For our Book Club finale we had a wonderful interview and chat with Flower Darby!
Also here are some of the artifacts from our book club reading! https://bccbookclubbox.opened.ca/
For our Book Club finale we had a wonderful interview and chat with Flower Darby!
Also here are some of the artifacts from our book club reading! https://bccbookclubbox.opened.ca/
Following up on the success of our 2019 offering centred around Small Teaching by James Lang, we will be diving into Small Teaching Online by Flower Darby.
Are you still feeling unsure about your skills as an online facilitator of learning? This selection for our online book club might be just the confidence booster you need! Join the discussion and exploration of strategies and tools to hone your online-facilitation skills. The book club will be facilitated over nine weeks, mostly asynchronously, with three optional synchronous sessions.
The synchronous sessions will be held on April 6, May 18, and June 8, 2021, at 11:00 a.m. PT and will be 90 minutes.
This event is free. To ensure we have an inclusive and welcoming environment for all, we’ve added registration to our online office sessions.
This notice is to inform you that this session will be recorded, archived, and made available publicly on BCcampus.ca. By participating in this session, you acknowledge that your participation in this session will be recorded and the recording will be made available openly.
The 2nd offering of the BCcampus Online Book Club has now finished with great flourish on Friday November 15th.
Many thanks to the eight wonderful facilitators who shared their thoughts on chapters of “Small Teaching” by James M. Lang on our blog and facilitated lively discussions in our weekly online chapter chats and Friday webinars: Laura Mackay, Gina Bennett, Keith Webster, Asif Devji, Sylvia Riessner, Isabeau Iqbal, Lucas Wright and Peter Arthur.
We invite everyone who has been following along the posts and/or discussions to complete the Book Club survey and provide us with feedback.
Of particular interest is how we might make the Book Club more inclusive, accessible, as well as, improve participation. If you have ideas, please share them with us. If you have a book you’d like to suggest for future, let us know.
The BCcampus Book Club – Fall 2019
This post is by Peter Arthur.
Chapter 9 BIG Idea
Expand your view of what student learning may look like in your learning environment: Activity-Based Learning, Service Learning, and Games & Simulations are three big teaching pathways that are logical extensions of the first 8 chapters of the book. Additionally, the author refers to “Big Teaching”, which is giving students the opportunity to make a positive difference in the world, immersing them in real-world problems, activities and forcing them to think creatively and think together about all the logistics of the course and the program itself … creating a powerful learning experience. I see these three types of learning environments a paradigm shift from a learner as a consumer of information to someone who is actively engaged in creating and sharing knowledge.
Activity-based learning “involves fieldwork, public service, community-based research and internships in conjunction with in class work”. These activities do not have to take all term i.e. a single class, or a week or two. Another way he conveys this type of learning is an extension from the confines of the classroom to a more public space. Students convey their learning to a more public purpose.
Principle: Ask students to do whatever people do outside of your class in your discipline or with the specific content and skills you are teaching them. The author uses the example of his writing students using placed-based skills to write travel essays for the newspaper or magazines.
• http://ablconnect.harvard.edu gathering place of research, examples, and ideas for pedagogical innovation in higher education.
• Bean, J. C. (2001). Engaging ideas: The professor’s guide to integrating writing, critical thinking, and active learning in the classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Service learning is a win/win. A win for an exceptional student learning experience and at the same time contributes to the local, regional and global community. This type of learning provides real-world exposure and engagement with meaningful local and global issues.
Principle: To support your implementation of service learning leverage your higher education’s resources i.e. service learning office to assist with connecting students with local community organizations. Additionally, seek a colleague who is already leveraging service learning to learn more.
Peter’s experience: Service learning can be a very transformative experience! I recommend checking first to see if your institution has a service learning office. Additionally, you may want to consult your Centre for Teaching and Learning. To increase the chance of success, I think it is really important to make sure the external organization is well prepared for students. Often external organizations are not educators and it is important to clarify the role of the organization and your students. Further, it is important that your students are well prepared to be engaging with the public (examples will be shared with the book club) and have been taught how to reflect in order to get the most from their experiential learning.
