1. Why sandwich principle?

Less teaching more learning

The sandwich principle gives the learning process an architectural structure. This principle makes an effort for learning in collective and individual ways. Acquiring knowledge is not simply recording of given information. Our brain does not work as cassette recorder. Instead, it reduces information in meaningful units, and tries to fit these units to existing context or to form new categories where the information could fit.

Organizing information in meaningful categories facilitates learning processes. The effect of organizing learning material has different results for fast learners and for slow learners. Fast learners usually have the ability to organize new information by themselves and to connect it with old, already known context. But organization of new information could help slow learners to facilitate their learning processes and to implement new content more successfully.

Studies on attention span showed that adult learner can not keep focused to a lecture for more than 20 minutes at the beginning of the class. After the attention break, students have another increase in attention but it lasts shorter than in the previous phase. Each next attention span become shorter and usually falls to only few minutes at the end of the lecture. As regular university classes last for around 45 to 90 minutes, the attention and possibility to adopt information disappear several times during the lecture. Irrespective of students’ motivation or content of lecture, attention can not be kept longer than 20 minutes. Possibility to accept new information decreases with length of given lecture, so the solution is not presentation of as large amount of information as possible in short period of time. Possible solution would be to provide the most important information during the attention span and to present it in various ways to enable different learning profiles to get up and implement these information one´s own cognitive structure. This could be done only if learning goals are clearly determined.

We can not avoid attention breaks, but we can at least use them to ensure that students did acquire most important knowledge. A way to do that is to give the students a chance to reproduce the new information by themselves. We could divide our lecture in two or more parts depending on the objective and length of the lecture. After each part we should involve students to actively process the given information, with the aim to connect new information with previous knowledge. This could be done in various ways. Giving examples is one of possible mechanisms to connect old and new knowledge. It allows students to practice thinking in new terms. It is even better when the students have to give examples themselves. Another way to increase the memorization of a new content is to involve students’ emotions. This could be accomplished by promoting active discussion or even by use a joke which could accentuate the most important concept in that day’s class.

This type of teaching where lecture is divided in two or more parts by periodic activities or active discussion is called sandwich principle. It is used to increase efficacy of acquiring knowledge during lectures. It could be useful in all learning processes and disciplines, not only in lectures, but also in other forms of teaching, like seminars. Observations showed that in a well-planned sandwich lecture, students are more attentive and need less pauses during the class. They retain more information, because the interchange of passive and active phases of learning reduces forgetting. Sandwich architecture helps to establish a positive learning atmosphere, because it allows more relaxed teaching, participation of all students, and better integration of all learners (e.g. slower learners).