, to make classes as productive as possible, there are 3 things for teachers to consider: class function, students learning states, and successful delivery of information. If the class is content-driven, it might be more effective to break the teaching up into smaller lessons of 20 minutes each. If the class is process-driven, a longer class would work just fine to keep students engaged. Student learning states are extremely prone to sudden shifts. To prevent negative shifts, try to have a change in stimulus every 20 minutes and be aware of the overall class learning state so you can easily pinpoint and intervene if there is a negative shift. The final thing to keep in mind is if the delivery of information has been successful. At the end of the day, this factor is mostly dependent on the teacher’s ability to keep students in positive learning states and make sure that the content being taught is engaging.
In conclusion, while this shift has been hard for students, it has also been hard for the teachers. It is important to keep in mind that any class can be productive just by keeping in mind the above 3 factors. However, if you ever feel like you are shifting into a negative learning state, take a few minutes and take a short break from paying attention to give your brain a change in stimulus to empower yourself for success.
Kyra is Editor-in-Chief