In Made to Stick (2007) Chip and Dan Heath demonstrate that the key to making an idea stick—i.e., understood, remembered, and having a lasting impact—is to keep it simple by “finding the core of the idea.” Through an analysis of advertising and political campaigns, the Heaths essentially support Nosich’s “fundamental and powerful concepts” idea. The Heaths’ insight is applicable to education, as I recently discovered when I was asked to teach an American Literature I class (a course I have taught many times) for a colleague. Taking over someone else’s class is always daunting because the guest lecturer doesn’t know the students—what they have learned so far, what has been stressed, or even the usual class format. Before guest facilitating a discussion on Poe’s “The Purloined Letter,” I determined in a brief discussion with my colleague what we considered the course core: literary conventions. I then made the class C.R.I.S.P. by contextualizing the concept of conventions, reviewing what conventions the class had covered recently (i.e., the Gothic), iterating the conventions of the detective story as found in “The Purloined Letter,” summarizing these conventions toward the end of the session, and previewing the material for their next class: Hawthorne’s use of another set of conventions, those belonging to the Romance.
The result was a 50-minute session that unified that class, previous classes, and future classes, thus increasing the chances for student learning.