Education Week - January 10, 2018 - 4
Professor at Stanford
Graduate School of
and senior fellow at
Duke University's CASE
Stanford, Calif., and
They have co-authored
four best-selling books,
including The Power of
Moments in 2017 and
Switch: How to Change
Things When Change is
Hard in 2010.
hat makes certain brief experiences in our
lives so memorable and meaningful? Let's
call them "peak moments": A wedding
day. A successful public presentation. An
award received for work well done. We
spent several years studying peak moments, and in our
book The Power of Moments, we reveal what we learned:
Peak moments share similar elements-such as elevation
and connection-and armed with this knowledge, all of us
can create richer experiences for the people we care about.
But there's one critical period in life that is missing
these powerful moments: the time students spend in the
Think about it: What do you remember from your
experience as a student? Senior musical. Swim meets.
Science fairs. Football games. Debate tournaments. Choir
concerts. Notice the pattern?
They're all peak moments, representing the culmination
of students' work. They're social, often performed in front
of an audience, and involve an element of competition or
pressure. There's a sense of pomp and circumstance about
them-notice how often we actually wear distinctive
clothes to them.
Unfortunately, all those memorable moments happen
outside the classroom, even though students spend the
vast majority of their time inside the classroom.
Education Week * January 10, 2018
What school systems need is a massive infusion of
peak moments. This is a rare case when we can motivate
students and teachers and improve academic outcomes
all at once. To see what peak moments can do, consider
the work of two teachers at Hillsdale High School in San
In 1989, social studies teacher Greg Jouriles and
English teacher Susan Bedford had grown frustrated
with the grind of teaching. They resolved to create
something dramatic-an academic moment as
memorable as the prom. They called it the "Trial of
Human Nature," and it continues at Hillsdale to this
day, some three decades later.
Here's how it works: One day in class, a discussion
of Lord of the Flies is interrupted. A visitor distributes an
official-looking legal document, announcing that the
book's author, William Golding, has been charged with
"libeling human nature." The students are told that they
will conduct Golding's trial. They will act as the lawyers
and the witnesses and the judge.
The trial addresses fundamental questions of literature
and history: Are people good or evil? Is civilization
just a thin veneer over violent instincts? The students
prepare for months, and when the day comes, they take
school buses to an actual courtroom. The lawyers dress
in suits, and the witnesses come in costume, ready to
Courtesy of Henry Medina
CHIP & DAN