• Jacoby, B., & O’Reilly for Higher Education. (2014). Service-learning essentials: Questions, answers, and lessons learned (1;1st; ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
An example of Service Learning at UBC Okanagan: students engaged with communities in India and Haida Gwaii
The author provides one main example of games and simulations: Reacting to the past is a role-immersion game where students are put into place as historical actors at key moments of crisis or transition in human history and play out their own version of those historical events to some final conclusion.
Principle: A simple way to for an instructor to try out games and simulations is to try a reacting game, as they have been used in higher education classes for a long time. Check the consortium website to see if there is a game already created for your context. Additionally, recommends reading Minds on Fire (see below).
• Reacting games: https://reacting.barnard.edu
• Carnes, M. C., & Harvard University Press 2014 eBooks (Canadian Institution). (2014). Minds on fire: How role-immersion games transform college. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Note: This section triggered my memory of Professor David Kaufman (SFU) $3 million Simulations and Advanced Gaming Environments for Learning (SAGE) SSHRC grant. This is an area where there are many great examples beyond reacting simulations.
1. Commit to reading at least one new teaching and learning book every year. (For example join BCcampus book club each year!)
2. Subscribe to an email list.
3. Create a personal learning network.
4. Attend a teaching and learning conference. i.e. Festival of Learning May 2020
5. Engage with your Centre for Teaching and Learning events.
Out of all the books the author recommends, I have engaged with and highly recommend:
• Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
• Brown, P. C., Roediger, H. L., III, & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make it stick: The science of successful learning. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
• Ambrose, S. A., & O’Reilly for Higher Education. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
1. How have you used Activity-Based Learning, Service Learning and/or Games/simulations in an educational context? Any advice?
2. Do you have any recommended books, email lists, teaching and learning conferences that you recommend to colleagues? How do you grow as an educator?
Join us as we chat about “Chapter 9: Expanding” in Mattermost this week and for our final live web conference meetup on Friday, November 15th at 11:00am PST. It’s easy to create an account and join in on the discussion. See How to Participate.
This post is by Peter Arthur.
Chapter 8 BIG Idea
Similar to intelligence, mindsets are malleable and can be developed. There are many curricular interventions teachers may implement to support students with developing a strong growth mindset towards intelligence and all areas of life.
Students with a fixed mindset believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that. Many of us have heard a student stating that they are bad at _____, has always been bad at ______, their brother is bad at _____, their sister is bad at _____ and they are bad at _____…they were born that way and there is nothing they can do about it. Conversely, students with a growth mindset understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.
Mindset has an impact on a student’s motivation to work in the face of failure and setbacks. Those students who attribute failure to their own inability i.e. “I’m not Intelligent” become helpless because it is something they can’t control. However, those who interpret failure as a result of insufficient effort or an ineffective strategy dig deeper and try different approaches. This is something a student CAN control
1. Reward Growth – Design your assessment strategy to align with rewarding intellectual growth.
2. Give Growth-Language Feedback
3. Growth Talk – Be mindful of the way you communicate with students to reinforce a growth verses fixed mindset.
4. Promote Success Strategies
In my opinion the following two papers are the most significant recent papers on mindset. The first is a meta-analysis that found the effect size of mindset to be weak, however, studies reinforced that low socioeconomic status and academically at-risk students might benefit from mindset interventions. The Second article published in Nature, indicated that a short online growth mindset intervention improved grades among lower-achieving students and increased overall enrolment to advanced mathematics courses.
