WHY MAFS IS A GOOD MODEL FOR EDUCATION

It ostensibly seems like a very tenuous link, but there is actually a strong corollary between the way the show is edited and the way educators should approach the delivery of their courses.

To maintain the intensity of the central driver of the show, the emotional connections the audience make with the actors*, the editors continuously replay certain scenes that are contingent to a theme or storyline they believe will generate the maximum reaction from the audience. Either deliberately or intuitively, by frequently recalling key content, the producers facilitate the retrieval of the content for its audience, which in turn strengthens their propensity to remember it. Being able to remember what has happened is critical for the audience to connect their feelings to the new drama, and maintain the necessary emotional intensity required for the show to be successful.

The show runs for nearly an hour on television or on demand, but the amount of ‘fresh’ material in each show would amount to about a third of the overall content. The show is unconscionably peppered with adverts, sometimes inserted after just 3 minutes of viewing and of equal length, but upon returning from the break, the show unfailingly recaps what happened just before the advertisements. The editors cleverly build drama before each advert break, and by replaying the intense moment upon returning, the audience’s memory of their pre-advert reaction is resurrected, strengthened, and can now be exploited to react to the next adventure presented. The editors also replay scenes from several shows ago to jog the audience’s memories of those events. This not only strengthens the memories of those episodic events, but crucially allows the producers to precisely position the audience’s emotional reaction as they structure and direct the connections between the scenes for them.

This continuous recapping of key content is how education works best. When new content is presented, the skilled tutor realises that in order for that content to become cemented in the learner’s memory it needs to be retrieved on several occasions, and over time. The necessity for the learning to become a part of the long-term memory is so that is can be drawn from when new content is introduced. This stems from the way our brains learn. Students construct new knowledge by making connections between new ideas and existing mental models, and then building on them. The ease with which the learner can recall these newly constructed understandings affects the load on the working memory, with automatic recall allowing the learner to make newer connections with comparative ease. Nuthall suggests that learners need at least 3 exposures to a concept before they have any hope of moving it into their long-term memories. By replaying key concepts many times, the learner’s construction of new content is supported. Again, either deliberately or intuitively, Married At First Sight has mastered this approach.

The imperative of replaying the key content to secure future recall, by logic, has implications for how much new content should be introduced at a time. Engelmann believes that the amount of new content introduced vs the practising and recapping of old should be approximately 20 : 80%. I wonder how many courses are designed that facilitate such recapping? Quite simply, without dedicated opportunities for the old stuff to be practised and recapped over and over again, the less likely it will actually be learned.

Married At First Sight teaches us absolutely nothing in terms of how to be a good human, but it utilises what is understood about memory, and demonstrates that if you want someone to make connections to previous emotions, you have to recap the scenes that led to those emotions many times. The same is true for educators. If you want a learner to make connections to previously taught key concepts, you have to recap those key moments many times.  

*are they actors? If not professional, surely they are directed by the producers to behave in certain ways and to ask specific questions of each other?

I’m Paul Moss. I manage a team of learning designers. Follow me on @twitter

Author: paulgmoss

I live and breathe education. I try to teach what I know about learning. This blog represents ideas I have about education at the time of writing. I expect my ideas to change.

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