Aug 21, 2015

The Ten Minute Rule

In the book Brain Rules, there is a section on attention.  The author states, contrary to popular belief, we cannot successfully multi-task.  Yes, we can do things like walk and talk at the same time, because neither activity requires much of our attention, or just the talking does.  And yes, a pianist can play different notes with their right and left hands simultaneously; they are trained to do that.

But we cannot successfully work on a writing assignment while playing a computer game and listening to music and talking/texting.  This is because we cannot do those thing simultaneously and so we keep going from one activity to the next, each time having to refocus our attention.  More mistakes are made and it takes much longer to complete a task this way.

Even more interesting to me is his 10 minute rule. The most common mistake made by teachers-professors-lecturers is conveying too much information with not enough time to digest the material. Medina, the author, asks every college class he teaches: When do you start looking at the clock in a class of medium interest.  The answer is 10 minutes.  Medina developed a model for giving a lecture which goes like this:

Every lecture consists of 10 minute segments. Each segment covers a single core concept which is explainable in 1 minute.  A 50 minute class would teach 5 large concepts.  The other 9 minutes of each segment is used to discuss the core concept in detail.  Each detail needs to be easily related back to the core concept, and the teacher needs to spell this out because you don't want the audience to have to multi-task.

When 10 minutes are up, the speaker needs to do something to gain another 10 minutes of the audience's attention.  He calls them "hooks."  Hooks need to trigger an emotion: fear, happiness, nostalgia, incredulity.  They need to be relevant, not just a random joke. Hooks need to either relate to the previous material or introduce the next 10 minute segment.

Next time you listen to a shiur-lecture-class, notice how you react.  Does your interest start waning after ten minutes? How do your favorite speakers (the ones who teach, not tell stories) hold your attention?

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