Sisk, V. F., Burgoyne, A. P., Sun, J., Butler, J. L., & Macnamara, B. N. (2018). To what extent and under which circumstances are growth mind-sets important to academic achievement? two meta-analyses. Psychological Science, 29(4), 549-571. doi:10.1177/0956797617739704
Found online: https://www.creatingrounds.com/uploads/9/6/2/4/96240662/meta-analysis_growth_mindset.pdf
Yeager, D. S., Hanselman, P., Walton, G. M., Murray, J. S., Crosnoe, R., Muller, C., . . . Dweck, C. S. (2019). A national experiment reveals where a growth mindset improves achievement. Nature, 573(7774), 364-369. doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1466-y Found online: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1466-y
How do you use strategies such as those discussed in “Chapter 8: Growing”? Share your ideas in the online Chapter discussions in Mattermost during this week and join us for the live web conference meetup Friday, November 8th at 11:00am PST. It’s easy to create an account and join in on the discussion. See How to Participate.
In the spirit of this chapter, I want to start off with a story and a question. In one of my graduate courses in Adult Education one of our professors took us on a field trip to visit the WISH Foundation, an organization that that “works to improve the self, safety and well-being of women who are involved in Vancouver’s street based sex trade.” For me this experience connected adult education in the community with social justice and helped me understand why adult learning mattered. This one moment helped motivate me for the remainder of my program. This example connects with how Lang looks at motivation, in particular his discussion of the importance of “self-transcendent purpose.” In this post I will focus on the role of purpose in motivating students.
Take a few minutes now, think about and share a significant experience in your learning that motivated you? What was the experience? What impact did it have on your studies? To what extent does it fit with how Lang connects emotion, purpose and motivation?
In this chapter Lang focuses on the role of emotion in motivation. At the outset of this chapter he suggests that this focus on emotion is complimentary to research on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and that the reader should, “Consider emotions as a motivating force that have the power to drive both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated learners in the right circumstances.” (Lang, 2016, p. 104) He describes three key elements of research on emotions:
The idea of infusing our learning with a sense of self-transcendent purpose really resonated with me as a teacher and a learner. In my own experience when learning activities are connected with changing the world in a positive way, it can be incredibly motivating for learners. One example of have seen of this is action is courses or programs that have students create or edit articles for Wikipedia in-order to improve coverage in areas such as female artists, Canadian female scientists and indigenous authors. It is incredible to see how motivated students often become when completing assignments assignments that are so strongly liked with the public good. In addition, to transcendent purpose, Lang suggests a number of different ways of ensuring our classes are purposeful including
In this post I have mostly focused on purpose and emotion. Lang also shares ways that the teacher can increase motivation by enthusiastic, fostering social connection and showing compassion. The approaches included the following:
What are some ways that you infuse your classes with a sense of self-transcendent purpose? How can we balance compassion with fairness in the classroom? Is Lang’s approach to motivation sufficient to increase motivation in our classrooms?
I wanted to follow-up the virtual session with my slides and a resources about Digital Hubs that Laura shared with us
This post is by Isabeau Iqbal.
I was attracted to facilitating this chapter because, as a learner, I make minimal use of self-explanation and was curious to see how it might “serve” me to do so more often.
I write this as an educational developer who does not teach in the traditional (defined here as teaching undergraduate and graduate students in a post-secondary environment) classroom but spends a significant portion of her time consulting and working with individuals who do.
The basic premise of self-explanation is that learners benefit from explaining out loud to themselves or others what they are doing during the completion of a learning task. The best self-explanation techniques prompt learners to articulate what they are doing and why they are doing it.
Lang concludes this chapter by pointing out that research has yielded mixed results when it comes to the learning benefits of self-explanation; in some cases, learners with minimal knowledge of a subject benefit, whereas in other cases it is those with more knowledge who benefit.
In previous chapters, Lang underscored that mindful practice and mindful learning during practice foster learning and retention.
Self-explanation is a technique for fostering mindful learning during practice. It can help with that vexing problem of far transfer (or lack thereof)–that ability to carry theories or principles from the initial context to a new context.
Self-explanation can also help improve the learner’s comprehension when it requires individuals to make connections between their knowledge and their skills.
Summarizing research done in this field, Lang writes that the practices below foster learning during self-explaining.
Self-explanation fosters learning because this approach helps learners:
- “Fill gaps and make inferences in learning productive ways” .
