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Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  391 ratings  ·  72 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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4.21  · 
Rating details
 ·  391 ratings  ·  72 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
Christina "6 word reviewer" Lake
Treasure trove of great teaching ideas.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating book on many small techniques we can implement to tweak our teaching practice and align better with our students. The thoughtful organization of his book was evident even in Part 1, which starts with a discussion that immediately grabbed my attention. I think all teachers, fresh and experienced, can find value in these pages.

Favourite quotes:

"You can't think creatively about information unless you have information in your head to think about." ~ Daniel Willingham

"When we learn new
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
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
Dennis Williams
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Small teaching, big results

James Lang provides in this small book a number of mostly small (and some not so small) practices that if adopted will transform the experience and heighten the competency of students and faculty members. This is a must read, and do something with, book for college professors of every career phase.

I'm currently using it as a required reading in a new faculty orientation seminar. Despite having taught for over twenty years and either used or attempted a number of the a
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Clear and accessible writing here that offers lots of practical lessons, examples, and theory. Especially useful are the interpretations of recent work in the science of learning, especially cognitive science and psychology. Sections are introduced by short vignettes or stories that illustrate the principle to be discussed. Will serve well as a reference tome to be consulted while drafting course outlines or writing course reports, or referred to when discussing pedagogy with a colleague or frie ...more
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
If there's a more accessible but also smart writer on teaching, I'd like to know. Lang is a pleasure to read, offering readers the exact right balance of background theory and pragmatic practice. And the premise of the book, that there are small ways that we can make big differences in our teaching, is one that might seem obvious, but really does deserve the book-length attention Lang provides here.
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was an incredible book that I would highly recommend to any teacher, not just higher ed teachers. Dr. Lang summarizes cognitive science and a lot of other research on learning and memory in accessible ways, with concrete tips about how to apply them in the classroom. I wish I read this book 15 years ago when I first started teaching. It should be required reading for every higher ed teacher, and I think anyone who teaches anyone anything would find this book very useful.
Malcolm Jason
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An outstanding book detailing a variety of innovations instructors can make to their daily teaching strategies. The book presents these small teaching options in a way that highlights their theoretical underpinnings and then provides guidelines of how to use them. Incredibly insightful and valuable for any instructors.
Nichole Wulf
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I know this book is geared toward higher education, but I found it had some very useful tips for middle school teaching as well. It was easy to read and very practical, which is always a bonus in work texts. I was able to implement a few practices right away in my classroom and I could see a positive impact on my students.
Courtney Niederer
This is a great book for educators on how to improve your classroom to enhance learning and retention, as well as how to get away from the same old lecture routine. There are tons of good ideas that should only take up 5-10 minutes of class time. A refreshing look at how a classroom can be run! A must read for all teachers!
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Simply one of the best books on college teaching that I've ever read. This is going to remain on my desk at work so that I'm able to flip through it for ideas each day as I prep for my lessons. Lang offers a wide variety of activities that I've been able to start using immediately in my courses this semester, and I've already seen improvements in my students.
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.
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
Good stuff. Easy to read, with some very tangible suggestions to make in the classroom. Wish it hadn't ended on the big stuff, which just made me anxious. But I did like the the suggestions for further reading.
Megan LaFollette
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching
Excellent overview of simple teaching strategies. This book is very approachable and doesn’t require a full course redesign to implement. I also really like it as a teaching assistant since many of the things can be incorporated into a single lecture.
Amanda Smith
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I liked this book and appreciated its practical components. Most teaching books are purely theoretical, and this combined perfectly the theory and models for use. Plus, the theory was written clearly and insightfully.
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. Lang provides excellent activities to try in class to help students learn more effectively. If you teach in higher education and are looking for ways to improve your teaching effectiveness, this is the book.
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching
This is one of the best teaching books I have ever read. Lots of good 'small' ideas that can be integrated into the classroom, quickly. No need to wait until the next semester, nor completely overhaul my classes.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I highly recommend this book! It revitalized my teaching! I love the mini lesson plans and the writer's tone and approach. The ideas he offers are easy to add into an existing curriculum to spice up our teaching.
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