Small Teaching Strategies :: Small Teaching Strategies
Small teaching strategies

Active Learning
Small Teaching Strategies

Taken from the book Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning by James M. Lang, this section identifies “small teaching” approaches — a set of principles to create small changes to teaching which can have a positive impact on student learning. These approaches require minimal preparation and grading and may be implemented immediately without significant course redesign work required. Approaches may take the form of brief activities, one-time interventions in a course, or small modifications in course design or communication with students. Lang offers three general categories for easy-to-implement learning activities and other changes:

  • Knowledge: Developing mastery of material through exposure and repetition, Understanding, and Inspiration.
  • Understanding: Applying course materials and concepts such as problem-solving or analysis.
  • Inspiration: Influencing mindsets and attitudes that contribute to learning.


  • Retrieving: Accessing mastery of material through exposure and repetition
  • Predicting: Making predictions increases your ability to understand and retrieve them.
  • Interleaving: Spacing learning sessions over time and varying practice methods.


  • Connecting: Building comprehension by connecting new information to existing knowledge.
  • Practicing: Using class time for students to practice and develop cognitive skills.
  • Self-Explaining: Explaining out loud how students are approaching a task they are learning.


  • Motivating: Impacting students' perceptions of the value, purpose, and benefit of an activity.
  • Growing: Emphasizing the role and value of work and practice in the learning process.
  • Expanding: Influencing mindsets and attitudes that contribute to learning.

SOURCE: Lang, James M. Small teaching: Everyday lessons from the science of learning. John Wiley & Sons, 2016. pp. 17-142.

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