James M. Lang

Small teaching
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.

Books

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.”

Develop your teaching with James M. Lang
Small Teaching Retrieval: Getting the Most From Closing Questions
Small Teaching Retrieval: Getting the Most From Closing Questions
by James M. Lang
Use the last few minutes of class to have students practice retrieving information with questions that really make them think.
Activity
Small Teaching: Interleaving
Small Teaching: Interleaving
by Todd D. Zakrajsek, James M. Lang

Interleaving - the spacing out and mixing up of learning activities over time - promotes long-term knowledge retention. In this course, we look at how you can interleave within a unit of study, across a module and an entire course to maximise impact on student learning. 

Course
Brain image
Small Teaching: Retrieval
by James M. Lang

In this course you will learn about the importance of retrieval practice for your students and how to implement it into your teaching.

Course
Small Teaching with James M. Lang
Small Teaching with James M. Lang
by James M. Lang
The 'Small Teaching' concept shows that by making small changes to their teaching all educators can have a significant impact on student success, as well as on their own personal confidence.
Introduction to...
Small Teaching: Predicting
Small Teaching: Predicting
by Todd D. Zakrajsek, James M. Lang

The act of making predictions activates prior knowledge and deepens learning. In this course, we will look at ways you can embed prediction into your classes, whether in person or online.

Course
Students at a round table studying
Small Teaching: Learning Through Practicing
by Flower Darby, James M. Lang

Becoming an expert takes practice, and it also means responding to feedback. In this course, we look at how to take create moments for students to practice skills in ways that will benefit from your expert observations.

Course
‘Remembering and Forgetting in the Age of Technology’: An Interview with Michelle D. Miller
'Remembering and Forgetting in the Age of Technology': An Interview with Michelle D. Miller
by Michelle D. Miller, James M. Lang
In this interview James M. Lang catches up with Michelle D. Miller and invites her to share some of the backstory of the book, and talk about her writing practices. Read an excerpt from the book and join the conversation.
Interview
The Science Of Learning
The Science Of Learning
by James M. Lang, Flower Darby, Derek Bruff, Todd D. Zakrajsek
Over the last few decades, neuroscience has done much to unlock how we learn. This learning path highlights the main findings, and how you can apply these lessons in your classes.
Learning path
Small Teaching: Self Explaining
Small Teaching: Self Explaining
by Derek Bruff, James M. Lang

Self explaining, or explaining to others, helps students process, rehearse and reinforce their learning, and it can be easily incorporated into face-to-face and online classes.

Course
‘Inclusive Teaching’: An Interview with Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy
'Inclusive Teaching': An Interview with Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy
by Kelly Hogan, Viji Sathy, James M. Lang
In this interview James M. Lang catches up with Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy and invites them to share some of the backstory of the book, and talk about their writing practices. Read an excerpt from the book and join the conversation.
Interview
‘Ungrading’: An Interview with Susan D. Blum
'Ungrading': An Interview with Susan D. Blum
by Susan D. Blum, James M. Lang
In this interview James M. Lang catches up with Susan D. Blum and invites her to share some of the backstory of the book writing, and talk about ungrading. Read an excerpt from the book and join the conversation.
Interview
Small Teaching Retrieval: Making Best Use of the Online Classroom
Small Teaching Retrieval: Making Best Use of the Online Classroom
by James M. Lang
Online classrooms can make retrieval practice challenging but there are a few tweaks you can make to encourage students to get involved.
Activity
Introduction To Teaching In Higher Education
Introduction To Teaching In Higher Education
by James M. Lang, Chris Hakala, Todd D. Zakrajsek, Jay Howard, Derek Bruff, Naomi Winstone, Sam Elkington
If you're new to teaching in higher education or want to brush up on those foundational concepts and skills, this learning path provides a rapid grounding in the essentials and suggestions for further study.
Learning path
Small Teaching Retrieval: Annotating the Syllabus
Small Teaching Retrieval: Annotating the Syllabus
by James M. Lang
Your course syllabus can be a great resource for helping students practice retrieval, this activity explains how.
Activity
Students in the library
Small Teaching: Learning Through Connecting
by Flower Darby, James M. Lang

One of the things that distinguishes an expert from a novice is the density of connections between facts, concepts and skills. This course explores how we can help student make those connections that deepen understanding.

Course
Small Teaching Retrieval: How to Ask Effective Opening Questions
Small Teaching Retrieval: How to Ask Effective Opening Questions
by James M. Lang
The opening minutes of class are the ideal moment to practice retrieval but remember to get students thinking as well as retrieving.
Activity