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  • Writer's pictureAdrian Bethune

Why All Teachers Need to Know About Peak End Theory

Have you ever been on a fantastic holiday just to have the experience completely ruined by delayed flights home?

Our tendency to focus on the hassle and frustration of our final journey – rather than the 2 weeks of sun and relaxation we’ve had on holiday - is partly down to a psychological process known as Peak End Theory.

But what does this have to do with teaching? Understanding the theory and how we can use it to our advantage in the classroom might just transform our pupils’ experience of school.  

So, what is Peak End Theory?

Well, it's all about how we remember experiences. According to psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Barbara Fredrickson, we tend to judge our experiences based on two key moments: the peak (the most intense part) and the end. Forget about averaging out all the highs and lows; it's these peaks and endings that really stick in our minds. (Think disrupted flights!).

As teachers, it’s easy to feel the pressure to make every moment in the classroom a magical learning experience. But by applying Peak End Theory in our classrooms and focussing on creating moments of peak engagement throughout the day through playful and creative learning and by finishing the day with positive experiences, we’re creating overall positive associations with learning for our children.

Here are a few practical tips to try in your classroom:

1. Plan in your peaks: Think about the most engaging moments of your favourite lessons. Those "aha" moments, lively debates, or hands-on activities that had students buzzing with excitement? Those are your peaks! Be intentional about creating more of these moments in your lessons. Whether it's a thought-provoking question, a captivating story, or a fun experiment, aim to sprinkle your lessons with peaks that leave a lasting impression.

2. End on a High Note: Just like a good book or movie, how you wrap up a lesson or finish your day can make all the difference to your pupils’ overall experience of the day. Take a moment to reflect on what a typical ending looks like in your classroom. Do they fizzle out with a whimper, or do they go out with a bang? Aim to end on a high note—whether it's reading a chapter or two from a great story, a fun reflection activity, or playing some uplifting music or a funny Michael Rosen live poetry video. Leave them feeling energised and eager for more.

3. Embrace the Power of Feedback: Feedback is a vital part of the learning process, but it's not just about pointing out mistakes. Apply the principles of Peak End Theory to your feedback sessions by ensuring they end on a positive note. By wrapping-up with words of encouragement and support you will leave your pupils feeling empowered and motivated to keep pushing forward.

So, there you have it—Peak End Theory in a nutshell. It's not about adding more to your plate as a teacher; it's about making small tweaks that can have a big impact on the overall learning experience. Give it a try in your classroom, and who knows? You might just spark a quiet revolution in education. Happy teaching!

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