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Small teaching approach: Predicting


Predicting is based on the theory that having students make predictions about the material they are learning will increase their ability to understand and retrieve that knowledge in the future. When students are asked to make a prediction, they activate prior knowledge in searching for a plausible prediction. This engagement prepares a space in their brain for the solution when presented. Predicting helps lay a foundation for more connected knowledge.

How to use this approach

Use Pre-Testing — Give students a pre-test on the material they will learn. Explain the value of testing them on the material they haven’t learned yet and assure them that their grades will not suffer from not knowing it. Examples: A major pre-test at the beginning of the semester; Pre-tests before a unit of content; Small, quick pretests related to a day of class. Facilitate Mid-Class Predicting — Prediction can be used during class as a quick way for students to apply what they are learning. Ideally, the questions require students to apply concepts rather than recall a specific fact. Example: “Given the situation of “xyz,” what would be the result if the “x” aspect changed?” Close with Predicting — Prediction questions at the end of class can help increase students’ attention or interest in course topics or homework they will next engage in.


Stay Conceptual — Predicting requires students to draw upon whatever knowledge they might have to make a prediction. Asking specific questions about the content of which students have no prior knowledge will not see the results you desire. Provide Fast Feedback — Since students may provide incorrect answers in predictions, quick feedback closes the loop and helps clear up misconceptions. Predicting occurring in class should be addressed in that class session. Predicting occurring online should be addressed in the next class session. Induce Reflection — Conceptual prediction activities promote thoughts about the application and connections of content. They also offer an opportunity for students to reflect on their thought processes and why they made the prediction they did. 

Quick Tips

Prediction activities can be incorporated with brief in-class time requirements, even though they require more complex thought than activities to retrieve information.

  • Give brief pre-tests, similar in format to formal assessments of course material, at the beginning of the course or a new unit of topics.
  • Ask students to write down what they already know or speculate about the new content before you present it.
  • Stop and ask students to predict the outcome when presenting examples that have an outcome, such as cases or problems.
  • Let students try it out and receive feedback early in learning when teaching a new cognitive skill.
  • Close class by asking for predictions about the material in the next class.


Lang, James M. Small teaching: Everyday lessons from the science of learning. John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

Keywordssmall, teaching, knowledge, predicting stDoc ID117975
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2022-04-14 11:53:26Updated2024-04-16 12:49:07
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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