UW Continuum College Instructor Resources

Mapping The “Keys to Success”

UW PCE instructors have observed that engaging their students notably increases the interest level of adult learners and promotes learning experiences with real world utility. In order to initiate this process, instructors need to identify what the Keys to Success are in their industry, that is, the knowledge and skills which are critical for someone to be successful in the field. The Keys to Success will differ from industry to industry; however, identifying these keys will help instructors select appropriate engaging activities and approaches.

A longtime UW PCE instructor explains what the Keys to Success are in the Popular Fiction field:

“Writing is like drumming.  There’s more to it than meets the eye.  Many non- writers do not know that there is a body of knowledge about the craft of writing, with particular techniques, such as point of view, showing rather than telling, character development, the story arc, and many more.  A key to success is discussing each technique, and then showing how best-selling authors are using them to craft their stories.  Why do the novels of John Grisham, Janet Evanovich, Elmore Leonard, and Stephen King grab us?  What are they doing in their pages?  That these novels are so riveting isn’t an accident.  These writers aren’t just typing stream of consciousness thoughts into their computer.  Writing is technique-driven.  Breaking down best-selling writers’ techniques causes many “Aha” moments from students.   These writers are skilled craftspeople and they use the very techniques we talk about it in class. 

So one of the keys is to understand that while novels in different genres and from different writers appear to be wildly different, they are in fact ninety percent the same.  We study that ninety percent.  Novels are like automobiles, which look crazily different from the outside but which all have wheels, engines, steering wheels, and transmissions.  This is the “story machinery,” to use Roger Ebert’s phrase.   This machinery is taken apart and studied in class.  A good novel is magical for readers.  But the magic is knowable for writers.”    — James Thayer, UW PCE instructor

Engaging adult learners vis-a-vis these Keys to Success seems to have worked quite well for James Thayer for the Popular Fiction I certificate. As the instructor, it is important to consider the Keys to Success in your respective industry. These keys will be helpful to you as you create purposeful activities and assignments for your course.


Video Resources

Identifying Key Concepts (3 minutes)

How People Learn (6 min)