- “Modify and improve their existing perceptions or knowledge of a subject matter” (p.147)
One of the questions that especially piqued my curiousity in this chapter is the one that asks “Do self-explanations that are generated by teacher prompts have the same effect as self-explanations that are spontaneously generated by students?” (p.143).
According to the research that Lang reviewed, self-explanations generated by teacher prompts enhance learning and understanding when students receive immediate feedback.
The small teaching strategy that was cited several times in this chapter, as an example of a teacher-generated prompt, was that of asking students to select, from a drop-down menu, what principles are at play. When prompts are inserted into an assignment at key points, students must reflect on how certain principles are being applied in a specific context. This then helps with the issue of transfer because it requires students to make inference rules.
Citing Chi, Bassok, Lewis, Reiman, and Glaser (p. 178, 1989) Lang writes “Inference rules ‘spell out more clearly the specific conditions or situations in which a specific action is to be taken.’”
“When using self-explaining, create opportunities that require students to select or articulate principles as they are making choices, searching for solutions, or revising their work” (p.156).
1. I have bolded select because it was found that selecting, rather than generating, fostered learning. When students had to generate the principles, it added to their cognitive load in a way that was unproductive (see p.149 for more).
How do you use “Self-Explaining” as an approach for learning? Share your ideas in the online Chapter discussions in Mattermost or join us for the live web conference meetup for Chapter Six on Friday, October 25th at 11:00am PST. It’s easy to create an account and join in on the discussion See How to Participate.
1. Think about the principles related to retrieval practice introduced in Chapter 1. Which principles might you expect to transfer to Chapter 5 – Practicing?
2. Can you recall the differences between massed and spaced practice (Chapter 3, Interleaving)? Which type of practice might you expect to see emphasized in Chapter 5 – Practicing?
BIG IDEA(s): Identify the cognitive skills that are integral to the learning activities you assess for grades and make sure to allow time for students to practice them, in class. Encourage students to “…engage in active, mindful practice of important intellectual skills” throughout the course.
Lang begins his discussion of practicing with a cringe-worthy example drawn from a 2007 course in contemporary British literature. Despite his preparation (sharing tips on effective presentation techniques, exhorting students to practice, and helping some students with the structure and organization of their material), he was astounded by how poorly the students performed. His assumptions about their recognition of the importance of rehearsal and their basic presentation skills were proven painfully wrong.
After reflection, Lang hypothesized that small, facilitated practice of cognitive communication skills (that were part of his graded activities) would help students perform successfully. He recognized that he needed to revisit his assessments to clearly identify the skills that he had assumed that students would know or could “figure out” to complete graded assignments.
His small teaching strategy (the first Big Idea) involves the recognition and analysis of the cognitive skills that are required to successfully demonstrate learning in our graded assignments / activities. We need to be explicit about the cognitive skills we value (review the skills listed for “Understand” in Blooms updated Taxonomy), and to plan ways to offer structured, manageable opportunities to enable students to practice BEFORE we ask them to completed assessed, graded demonstrations of their learning.
Lang introduces the value of guided practice in his example of improving his skiing skills with the observation and feedback of a more knowledgeable skier. He emphasizes the importance of rehearsal and practice of skills in academic learning – the practice should ideally take place in class, with the observation and feedback of a knowledgeable instructor. To help us understand the role of consistent practice in improving students’ cognitive skills, he reviews the potential bottleneck that our limited short-term (or working) memory imposes as we struggle to combine new information from our immediate environments while trying to access deeper, longer-term memories.
Lang also cites Daniel Willingham’s perspective on the value of extensive practice to develop “cognitive proficiency.” By providing opportunities for students to practice and be able to use some lower level cognitive skills automatically, they can integrate higher level cognitive skills as needed.
Providing instructor-guided, in-class practice is, at least partly, to avoid the risk of students practicing without thinking, or practicing incorrectly. An additional risk, according to Ellen Langer, is that students may practice it to the point of “overlearning”, which she believes will prevent them from getting better at thinking mindfully. Langer identifies the three main characteristics of mindful learning as:
With the availability of timely feedback and support from an instructor, there is greater likelihood that students can master the supporting skills required to allow them to observe their own practice, to be open to new ways of doing things and to think deeply – to think “mindfully.” This is Lang’s second Big Idea.
