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Staying for the credits

Educator Jim Dillon reflects on the importance of letting learning sink in.

6 min read




“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience,” said John Dewey.

When a movie ends and the credits roll by, most members of the audience stand up and quickly head to the theater exits. I sit until the credits are over; the theater is usually empty when I get up to leave.

I used to wonder about why people were rushing out on a Friday or Saturday evening, but now I don’t think there is a reason. It’s a conditioned response: “Movie’s over — let’s go.” I realize, however, that I am the exception and not the rule.  People wonder why anyone would stay for the boring credits since the movie is over.

I have two primary reasons for staying:  to recognize, acknowledge and thank the people who made the movie and to reflect on the movie, letting it sink into my heart and mind.

Staying for the credits has had its benefits. My investment of those extra few minutes has deepened my appreciation and enjoyment of movies. But most of all, the bottom line is that I learn more by sitting and reflecting than I do by rushing out of the theater.

This is why I recommend educators cultivate the practice of staying for the credits for their students in the classroom. Educators have a choice: continue the default response of teaching until the bell rings, or design their lesson to include time for reflection and appreciation.

A staying for the credits type of practice can have the following benefits:

It cultivates respect for the process of learning.  

Respect literally means to see again, in other words, moving beyond initial judgments or opinions based on preexisting thoughts or ideas.  Stopping and thinking at the end of the lesson lets students revisit what they have heard, seen and felt, thereby expanding their thinking beyond their initial reactions.

It promotes metacognition, thinking about thinking.

Providing time to reflect on what they just experienced helps students discover that thinking about a question or a problem is more important that just getting and giving the right answer to the teacher.

It prevents the cultural bias towards speed and convenience from being applied to learning.  

Through the media, students are bombarded with the messages that life should be faster, quicker, easier and problem-free. The classroom may be one of the few places where students can experience the benefits of slowing and savoring their learning experiences.

It reframes learning as a personal and communal journey, not as a transaction.  

Learning should be more than doing something to get something or merely a means to an end. Research has demonstrated that a focus on extrinsic rewards decreases learning because people tend to do the minimum amount of work to get the reward. In addition,  thinking about the reward distracts them from getting absorbed in the learning task.

It leads to higher achievement and success beyond the school environment.

Students who learn how to learn (while they are learning) not only become lifelong learners, but also they are better prepared to deal with the rapidly changing world outside of school.

It cultivates gratitude for the opportunity to learn in a community of learners. 

Learning is the essence of being human. When students reflect on their learning, they will discover how their learning is connected to others and hopefully develop a greater appreciation of life itself.

Here are some ways that staying for the credits can manifest itself in the classroom:

Devote time to talking about the learning process and why reflection is an essential part of learning.  

Time can be provided at the start and at the end of a lesson for students to think about what they will be learning and how they will be learning it. This will help students see how their ideas are not in competition with the ideas of others. They can discover how the diversity of ideas enhances everyone’s learning.

Devote time to emphasize the meaning, value and purpose of every lesson. 

Many students learn what is put before them because they usually do what they are told. Just because most students comply without being given a reason for the learning  doesn’t mean educators should fail to provide it.  If an educator can’t provide the meaning, value or purpose for each lesson, then it would be worthwhile to talk about that with the students.

Have students keep a reflection journal for each learning experience. 

This is a practical way to incorporate writing into every lesson. This allows students to trace their learning journey. They can remember times when they struggled with an idea and concept but eventually got it. This builds confidence for future challenges.

Have a mind map or some type of visual representation posted in the classroom illustrating the ideas, concepts and problems that they have discussed.  

Learning is a journey, so any visualization of it emphasizes that point.  This can also help students see connections among the concepts and ideas.

Invite people from outside the class to tell their stories of how they learned.

Students benefit from hearing reflections from a greater distance in time.  Stories from former students who struggled but ultimately succeeded could provide encouragement to those students who are currently having difficulty.

Educators are often understandably worried that time for reflection takes time away from teaching or covering the curriculum; but, just because something has been taught doesn’t mean it has been caught by the students. Time for reflection will help students go deeper and uncover the learning within the lesson, so it will be more likely to stick with them.

Jim Dillon has been an educator for over 40 years, including 20 years as a school administrator. He is an educational consultant for Measurement Incorporated, which sponsor the Center for Leadership and Bullying Prevention. He is the author of Peaceful School Bus (Hazelden). No Place for Bullying (Corwin, 2012), Reframing Bullying Prevention to Build Stronger School Communities (Corwin) and the picture bookOkay Kevin (Jessica Kingsley Publishing).


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