Tools for Education

No, I am not writing about what education is and how should it be made. Not at all. But I feel I have to share some useful recently readings. I read a lot, as I want to improve 1) my performance and 2) my students’ involvment in the act of learning.

First, a very insightful article by James M. Lang, “Small Changes in Teaching: The First 5 Minutes of Class“, published early on this year (January) in The Chronicle of Higher Education. James M. Lang argues that

But instead of offering a capsule review to students, why not ask them to offer one back to you?

In the teaching-and-learning world, the phenomenon known as the “testing effect” has received much ink. Put very simply, if we want to remember something, we have to practice remembering it. To that end, learning researchers have demonstrated over and over again that quizzes and tests not only measure student learning, but can actually help promote it. The more times that students have to draw information, ideas, or skills from memory, the better they learn it.

Instead of “testing effect,” I prefer to use the more technical term, “retrieval practice,” because testing is not required to help students practice retrieving material from their memories. Any effort they make to remember course content — without the help of notes or texts — will benefit their learning.

Take advantage of that fact in the opening few minutes of class by asking students to “remind” you of the key points from the last session. Write them on the board — editing as you go and providing feedback to ensure the responses are accurate — to set up the day’s new material. Five minutes of that at the start of every class will prepare students to succeed on the memory retrieval they will need on quizzes and exams throughout the semester.

Makes sense to me.

Second, two books that I want to buy, in order to make clear for myself and for my students how things gonna be in our future classes. So, there they are:

Daniel Willingham: Why Don’t Students Like School? A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom. Wiley. 2010. It is said that it reveals the importance of story, emotion, memory, context, and routine in building knowledge and creating lasting learning experiences. So be it!

Susan Bloom: My word! Plagiarism and College Culture. Cornell University Press. 2009. No description necessary, I think.