Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Too Much To Teach: Or How To Pick A Goal

Most instructors have experienced a time while preparing for a class that they just had so much to teach.  So much that it became too much. Among the things to focus on were technique, and execution, and fun, and and and ...

So, this week's blog post addresses goals and focus. Assuming you want your material to stick and your students to leave without a cognitive overload, there is no way around picking a focus for your class.

So, how do you pick a focus?  The answer depends totally on you.  Ask yourself - What is important to you?  Do you want your students to understand a concept, a technique, a feeling or an idea?  Do you feel like they are missing something?  Do you think it'd be nice if they could do x or y?  Or something completely different?

One good example would be jazz moves:

You could easily put jazz moves into the following contexts and probably several more:
  • jazz moves (e.g. with their particular history)
  • body awareness
  • frame matching (just do it / mirror me)
  • personal movement / stylings
  • creativity
  • isolation                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
What you would teach about the jazz move could completely differ from context to context, without necessarily contradicting your other messages.  You can see that if you want to talk about all the different aspects, you are going to need more than one class. So, instead of talking about all of them, pick a  focus.

You can have multiple goals for each class, of course. I usually try to keep it down to one, so students don't get mixed up and so that they have an easier time remembering what to take from that class.  One place where having multiple goals does fit very well, though, is if you have a series of classes with the same group, regardless of whether it's a workshop or a class series from a local class.  

A nice side effect of picking a focus for your classes, is that it's much easier to evaluate if your teaching was successful or not. (Since you're reading this blog, I'll assume you do want to improve your teaching skills.)  Have you reached your goal?  Or only partly?  

Yet another side effect is that narrowing your focus can help you determining what kind of exercises you need or what kind of moves to teach.