The Movie Director’s Guide to Effective Teaching

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The Movie Director’s Guide to Effective Teaching

by Victor Stachura

I am putting this link here in Writing Techniques because it applies critically to good nonfiction writing and writing for lectures. Here is the first major point where Stachura quoted William Glasser's learning principles:

“We Learn . . .

10% of what we read

20% of what we hear

30% of what we see

50% of what we see and hear

70% of what we discuss

80% of what we experience

95% of what we teach others.”

Obviously these measurements are general approximations, but in my own life, they sound about right.

The next important point that Stachura mentioned was that learning happens at start and end points. The reason he used "movie director" in the title was because Hollywood directors know this in their storytelling. They always have a bang at the beginning to grab the audience's attention and a bang at the end to leave it satisfied. Stachura did not mention it, but Hollywood directors often us a build-up before the bang at the beginning.

This implies a few things for nonfiction:

1. As Stachura noted, the material should be divided up into chunks (10-15 minutes for lectures) that have a definite beginning and ending, followed by some kind of intrusion that breaks the flow and changes gear before the next chunk.

2. The beginning should not only be attention-grabbing, it should state clearly what the author wants the reader to learn. This goes for the ending.

3. Although Stachura did not mention this, it seems reasonable to assume that during the middle where the attention span lags, this is a good place to be redundant and repeat key phrases and concepts. It is also a good place to insert personal anecdotes, stories, quirky facts, high general interest facts (involving sex, violence, gossip, etc.), humor, and anything else that the author can dream up to keep the reader awake.

4. Although the reader learns only 10% of what he reads, it is also reasonable to assume that articles that use "see and hear" images for examples and metaphors, that challenge the reader to think about and contest some idea, and that encourage readers to apply the idea to their own lives, will be far more successful in getting them to remember what he wants them to learn than articles that do not. This is particularly important when discussing an abstract philosophical idea and illustrating it with concretes.

5. Stachura did not mention the following, either, but a great way to learn a new subject cold is to write an article about it for the purpose of teaching it to others.

This thing was great food for thought.


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