I’ve suggested this as a 2nd Big Idea because it seems to embody thinking that involves the affective domain as well as the cognitive domain. To scaffold student learning of these broader, deeper skills may require a more significant re-appraisal of our teaching and course design and delivery than we might first understand from Lang’s examples.
Take time to analyze your individual assignments (especially those that contribute to the grading) and your overall assessment strategy. Does your distribution of marks and types of assignments indicate that you value some cognitive skills more than others? Do you currently provide practice opportunities and explicit feedback to develop these skills in your students?
Do you provide rubrics or marking outlines to make cognitive skills explicit for students?
Break down (parcel out) the cognitive skills required for important assignments. Find opportunities for “stepped” practice so that students can take on manageable chunks of new skills and develop them over the time of the course.
By looking ahead in the syllabus, you can schedule practice opportunities at strategic times that support the required demonstration of learning (and use of important cognitive skills) on a specific date.
Lang suggests that the last 10-15 minutes of class are the best times to provide practice opportunities. These opportunities could include a brief (5 min) teacher-led review of the important elements of the cognitive skills you want them to develop, with the remaining 10 minutes used by the students to practice those skills.
Lang suggests we combine individual and group feedback while students are engaged in practice activities in class. Be clear about how you will provide feedback to prevent students from feeling singled out. Take time to develop methods that will ensure you balance your observations, attention and feedback so that students receive equitable access to your expertise.
To promote mindful learning in our classes, Lang suggests the following:
Make Time for In-Class (Scaffolded?) Practice
Lang is focused on the importance of direct teacher observation and timely feedback to prevent “overlearning” or the development of poor habits during practice. I’d suggest the use of a term like “scaffolding” to recognize that in-class observation and feedback isn’t always possible nor is it always the best way to prevent these problems. There are various ways to provide individualized observation and feedback beyond practice sessions in large groups facilitated by the instructor. Integrating specific practice opportunities that involve the use of technologies to record and share student(s) practice sessions with the instructor and/or other members of their class might provide additional value and equity in learning.
Space It Out
The importance of layering and spacing out the types and times of cognitive skills practice opportunities is emphasized throughout this chapter and builds on the previous research shared on the value of interleaving and spaced practice.
Lang began this chapter with examples of the value of practicing easily recognizable cognitive and psychomotor skills. He introduced the deeper, broader learning inherent in Langer’s concept of mindful learning and the importance of ensuring that all practice opportunities we provide students also encourage flexible, intelligent thinking beyond the immediate demonstration of skills.
Langer, E. (1997?) (2007?). The Power of Mindful Learning. Cambridge, MA: DaCapo
Miller, M. (2014). Minds online: Teaching effectively with technology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Willingham, D. (2014). Why don’t students like school? A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Young, S.H. (2014, August). Seven Principles of Learning Better From Cognitive Science, Retrieved from https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2014/08/10/7-principles-learn-better-science/
This post is by Asif Devji.
BIG IDEA:The goal of instructors should be to help learners “forge rich, interconnected networks of knowledge – ones that enable each existing piece of information in our content area to connect with lots of other information, concepts and ideas.
With Chapter 4 we move into Part II of Small Teaching, which shifts the focus from helping learners acquire knowledge to helping them develop a deeper understanding of their knowledge base by building on complex cognitive skills.
In his introduction to Part II: Understanding, Lang refers to the flipped classroom model to make the point that such active learning approaches aimed at strengthening learner comprehension need to be undertaken “deliberately, with eyes wide open, and with the help of the literature on human learning” if they are to be effective.
Chapter 4: Connecting begins with an image of ‘small disconnected islets’ – bits of knowledge representing the “disparate sets of concepts or skills” that learners acquire as they “absorb the knowledge from each lecture in a course without connecting the information to other lectures or recognizing themes that cut across the course.”
