Small Teaching by J.M. Lang presents methods for making small changes in your teaching practices (hence the name) that can significantly improve your students’ learning. Each chapter provides the research-based evidence behind the practices Lang proposes so you can have confidence that Lang’s ideas work. The Coulter Faculty Commons will be boiling the Small Teaching chapters down into blog posts to provide instructors with concepts they can apply to a lesson, a class, or a course.
Let’s get started.
Chapter 1: Retrieving Every subject requires students to know some foundational knowledge to successfully engage in higher levels of learning. For example, they need to know what a line is before they can understand more complex geometric shapes or the history of the earliest immigrants to the North American continent before they can discuss the nuances of current immigration policy. For your students to be successful, they need to be able to retrieve knowledge so that they can apply what they know.
Students need to retrieve knowledge from memory, but as Lang points out, “if you want to retrieve knowledge from your memory, you have to practice retrieving knowledge from your memory” (Lang, 2016, p. 20). How do you get students to practice retrieving knowledge? To illustrate a simple practice Lang cites studies where students were divided into three groups: one was given additional study time before a test, one given a practice quiz before the test, and one group where no intervention was taken. In one of the studies students that were quizzed prior to the test scored two letter grades higher than those that weren’t. Perhaps equally significant, students that were given additional study time scored no better than those that received no intervention. Re-reading did not improve knowledge retrieval.
Rather than just think of quizzes as assessment activities, consider them a means for your students to practice knowledge retrieval. But quizzing can take many forms. Here are the Quick Tips Lang suggests in Chapter 1:
Give frequent, low-stakes quizzes (at least weekly) to help your students seal up foundational course content; favor short answers or problem-solving whenever possible so that students must process or use what they are retrieving.
Open class periods or online sessions by asking students to remind you of content covered in previous class sessions; allow students time to reﬂect for a few moments if you do so orally.
Close class by asking students to write down the most important concept from that day and one question or confusion that still remains in their minds (i.e., the minute paper).
Close class by having students take a short quiz or answer written questions about the day’s material or solve a problem connected to the day’s material.
Use your syllabus to redirect students to previous course content through quizzes or oral questions and discussion (Lang, 2016, p. 39).
Summer Beach Read
Small Teaching is one of SITL’s Beach Reads. Are you registered yet?
Whether you call it inverted instruction, classroom flipping, or some other term, the concept behind this kind of instruction is basic. Students get the foundational knowledge they need outside the classroom and class time is spent on higher-level learning. Properly executed, this instructional methodology changes the instructor’s role from one of a “sage on the stage” to a “guide on the side.” (Bergmann & Sams, 2007)
How do the students get that foundational knowledge?
If you record your own videos:
Keep them short (7 minutes max)
Provide captions and transcript
If you don’t want to make your own, there are plenty of sources:
Khan Academy, YouTube, Ted Talks
Assign specific time ranges as appropriate
A history, account, narrative, or case study
From the course texts, assign specific pages if the students don’t need the whole chapter – they are more likely to do the reading
Consider developing a reading guide to target their attention on particular concepts or ideas
Again, assign specific pages or parts of the website as appropriate
Give your students a list of questions and let them find answers
How can I know they have attained the foundational knowledge?
Barkley and Major, in their text Learning Assessment Techniques, offer concrete ways to assess students’ foundational knowledge, and they fit the “blending” teaching paradigm:
If asking them to recognize – consider an online quiz that focuses on verification, matching, or forced choice, to be taken prior to coming to class.
If asking them to recall – consider online quiz questions that focus on low cues or high cues.
If asking them to interpret or exemplify – consider an online quiz that focuses on constructed responses or selected responses.
If asking them to infer – consider questions that focus on verification, matching, or forced choice.
If asking them to explain – consider questions where students must reason, troubleshoot, redesign, or predict.
What are some effective classroom strategies to engage students in higher-level learning?
Have your students bring a list of points they’d like to have clarified to class
Alternatively, have them post them to a discussion board
Address these points first before moving on to other learning activity
Students discuss/clarify muddiest points in groups
Have students teach what they learned
Let the students demonstrate what they have learned
Is flipping right for me? The real question is whether or not flipping is right for your students. One of the big advantages of flipping is that it gives students more control over their learning as they guide the classroom activity with their questions. Another is the opportunity it provides instructors to review their teaching methods. After considering your options, you may decide that flipped instruction does not provide any advantages. However, keep in mind that this is not an all-or-nothing proposition. You may determine that some material in your course is suitable for flipping, while some still require more of a hands-on approach. In either case, you’ll have reflected on how you are teaching and that is always a good thing. (Trach, 2020)
Barkley, Elizabeth F., and Claire H. Major. Learning Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2016. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hunter-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4205832.
