Small Teachings

Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning. By James M. Lang. 2016. Jossey-Bass. ISBN: 978-1118944493

Yesterday I lucked upon a book on learning that was so interesting that I read it in one sitting.

Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning

by James M. Lang (2016) explains small changes or quick activities that you can incorporate into any course to boost student learning. He breaks down several strategies which are backed up by current research in learning.

Here are my take aways:

Retrieval effect – if you want to retrieve knowledge from your memory, you have to practice retrieving knowledge from your memory. The more times that you practice remembering something the more capable you become of remembering that thing.

Tests measure and improve learning. Mere re-reading does not help retention. Quizzing does. A brief upgraded multiple-choice quiz at the beginning and end of the class and one additional quiz before the exam provides spaced-out retrieval practice and raises grades.

Quizzes with short answer questions require students to formulate answers in their own words and provide a focused restudy.

Ask opening questions “Before we start, can anyone remind me what we talked about last class?”

Begin each class with one student doing a 3-5 minute summary of the previous class and each student does it once each class

Ask students to provide highlights of any advance reading or work completed the night before in a brief writing. Writing involves all students.

Ask closing questions focusing on key concepts you want to students to take away from the class. Remind them to draw the answer from their brain and not their notebook.

Use your syllabus to redirect students to previous course content through quizzes or oral questions and discussions.

Making predictions about material that you wish to learn increases your ability to understand that material and retrieve it later

We remember what we think about.

Interleaving – first- space out learning sessions over time – second- mix up practice of skills that one seeks to develop by spending some time learning one thing and then pausing to concentrate on learning a second thing before having quite mastered that first thing and then returning to the first thing and then moving on to a third thing before returning to the second thing, and so forth.

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