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The Fifty Minute Man

  • 50 Minute ManDo you like to “hit it and quit it” or are you in for the long haul?

    I like being in the classroom, but I like shorter classes better. I'm currently in the midst of teaching an intersession course that goes for two weeks, Monday through Thursday, from 10:00 a.m. until 2:20 p.m. It stretches on for four -- hours -- and -- twenty -- minutes! That's a long class, and it leaves me completely spent for the rest of the day. I often teach night classes that are officially scheduled to last for 3 hours and 40 minutes, another long haul. I also teach classes during the day that are only 50 minutes long and others that last 80 minutes. I think it goes without saying that the longer classes meet less often than the shorter classes.

    Here are some of the reasons I prefer shorter classes:

    1.  It's easier to figure out how much I'm going to cover during any particular class session.
    2.  I have to spend longer preparing for each individual longer class than I do for each individual shorter class.
    3.  It's easier for students to stay engaged and participative.
    4.  Longer night classes usually start with tired students who have worked or been in classes all day and want to go home. (I've already written here about how awesome my students think I am, so I know it's not me!)
    5.  If I have a student who's bugging me, he or she is gone quicker.
    6.  If I'm in a bad mood, it's over quicker.
    7.  If I'm in a good mood, it's easier to maintain.
    8.  If I'm hungry, I can eat sooner.
    9.  I can leave.

    A colleague who teaches history just told me he doesn't like 50 minute classes because he has to "hit it and quit it." He prefers our 80 minute class format because he has more time to recap the previous session and still cover everything new he needs to cover. I understand and really don't find that much difference between the 50 and 80.  Sometimes though, like this morning, I find myself wishing I had a few more minutes to continue a discussion that the students are really into, or that I had more time to emphasize a point, or finish a concept, but ultimately, I still prefer 50 minute chunks.

    Let's not forget that my students don't have as much time to get sick of me in a shorter class!

    Do you prefer teaching longer or shorter classes?
    Do you have any tips to making longer classes more palatable?
    Please share your opinions and strategies below.


  • Eugene Matthews
    Eugene Matthews In my institution the typical breakdown is 50min, 75min, and 2hr45min. As you pointed out, the shorter the time, the more often we meet. For me, the 'best' teaching times I found were 75 min classes in the 4:00-5:15 time slot on M/W or T/TH for several re...  more
    December 12, 2013 - 1 likes this
  • Perry Mitchell
    Perry Mitchell I never had much choice in my class length. I have always taught three hour classes at night and two 75 minute classes for the last 40 years. The longer classes offer more class time for the simulations I run. After teaching 40 years, I don’t...  more
    January 10, 2014 - 1 likes this
  • Randye Spina
    Randye Spina Given a choice, I prefer a once a week class. There's far less time wasted filing in & out, taking attendance, etc. We can dig in, get traction & delve deep into the material. I do, of course, take break(s) depending on length of class. Best of al...  more
    January 10, 2014 - 1 likes this
  • James Swarts
    James Swarts Normally I prefer teaching two times per week (75 minutes/class) rather than three (50 minutes/class) because of the 45 minute commute from home (Rochester) to campus (Geneseo, NY) when I am teaching two courses. Last semester I did a class on a one nigh...  more
    January 11, 2014