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[Considering the ‘experience’ aspect of the lesson]

I remember when I first started reading ‘The 10 Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences’ by Matt Watkinson. It was like the scales had at last fallen from my eyes! It suddenly dawned on me that what our students are actually buying is the total learning experience of which the learning aspect is only a small part. Think: is food and cost the only thing you consider when going to a restaurant?

So what are these 10 Principles? And can they help us craft better lessons? Here is the full list. The principles are Watkinson’s (pp. 35-36) – the comments are mine.

Great customer experiences…

…reflect the customers’ identity. Think about how our learners think of themselves. For instance, it would be a mistake to stress a native-like accent if your learners are ‘Greek – and proud of it’.

…satisfy our higher objectives. Your students may be asking for Grammar, when actually they need communication skills. ‘People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole!’

…leave nothing to chance. So pay attention to detail. Seating arrangements. Lighting. Temperature. Decoration. Background music. Your own appearance. Every single thing matters.

…set and then meet expectations. Tell students what your aims are. ‘By the end of the lesson, you’ll be able to manage a short interaction on the phone’. Set goals – and then make sure you deliver.

…are effortless. Sure, we want students to push themselves when it comes to practicing, but the rest of the experience should be smooth. Routines help. It also helps if everything is ready and readily available – both in class and online.

…are stress-free. Confusion and uncertainty are the two enemies here. Give clear instructions – and check them. Inform students about assignments and exams – and make sure they get feedback and results as soon as possible.

…indulge the senses. Sure, a school is not a restaurant, but what about soft background music? And what about smell? Nightclub patrons danced longer in a scented nightclub – and later reported they liked the music more!

…are socially engaging. This single aspect can completely transform the lesson. Think: do your students really interact with each other at a personal level? Do the students feel as part of a group? Would they want to go out together after class?

…put the customer in control. How much autonomy do students have? Are they given choices? Do they get to work on projects where they get to organise themselves and take all the decisions?

…consider the emotions. If you want your lessons to be memorable think about the emotional aspect. A poem or a song perhaps; a film clip; a moving ad or a story. It need not be long: ‘For Sale. Baby shoes. Never worn’ (E. Hemingway).

Of course, for EL teachers not all of these elements are equally important. Now go through the list and see if you can identify the ones that really matter. Oh – and read that book too.

The Moral: Look at the lesson from the ‘customer experience’ angle.