Bergmann, J., & Sams, A. (2007). Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. International Society for Tech in Ed. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hunter-ebooks/detail.action?docID=3317690
Hertz, M. B. (2012, July 10). The Flipped Classroom: Pro and Con. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/flipped-classroom-pro-and-con-mary-beth-hertz
Trach, E. (2020, January 1). A Beginner’s Guide to Flipped Classroom. https://www.schoology.com/blog/flipped-classroom
Canvas provides updates to the platform every month without disruption to service. Some of them are minor fixes and others provide additional features and functionality to users. As we reach the middle of the first full semester with Canvas we thought we’d highlight for you some of the most recent updates that may make your work in the online learning environment more efficient and effective.
New Feature Details
Navigation Menus will be “Sticky”
In the past, the left-hand navigation items would scroll with the page so that users would have to scroll back up to navigate. With this change, the navigation menu will “stick”, making the menu visible at all times without having to scroll.
SpeedGrader: Ability to Edit Submission Status
The SpeedGrader sidebar now includes an Edit icon that can be used to change submission status for assignments. Status can be edited the same way as was previously only available in the Gradebook. Adjusting a status in SpeedGrader, will, of course, also update the Gradebook.
Some details about Status
Setting the status to missing will add a “missing” label. This additional signal could be used to help nudge students toward the completion of assignments.
If a late policy is enabled, setting the status to late displays the “late” label. Additionally, a text field allows the grader to enter a value for the days/hours late.
Setting the status to “excused” displays the Excused status, and the grade field displays as “EX” and is grayed-out, and will not be counted in the total for that assignment category. (The excused function will not work well if you are using total points and not using the assignment category weighting).
Setting the status to “None” removes any labels that were previously displayed for the assignment.
Figure A: SpeedGrader Status Edit Menu Examples
The Edit Status icon is not displayed in the following assignment scenarios:
Previously submitted submissions (only the most recent submission is supported)
Concluded user enrollments
Inactive student enrollments
Assignments that require moderated grading
Assignments in a closed grading period
Gradebook: Assignment Search
Another updated feature is the addition of a search field in the Gradebook that can search for assignment names. This gives instructors another way to sort and control their workflow. This allows for a search of student names as well in a separate search box.
Improved Navigation for Course Notification Customization
Canvas allows users to customize their notification preferences for their entire account and to create special notifications for specific courses. For example, an instructor might choose to create a more frequent notification schedule for a fully online course than for a course that is only offered face-to-face. In the past, making granular course level changes took going deeper into the course settings. Now course notification preferences can be customized on the main notifications page using a drop-down menu.
Please note: Students are also able to set their own notifications per course. If you are using notifications to students as a strategy for engaging them, make sure to specify how they should set their notifications for your course so they are not missing out on communication from you.
Figure B: Notifications Page screenshot
User Settings: Microsoft Immersive Reader Additional Feature Areas
To help engage students at all levels of learning and with all learning differences, we have long advised the use of the accessibility checker in the Canvas page editor. Our Microsoft 365 account and the Canvas integration now enable a new tool that allows any user to use the Microsoft Immersive Reader to use the Microsoft AI to give students more options for accessible use of content. Students will have this option visible on their screens so they can use it when they need to.
Figure C: New Immersive Reader Button
If you really want to stay up-to-date with Canvas’ new features, become an insider by subscribing to Canvas Releases in the Canvas Community.
Or Feel Free to Watch the Highlight Videos for Each of These Updates
Students with Honors Contracts in progress this semester may need to make changes to those plans when warranted by the transition to online classes and/or social distancing or travel restrictions and/or a change to S/U grading option. The Honors College has been instructing students in this kind of situation to reach out to their faculty member first to start a conversation about the needed modifications and to reset expectations. Students with needed modifications to their projects have been asked to email the Honors College at firstname.lastname@example.org with a summary of the agreed upon modifications and to copy (cc) that email to their faculty member. Faculty members are asked to reach out to students who may be in this situation, if they haven’t yet heard from the student. Early intervention in this case will help to stave off issues at the end of the semester. For students who do not need any modifications to their Honors Contracts, no action is needed.
Success with an Honors Contract project will continue to be assigned Honors attribution by the faculty member at the time when Final Grades are submitted. For students with approved Honors Contracts in progress, a special drop-down box appears next to the student’s final grade box for the course in the Final Grades window. If a student has not been successful in earning Honors attribution, the faculty member can likewise select that option in the Final Grades window. Faculty cannot assign a grade of Incomplete only to the Honors Contract. If a faculty member needs to assign an Incomplete, that Incomplete is assigned to the course and then both the grade and honors attribution are assigned when complete.
The link below, to the Registrar’s website (click > Web Grading > Final Grades Reporting), shows the Final Grades screen with Honors Contract options.