Using Brief Interventions to Maximize Student Learning


Extract from Issue#9 of Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

All issues of Teaching Tuesdays can be accessed through the folder at this link.


Often when we read the latest teaching advice we recognise things that we already do. Putting a name to them can encourage more deliberate incorporation into our teaching contexts. What strategies do you already use to accommodate student diversity? Can you use some more brief interventions to promote student learning?

This week’s bulletin is the next in our series examining teaching strategies that support the nine Dimensions of Teaching (Crisp et al., 2009).
Dimension 3: Teaching caters for student diversity.

James Lang discusses five fundamental principles of human learning and how to incorporate these principles to develop lower order and higher order thinking skills.

Using Brief Interventions to Maximize Student Learning

By James M Lang, PhD

(How to subscribe:Staff with a CSU email address can obtain the Magna Commons CSU subscription code from Ellen McIntyre

QUOTE: … faculty members aren’t often able to take a new approach that they read about and immediately test it out in their classroom or to sort of revamp their teaching from the ground up every time they hear about an interesting new experiment, however effective it might seem to be.

One strategy in teaching to cater for student diversity is to exercise balance between challenging and supporting students. In this 50-minute webinar, Dr Lang outlines concepts drawn from learning sciences that can apply in almost any type of teaching environment and that can be employed as brief interventions that foster learning in classes with diverse learning needs.

In last week’s bulletin, we looked at the importance of developing connections between learning materials and individual student experience. These five interventions build on the same theme:

  • Predicting – subject content before exposure to it. This strategy helps subsequent memory and activates connected knowledge in the brain. It works well at the beginning and at the end of class.
    The more connections that we have between a new piece of information and other things that we already know, the more likely we are to understand it and remember it.
  • Retrieving – reproducing from memory. For best effect, students need to have practice in doing this relatively quickly after receiving information.
    Interleaved retrieval is more effective for long-term memory and has implications for summative assessment.
  • Generating – own responses to learning materials. Students generate ideas and examples based their own diverse experiences.
    QUOTE: Whatever you think about, that’s what you remember. Memory is the residue of thought.
  • Self-Explaining – what students think and say about what they are learning.
    Students create new knowledge by thinking about new information, relating it to existing knowledge, making inferences and making connections among given information. Lang provides key questions to promote student self-explaining.
  • Connecting – building a framework of knowledge. The Minute Thesis – a classroom activity in which the students have to quickly make a series of connections between a variety of data or ideas from the subject or between-subject material even, and novel contexts.

The publications referenced in this seminar are available from the CSU Library, including:
Ambrose, S. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Available as online book through CSU Library.Brown, P., Roediger, H., & McDaniel, M. (2014). Make it stick: The science of successful learning. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England: Harvard University Press. Retrieved from
Available through CSU Library as an unlimited access online item.

Presentation handouts, full transcripts and supplementary resources are available for download from the Magna Commons website if you don’t have time to listen to the seminar.