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Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  1,078 ratings  ·  145 reviews
Employ cognitive theory in the classroom every day 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 st ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published February 16th 2016 by Jossey-Bass
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 ·  1,078 ratings  ·  145 reviews

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Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Updated in August 2018

James Lang is a frequent contributor to Chronicle of Higher Educationwhere I've always enjoyed his essays. I've read several books on teaching in the past year; Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons From the Science of Learning was one of the meatiest and thought-provoking, a nice palate cleanser as I prepare for the new semester.

Small Teaching was similarly enjoyable: well-written, easily read and digested, filled with concrete advice on a range of topics. He tells personal st
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Can’t get students’ attention at the beginning of class? Did they already forget what they learned two days ago? Two weeks ago? Feel like it’s too late to change anything at this point?

James Lang would beg to disagree. In Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning, he introduces strategies that we can implement tomorrow without too much planning and preparation. Here’s one: start class with a story. Whether it’s about a scientific discovery, a personal experience in a dysfunct
Christina “6 word reviewer” Lake
Treasure trove of great teaching ideas.
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
To the book's credit it's very readable. With such clearly-labled and bite-sized sections within equally bite-sized chapters it's definitely something one could easily pick up during a 15 minute break and skim and scan for ideas. If only it had ideas...

While you should never judge a book by it's cover, it's worth mentioning that this book misrepresents itself from the very beginning. Being called "Small Teaching" one might reasonably assume it is related to teaching at the K-12 level (where mos
Dan Graser
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read much by James Lang in the Chronicle of Higher Education and was interested to see that he had a volume out on teaching strategies for classroom professors based on current science of learning. Overall, this small volume on "Small Teaching" succeeds on many levels and would make an excellent jumpstart summer-read for teachers who feel that perhaps some of their courses and teaching have stagnated in recent years.

Based on the strategy of "small ball" from baseball where rather than re
May 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: teaching, nonfiction
There's nothing new here in terms of approaches to teaching—James Lang is clear that he is providing a synthesis of many recent works on the science of learning as opposed to presenting any dramatically new insights. However, Lang's work is useful inasmuch as he takes various theoretical approaches and provides practical tips for their implementation in the college classroom. Small Teaching is broken up into many small units, making it easy to dip back into for inspiration over the course of the ...more
Elliot Morris
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Although geared towards a more academic and educational audience, I was constantly evaluating the way I learn and how I pursue things. It's a concise guide to teaching and learning with a lot of good insight. ...more
Brian Conor
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great tips for small adjustments anyone can make to improve learning. Love the organization of the chapters by making clear lists of actionable tasks and diving deeper into the theory and learning science. Recommend to any educator!
Katrina Koehler
Jul 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Really excellent book of evidence-based techniques you can easily throw into your class to improve student learning. Will keep for reference purposes and I'm looking forward to designing my classes with these techniques in mind. ...more
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book as it is in line with other texts I have been reading, as well as changes I have made to my classes over the past few years. I got a lot of ideas about teaching and how to change my classroom.
I'll be writing a longer review and posting it to my professional portfolio.
Jacqui Bloomberg
I really enjoyed and benefited from this book. It was very easy to read and included excellent strategies that I plan to begin using in the fall.
Adam Floridia
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely a book I would recommend to any educator, not just college profs.

4.5 stars and deserving of a fuller review.
May 18, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have learned alot from this book and use a number of those things in my courses with positive response from students.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good info, but every chapter seemed to extensively quote from the same couple of sources. I found myself wondering why I just didn't read those books instead. ...more
This is a useful book for teachers because it presents (fairly) specific strategies teachers can use to improve their teaching practices without requiring major overhauls or rethinking of a class. Lang draws on cognitive science, learning theory, etc. and has experienced all of the learning practices he promotes (either as a teacher, a student, or an observer). The recommendations here are based around helping students retain information, build cognitive and memory networks, and increasing motiv ...more
Small Teaching is a great resource for educators. It’s very readable, but, more importantly, it gave me great new ideas that I can immediately use in the classroom and provided scientific research that allowed me to reflect on past successful activities I’ve used. Now I know why those activities worked, which is invaluable. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking to de-center their classes and focus their class time through a variety of learning strategies.

Update: My blog post inspired b
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am a high school teacher, but I still found the information in this book (which is geared more toward university professors) to be highly relevant and helpful. It was great to get such a thorough overview of the research on so many strategies that we employ as teachers. This book gave me several concrete ideas for things I can do to improve my classes. I was aware of many of the strategies and ideas presented in this book, but seeing the research behind them made me feel more committed to impl ...more
A good text for a book group discussion with college professors - which is why I read it - but not particularly revelatory to someone who focuses on pedagogy. More often than not, my addition to the conversation consisted of something along the lines of "Well, no, this isn't new; we've been addressing engagement/making connections/motivation/activity-based learning in secondary education for years..." with a forced smile on my face. ...more
Erin Whitteck
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love that this book is structured in a way that you can read it from beginning to end, or read a summary at the end of the chapter. There are so many great ideas for small changes in teaching that can have a large impact on student learning. Teachers from all disciplines and levels will get something from this book.
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. Full of practical advice, tips, and techniques that you can use right now to improve learning in your classroom.

