Eight is enough

The latest research in the field of education is quite illuminating. Apparently, if we limit our lessons to eight minutes then pupils will benefit. After eight minutes, however, the level of learning declines, so teachers should keep it brief. My contention is that this is nothing new.

When I taught high-school in the admirable state of N.S.W each lesson lasted 35 minutes. We, as teachers, spent our day walking from one classroom to the other as did our pupils for reasons nobody could understand and which we never questioned. Anyone who has worked for the Education Department soon learned that one did not ask questions. We simply obeyed orders. (Where have I heard that before?)

It took more than 5 minutes for a class to move and congregate in another classroom for the next lesson. Let’s be conservative and say 5. So that left 30 minutes. In our school we had to call the roll at the beginning of each lesson as well as taking the roll first thing in the morning and last thing in the afternoon. This took a further 10 minutes since the pupils had to stand up so as to be visibly present. Which left 20 minutes for teaching.

We then had at least 10 minutes of creative explanations for why the homework had not been done. That left 10 minutes for introducing a new topic, asking questions such as “Have you been tested for sleep apnoea?” and then there was the setting of new homework. So actually the theory that shorter lessons of 8 minutes duration is hardly innovative. We were that advanced in the Education Department for as long as I was teaching in the government schools.

So now we have some brilliant new research to back up a system which I mistakenly thought was deficient, but apparently, apart from the fact that high-school graduates can hardly read or write, not to mention the third R word, we were ahead of our time. Which makes me feel heaps better…


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