March 31, 2012

Think Time?

The issue came up recently in the teacher credential class that I teach concerning procrastination and the benefits of working under pressure. Sure, we all work harder when we know a deadline is approaching, and hard work produces better results. But the more we can do as teachers to eliminate procrastination both in our students and in ourselves the better and more effective educators we will become. Part of that is recognizing the importance and value of review and reflection as part of the creative academic process when we design our assignments, and building in “think time” for our students.

In production classes we use the pre-production, production, and post-production model. Students should schedule an equal amount of time for each of these three steps. The pre-production step includes brainstorming and writing, usually in small groups. The production step includes creating the actual project as designed during pre-production. The post-production step includes editing, refining, and polishing the final product. Most students hate the pre-production step, and want to jump right into production. This is like going on a car vacation without a map of how to arrive at your destination.  And too often post-production suffers from lack of remaining time.

This same model can easily be applied to any subject taught or project assigned in any class at any educational level. The three steps can be simplified into: planning, applying, and revising. The key to success is making sure that ample time is budgeted to each step in order to insure the deadline is met. Too often students have difficulty getting started. They have lots of good ideas, but trust few of their ideas to actually work. Once students set their project into motion a lack of disciplined time management leaves little time left over for the editing and polishing.

That is where procrastination hurts the most: not allowing enough time to work out the finer details. Once the production process is complete, students need to pause, relax, and reflect, before beginning the revising process. Just because the project is not in the forefront of the students’ thinking does not mean that their brains are not still working on it in the background. In fact, some of my best ideas on making improvements to a project have come up when I am not actively working on that project. It’s that think time that makes the difference to the end result.

But we eliminate any chance of taking advantage of think time if we have procrastinated so badly that the best we can do is simply finish with “something.” Sometimes that is necessary, but always it is unfortunate. Teachers need to structure their assignments and their classes so that students can take advantage of the benefits think time adds to their work. Strict and regular deadlines throughout the production process that build in think time are a great way to make sure students not only learn excellent time management, but also a process that encourages them to produce their very best.

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