Interaction Guide

Lang, J. (2016). Small teaching: Everyday lessons from the science of learning. San Francisco, CA; Jossey-Bass

Part 1 of Small Teachingby James Lang focusing on the learning principles of retrieving, predicting, and interleaving. This section of the text embraces the concept that students need to master and be able to recall factual knowledge prior to participating in higher cognitive activities.  Small teaching activities incorporated into the classroom can boost students’ mastery of knowledge. 

Chapter 1 explains the theory and principles of providing students with retrieval practice through brief instructional exercises.  According to Lang (2016), “Every time we extract a piece of information or an experience from our memory, we are strengthening neural pathways that lead from our long-term memory into our working memory, where we can use our memories to think and take actions: (p. 28). Small teaching retrieval activities can promote active thoughts and have the potential to not only measure learning, but actually improve it. 

Chapter 1

Discussion Prompt:

Now, let’s stimulate some engagement with the common read! After reading Chapter 1, please share with us a simple, yet effective strategy that you currently utilize within your instruction to help students retrieve information.  

Send a quick email response to isetlproposalreviewchair@gmail.comand continue to check the website for additional opportunities to interact with the common read.  In addition, our Facebook and Twitter accounts will be highlighting responses and providing openings for ISETL members to gain ideas from each other.               

Digging into the quick tips in Chapter 1, describe a memory retrieval exercise you would like to incorporate (or have already implemented) in the opening or closing moments of class. 

Chapter 2 – Predicting 

Discussion Prompt #1:

Let’s delve into Chapter 2 by pondering this quote, “Predictive activities prepare your mind for learning by driving you to seek connections that will help you make an accurate prediction” (p. 49).  

As an educator, how can you envision embedding predictive activities within your instructional design to boost student learning and enhance cognitive processing? 

Discussion Prompt #2

Similar to retrieval exercises introduced in Chapter 1, prediction activities require a small investment of time and can easily be incorporated into the opening and closing minutes of class.  Share with us which guiding principle in Chapter 2 that you believe to be most vital in ensuring the effectiveness of in-class predictive exercises.  

Chapter 3 – Interleaving

Discussion Prompt #1

Chapter 3 ofSmall Teachinghighlights the aspect of interleaving; spacing out learning activities over time and mixing up the practice of specific skills. “Our brains need time to undertake the processes of encoding, consolidating, and organizing newly learned material, and the gaps between spaced learning sessions allow it that time” (pg. 67).  Visiting the three different contexts discussed in the text, can you provide a discipline-based example of how to achieve interleaving into the design of your assessment plan, through the organization of your class, and/or through the use of an online course management system? 

Discussion Prompt #2

Small Teaching is an excellent resource to provide educators with simple and effective small modifications in course design to enhance student understandingIn reviewing the guiding principles and quick tips for interleaving, share with us a take-away that you might want to try in your classroom to boost high levels of long term-retention. 

Part II: Understanding

Chapter 4 Connecting:  

Zull is quoted by Lang on p. 95 : “the knowledge in our minds consists of neuronal networks in our brains, so if that knowledge is to grow, the neuronal networks must physically change.  This is the change that a teacher wants to create. It is the change in connections … unless there is a change in connections, no learning will occur.”

Discussion Prompt 1: 

From @Lang in #Smallteaching, p. 95 – Neuronal networks must physically change for students to learn, how to we help students to understand that LEARNING is about a physical brain change not just passive interaction with the content?

Chapter 5 Practicing: 

Discussion Prompt:

From @Lang in #Smallteaching, p.117 “Whatever cognitive skills you are seeking to instill in your students, and that you will be assessing for a grade, the students should have time to practice in class.” What activities do you use for practice in the classroom?

Chapter 6 Self-Explaining:

Discussion Prompt:

What do you do if students in your class lack background knowledge, the inferencing skills, and self-explaining abilities?  How to you improve their learning?

Part III Inspiration

Discussion Prompt:

From @Lang in #Smallteaching p.163, “asking students to predict and retrieve or self-explain won’t get them very far in their learning if they truly don’t care about the course material or if they believe that theya re incapable of learning from it.”… these emotions and beliefs can deeply interfere with learning.  How do you help student build confidence, avoid distractions, and refocus learning?

Chapter 7: Motivating

Discussion Prompt: 

From @Lang in #Smallteaching p.171:” How can I elicit and work with the emotions already present in the room to give students frequent motivational boosts throughout the semester” – @Lang provides a few models, have you used them? How do you motivate students?

Chapter 8: Growing

Discussion Prompt: 

How do you foster the growth mindset in students? The mindset will depend largely on the leader of the classroom, now that you know that mindsets are changeable, from fixed –set to growth, does it change your leadership style?

Chapter 9: Expanding

Discussion Prompt:

Activity based learning experiences, service learning, and games & simulations are a few suggestions @Lang provided in #Smallteaching.  What ideas do you have for expanding learning, listening to student feedback, and checking for understanding?

Some summary references: