James M. Lang

Small teaching
Author, USA

James M. Lang is the author of six books, the most recent of which 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, 2nd Edition (Jossey-Bass, 2021) and Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty (Harvard University Press, 2013), and On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching (Harvard UP, 2008). James is a former Professor of English and Director of the D’Amour Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption University, he stepped down from full-time academic work in 2021 to concentrate more fully on his writing and teaching.

Jim writes a monthly column on teaching and learning for The Chronicle of Higher Education; his work has been appearing in the Chronicle since 1999. His book reviews and public scholarship on higher education have appeared in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and Time. He edits a series of books on teaching and learning in higher education for West Virginia University Press.

A dynamic and highly sought-after public speaker, he has delivered conference keynotes or conducted workshops on teaching for faculty at more than a hundred colleges, universities, and high schools in the United States and abroad. He has consulted with the United Nations on a multi-year project to develop teaching materials in ethics and integrity for high school and college faculty. He is the recipient of a a 2016 Fulbright Specialist Grant (Colombia), and the 2019 Paul Ziegler Presidential Award for Excellence in Scholarship at Assumption University. He has a BA in English and Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame, an MA in English from St. Louis University, and a Ph.D. in English from Northwestern University.


Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It (2020)

“Educators at all levels fret today about the digital distractions that are interfering with the learning of their students. For teachers of younger students, those fears tip into the clinical: Are smart phones re-wiring their brains? For college faculty, the fears turn easily into frustration: Why aren’t students paying attention to me like they used to? Distracted begins with a quick tour through the history and biology of attention in order to help teachers understand that distraction has always plagued our efforts to focus and learn, from the ancient Greek philosophers to the schoolrooms of 19th-century England. Following this grounding in attention history and the biology of distraction, the book offers multiple pathways toward better attention in college and high school classrooms, from basic recommendations about the use of the physical space to more complex strategies for awakening the attention of students to the wonders of our course content.”

Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (2021) 2nd edition

“The Small Teaching movement began in 2016, when this unassuming book made a simple argument to college faculty: a growing body of research on human learning was pointing us to small, manageable changes we could make to our teaching that would have a significant positive impact on student learning. Since its publication in 2016, higher education faculty around the world have embraced its message of empowerment and hope, and used its theoretically grounded, highly practical recommendations to spark ongoing change for their students. Although the book was written with an audience of college faculty in mind, it has been embraced by secondary educators as well, especially those interested in preparing their students to succeed in higher education.”