These scattered bits of knowledge aren’t very meaningful; learners “lack comprehension…because they lack connections.” The goal of instructors should be to help learners “forge rich, interconnected networks of knowledge – ones that enable each existing piece of information in our content area to connect with lots of other information, concepts and ideas.”
The “link between making connections and building comprehension” is biological. In our brains “neurons form new connections with other neurons with every new experience we have,” and learning generates “the continual formation of connections between our neurons.”
When sets of connected neurons repeatedly “fire together” they carve out distinct pathways that connect to form networks. “The knowledge in our minds consists of neuronal networks in our brains.” Deep reflection on a piece of acquired knowledge connects it to other neuronal networks, “until it eventually sits at the heart of a dense weave of connections – what we normally think about as understanding or comprehension.”
The task of instructors is to “create an environment that facilitates the formation of those connections” and to help “expand those connections into networks that enable students to see the bigger picture, make meaning, apply what they have learned into novel contexts.”
If we are successful, learners can move from being novices towards being experts in our content areas. When an expert “encounter[s] a new piece of information or a new idea in their field of expertise, they immediately slot it into a fully developed network that enables them to see connections between it and dozens of other things they know.”
Lang offers four strategies “to help students modify and enhance their connections.” These can be applied “at any point during the semester or during any class period” to help learners “forge connections within a semester’s worth of material.”
“Prior knowledge plays a critical role in learning.” Newly learned material will connect with what a learner already knows (or thinks they know) about a subject. Instructors should have students make “individual and collective knowledge dumps, telling you everything they know” about your subject. This will allow the instructor not only to “recognize and correct mistaken perceptions” but also to “activate whatever knowledge they currently have that you want to build on or reinforce.”
Providing learners with an “organizing framework” of the material to be covered in a course and then having them fill in the details helps them to “build accurate connections” that will improve their conceptual understanding of the content. The framework should be a “skeletal outline” – just headings and titles of concepts – with students fleshing out the document themselves. Learners will “connect most deeply” if provided with a “frame of a knowledge network” rather than an already completed network or if left to “devise the organizational principles of the material on their own”
A concept map is a “visual representation of a knowledge domain” and concept mapping activities can be used to help students “visualize the organization of key ideas in your course.” Learners can be asked to construct a concept map of the course material, with “key concepts” in the center and lines branching off to “subsidiary elements.” The branching lines can then be labeled to define the relationships between the elements. Having learners make multiple maps integrating the same concepts based on different organizing principles can give them practice in “organizing their knowledge according to alternative schemata or hierarchies” and thereby build “more robust and flexible knowledge organizations.”
The Minute Thesis is an activity that helps learners “solidify existing connections” and “envision new ones.” Students are asked to “set up columns or categories of essential course concepts or texts, connect them in new and creative ways,” and then develop an impromptu thesis to describe “how or why those connections make sense.” The activity provides a familiar “scaffolding through the columns or categories” but then asks learners to make a leap and “forge connections between things that have not been connected before.” These “creative connections” help them to generate new and original thinking around the course content.
The strategies above are meant to “provide a bridge between your expert comprehension of your subject matter and the novice understanding of your students.” Facilitating the building of their connections will help your learners move towards your “big-picture view” of the material.
Provide the Framework: You should be transparent about your expertly networked knowledge by “making the framework as visible as possible, pointing back to it frequently, and helping them recognize where new material fits into the frame.”
Facilitate Connections: You should also “open the space” for learners to form their own unique connections and “see unexpected juxtapositions, chart new pathways…or invent their own knowledge networks.” Your presence as an expert to “provide feedback on their discoveries and help nudge them in productive new directions” can support them in developing their expertise.
Leverage Peer Learning Power: Because your students “all share the position of being novice learners in your field,” you should encourage them to help each other to co-create connections. By facilitating collaborative activities in which learners can “consider the connections made by their peers” you can spark their “energy and curiosity” without the weight of expert expectations.
