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In this post:
- Why effective classes use exercises.
- How to build a bridge from what students can do and what they want to do.
- How to lead exercises like a pro.
I’ve taught professionally for over 10 years. Martial arts in high school, metal working in college, computer security after graduation, and magick classes along the way.
The best classes focus on exercises — on students doing something — rather than lecture. Here’s why, how to design a good class, and how to assess it afterward. It applies to magick classes, but also everything else you might teach.
Classes Teach Skills
Ask a novice teacher what students should get from a class, and they usually focus on concepts students should understand. Then they lecture on those topics.
Ask an experienced teacher the same thing, and they’ll usually focus on things students should be able to do. Then they get students doing that in the class.
No one goes to a class to understand something. They go because they want to do something. Sure, understanding is part of that, but the best understanding comes from doing something yourself, not from listening to a teacher.
The Benefits of Exercises
1. Exercises produce mastery in the class. Once students do something, instead of just hearing about it, they understand it much more completely. This cements the concepts and skills, so you can build on them later in the class.
2. Exercises reveal gaps in understanding. When you lecture, everyone will nod and say “that makes sense,” even if it didn’t. They won’t realize the gaps until they try to use that knowledge. By putting exercises in class, you immediately see what works and what doesn’t, and you can fix it right away.
How To Build Good Exercises
Exercises should build on something students can already do, and teach exactly one thing.
If you need to teach students to do 2 new things at the same time, that’s 3 exercises:
- Teach the first thing in isolation.
- Teach the second in isolation.
- Combine the 2 new skills.
You’ll be tempted to put more into exercises. Don’t. Paradoxically, those 3 exercises will go much faster than 1 exercise teaching both skills at once, because students will succeed the first time at each simple skill. You get three 1-minute exercises where students succeed, instead of one 10-minute struggle.
It will feel like the steps are excruciatingly small. But that’s only because you already know how to do them. Sure, some students could take larger steps, but they’ll forgive you as long as they learn something by the end. And most students will love you for going at their pace.
For an example, see this post on my magick connections class.
Here’s the pattern I use for leading exercises:
- Explain the big picture: What they’ll learn, what they’ll do, etc.
- Demonstrate the exercise, explain the visualization, etc. Students just watch and listen, so they can focus on the ideas, not on implementing them.
- Repeat the demo, slowly, with students copying you each step. Verify everyone was successful.
- Have students do a very similar task on their own.
This last step is the most important. Students must use the technique on their own, or they won’t retain it.
If you drive with a GPS, you know what I mean. You can drive all over, and as long as someone walks you through each turn, you never learn to navigate yourself.
Also, applying the technique to a new situation helps ensure students master the technique. Often, students can copy you, but don’t know what each step does, so they can’t apply the technique to new problems. You want to uncover that before you move on.
Effective classes ensure students learn skills by taking small steps. Only add 1 new skill per exercise, and slowly build from demonstrating the skill to letting students do it on their own. This lets you cover each step quickly, allowing you to get through more material in your class than if you had fewer, larger exercises.Other posts in this series:
- How To Prove Magick To Yourself In 90 Minutes (September 13, 2010)
- How To Create an Effective Magick Class (September 27, 2010)
- Bigger Results with Simpler Visualizations (February 3, 2011)