2016-2017 Reading Circle:

Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning

James M. Lang

From the Publisher

Research into how we learn has opened the door for utilizing cognitive theory to facilitate better student learning. But that's easier said than done. Many books about cognitive theory introduce radical but impractical theories, failing to make the connection to the classroom. In Small Teaching, James Lang presents a strategy for improving student learning with a series of modest but powerful changes that make a big difference—many of which can be put into practice in a single class period. These strategies are designed to bridge the chasm between primary research and the classroom environment in a way that can be implemented by any faculty in any discipline, and even integrated into pre-existing teaching techniques. Learn, for example:

  • How does one become good at retrieving knowledge from memory?
  • How does making predictions now help us learn in the future?
  • How do instructors instill fixed or growth mindsets in their students?
Each chapter introduces a basic concept in cognitive theory, explains when and how it should be employed, and provides firm examples of how the intervention has been or could be used in a variety of disciplines. Small teaching techniques include brief classroom or online learning activities, one-time interventions, and small modifications in course design or communication with students.

Media Links:

Why Small Teaching?

The VTLC has focused on reading groups that engage with learning theory, but for most of us, moving from theory into practice is a challenge: it takes time and resources, and depending on the scale of changes that one wants to make, the changes can seem overwhelming. Small Teaching offers concrete strategies for making changes that don't require months of planning or throwing out an entire syllabus. Moreover, the strategies are built on learning theories that apply across disciplines.

About the Author

James M. Lang is director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College in Worcester, MA. An internationally recognized authority on teaching and learning in higher education, Lang writes a monthly column forThe Chronicle of Higher Education that reaches close to a million readers. He gives frequent workshops on teaching and learning for both higher education and K-12 educators around the world. He is the author of Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty, On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching, and Life on the Tenure Track: Lessons from the First Year. His freelance writing on higher education and literature has appeared in Time, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, and many others. His work has been reviewed or profiled in the Atlantic, Yahoo News, the Times Higher Education Supplement, and on multiple NPR programs, both local and national. He is a member of the Fulbright Senior Specialist roster in education.

Access the web-discussion with author James Lang on Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at 11 am.  You can access the archive of the session here (though you need to download Blackboard collaborate to run it):