Does any of the above raise any questions for you in terms of application in a real-world classroom?
This post is by Gina Bennett.
In Chapter One, Lang describes 3 different studies to demonstrate how effectively regular quizzing improves retrieval. Can you name any 2 of the subject areas involved?
Also in Chapter One, Lang suggests that the frequency of quizzing is critical to the success of this technique. How often (as a minimum) does he recommend that quizzes be given?
Big Idea: Long term mastery of a series of related topics is fostered by spacing out the learning activities over time, introducing new topics before the previous topic has been mastered and intermixing new skills with previously developed skills.
I picture this as the “2 steps forward, 1 step back” approach.
Theories, Principles, Models, and Tips
Lang begins his discussion of the theory behind interleaving with a study that illustrates the difference between massed and spaced practice. Massed practice is defined as time focused entirely on learning one skill or topic until it is mastered, while spaced practice is pretty much the way it sounds: the learning related to that particular skill or topic is spread out and interspersed with time spent doing other things. Interestingly, some of those “other things” include forgetting what’s just been learned. This sounded counter intuitive to me, but as Lang points out, forgetting forces us to really work at the process of retrieval and more strongly embeds the learning in long term memory. Allowing time between learning sessions like this not only forces us into a cycle of forgetting and retrieval, it also gives our brains time to consolidate the new material. This process leads to what’s referred to as “durable learning” — another great term I picked up from this chapter.
Several of the models for incorporating interleaving sound pretty similar to suggestions for improving retrieval (e.g. frequent quizzing), except that here we see a more pronounced emphasis on the inclusion of quiz questions from material learned in the past. A very nice small teaching tip is to end a lesson by asking students to create a test question based on what they learned that day — & instead of waiting for the final or midterm, ask a couple of those questions a few weeks later. And I like Lang’s suggestions for coaxing students to apply previously acquired skills or knowledge to new contexts — transfer of learning is always an issue and I can certainly appreciate how interleaving will help make that happen.
I am so tempted to try to sell an interleaving approach a little harder in my ABE math class because the most profound research results mentioned by Lang (and others) are based on students studying middle school math. However, the [adult] students I know who are working at that level usually do not welcome (or need) more frustration in their lives. That concern about feeling discouraged due to lack of a sense of mastery — that’s a major concern. And the students working in a more advanced ABE math course know full well that this course is “terminal;” consequently they are not keen to struggle more than they need to at something that they will “never use again.” I would be very interested to hear what others familiar with the ABE learner audience think about that.
Not a concern but a confusion: I am a bit mystified by Lang’s description of how to employ interleaving in an online learning environment. I suspect his concept or experience of online courses is different from a lot of the ones we offer here. He refers to the “distribution of deadlines” but in my experience most online courses do this anyway. It seems that many of Lang’s examples so far are largely based on “traditional” students: full-time young people who attend on-campus classes in a semester-based format
In this chapter, Lang describes how interleaving improves the embedding and retrieval of knowledge. Can you think of some ways in which interleaving might also improve understanding?
Nice website from the University of Arizona with lots of supplementary material (e.g. blog posts, explanations, PPT slide deck) about interleaving
Learning how to Learn is a free MOOC offered on a regular basis by Coursera. If you are interested in learning science and would appreciate an entertaining and accessible approach, you’ll like this course.
Have any of you come across the Pimsleur method of language learning? Dr. Pimsleur was a big fan of spaced practice and he developed a schedule of optimal spacing, a system he called “graduated interval recall.” His scheduling sounds like Lang’s spacing recommendation on steroids.
The 3 studies Lang refers to to demonstrate the efficacy of retrieval practice involved students learning Social Studies, Art History, & Chemistry.
Lang states (under subheading “Principles”) quizzes should be given at least once a week (preferably in every class).
Image: “interleaving sign” is CC0 – I drew it myself -gb
What strategies are you using? Share your ideas in the online Chapter discussions in Mattermost or join us for the live web conference meetup for Chapter 3 on Friday, September 27th at 11:00am.
See How to Participate.