College of Education

How to: Beyond the lesson – Increasing retention and decreasing frustration

By Jennifer Zakrzewski | May 1, 2023

Whether you are a parent, pastor, coach, marketing executive, or any other myriad of positions, we are all teachers at heart. A parent may be teaching a child the difference between right and wrong. Coaches teach their congregation about Jesus. Marketing executives teach others about their ideas and try to gain support for them. Teaching is fundamental to everything we do. Therefore, it is critical to support others in remembering what we have taught them.

Most of us have experienced the dreaded blank stare accompanied by asking someone to recall information. The look remains the same regardless of whether they are being asked to recall information immediately after the lesson or the next day. This look and the silence that follows causes uneasiness to anyone who has taught a lesson and hopes the content was heard and retained.

On the bright side, there are solutions. The first solution is to preview information. For most, summarizing the goals of the session will be sufficient. For example, a baseball coach may explain they will be working on fielding drills that day. A marketing executive may remind the client the goals of the presentation and what they asked for when they retained the marketing company. This allows everyone to solidify in their minds the goal of the session.

The second tip is to allow for predictions. A parent preparing to engage in a learning opportunity with a child may ask the child why they are having a conversation about unkind words. A pastor may ask the congregation to predict what Jesus and social media have in common before engaging in the sermon. By allowing the learner to engage in this activity the learner is considering their prior knowledge about a subject and preparing to engage with the topic.

The final two solutions occur at the end of a session. Upon the conclusion of the session, it is always good to review what was discussed and then list the major takeaways. For the parent this might be reminding the child why it is important to be kind and having the child list ways you discussed to show kindness. A baseball coach may review the technique for fielding and have the team list various methods of fielding they can employ.

Ultimately, the goal is to support the learner in being successful as they move forward. With these simple tools, sessions ending in frustration can turn into true learning experiences.

Top 4 Tips:
1. Preview the information
2. Allow for predictions
3. Review
4. Naming the Take-Aways

Dr. Jennifer Zakrzewski is an assistant professor of education in the College of Education.

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