A year after my first reading I listened to the audio book as a refresher. It was good to come back and re-think the ideas. I got some new ideas to try. Excellent book.
Small teaching
James M. Lang

Some books about teaching and learning are so generally broad as to be almost useless (or worst, harmful.) How many times did I find myself plodding through examples after examples of teaching strategies fit for elementary students, so far removed from my professional context that I can’t connect them to anything I do? From a publisher standpoint, I fully understand the attraction of a K-12 book, after all the wider the audience, the better the prospective sales. Even,
Any book that references the Kansas City Royals as a model for the entire book gets an automatic one-star upgrade from me 😊

The premise of this book is that the art of teaching is not a linear, set-in-stone activity. Rather, good teaching is about finding a few good ideas and incrementally adding them to one’s teaching plans and activities over time. Over the course of several years, all of these good ideas add up to a solid course. One is never done with incremental change, however. There are co
Oct 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
With the book content, Lang focuses on small tweaks, activities, or things to keep in mind that will improve students' involvement and learning in your class. They are all good strategies, with the underlying themes of spaced practice, inter-content connections, and engaging students more heavily. Lang also emphasizes the transparency of explaining to students why these things are helpful to students, since they frequently resist or dismiss their first encounters with such activities.

I would hyp
Bailey L.
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was a refresher on retrieval practice, interleaving, predicting, starting with stories, growth mindset responses to "I'm a bad writer" and giving positive feedback about their performance on this writing (not on their abilities as a writer in general). It was a reminder that showing up early and talking to every student possible is valuable, giving a lot of writing feedback motivates students, sharing my passion about the topic with them helps, and to give all students a hypothesis of ...more
Talbot Hook
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Let's go about this objectively, shall we? The book's objects: to get instructors to recognize the importance and efficacy of "small teaching", to promote the best research currently available in the educational literature to that end, and to provide activities (and their rationales) which will enable teachers to effectively change the culture, processes, and instruction in their classrooms. To me, these are all good goals, and I think Lang met them all. I particularly liked the logical expansio ...more
Oct 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
I listened as an audiobook. Lang breaks each book section into multiple parts including the science behind the learning approach and the applications for teachers. Each suggestion he makes is tested by him or another teacher and can be completed in 5-15 minutes of class time and can be included in your lesson planning immediately. For instance, I used one of his techniques in my class the same week I was listening to this book before I had even finished reading. Lang's goal here is to transform ...more
Julia Bucci
Aug 21, 2022 rated it it was amazing
"In the closing years of the nineteenth century, William James gave a series of presentations in different venues in which he presented some ideas for how teachers could benefit from discoveries in the budding discipline of psychology. In the book that he later wrote based on these talks, published more than a century ago, he notes the importance of spacing and interleaving for deep learning:

'You see now why 'cramming' must be so poor a mode of study. Cramming seeks to stamp things in by intense
Nov 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
The clever thing about this book is that you don't need to wait until next semester to use the teaching suggestions in it. Lang organizes the chapters along principles (like the value of reviewing what you've learned) and then gives some suggestions you can do right now to implement them (like giving your students a review quiz that covers work from a couple units ago).

I give that parenthetical example because I tried that particular one out and was really pleased with how it worked. I can't s
Mark Valentine
May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I found this affirming and encouraging: Affirming because it touches on classroom practices that I have already been practicing to some degree and encouraging because of the many practical, useful theories and strategies that Lang presents that I can still use. His writing style is straightforward, never condescending, accessible, and direct.

I wish he had begun his book with his section on Understanding instead of ending with it. I thought it inspirational and motivating. Inside that section, h
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good book. Solid tactics from research, but like others have said, the author seemed to cite the same sources over and over, and they were books. Not enough actual studies in my opinion. another aspect to consider is the instructional strategy embedded in these methods. This is a cognitivist perspective focused on beating information into the learners via repetition and practice, and doesn't consider enough constructivist techniques or project based methods. Still, it is a good read and worth in ...more
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James M. Lang is a nonfiction author whose work focuses on education, literature, and religion. His most recent books are Distracted: Why Students Can't Focus and What You Can Do About It (Basic Books, 2020), Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (Wiley, 2016), and Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty (Harvard UP, 2013). He writes a monthly column for the Chr ...more

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