From the Field »

Summertime Reads from the LEARN Team Vol. IV

June 25, 2019 – 9:10 am | Comments Off on Summertime Reads from the LEARN Team Vol. IV385 views

When the time finally rolls round to assemble this final LEARN blog post of the year, most educators we encounter tend to be dazed, confused – often struggling to understand what the heck just happened …

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Teaching and Learning »

Small Steps Can Lead to Huge Changes

September 11, 2019 – 3:33 pm | 72 views

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” – Steve Maraboli

As educators around the world usher in the new 2019-2020 school year, our focus turns to our subject matter. The content we are obligated to teach, the exams we must administer, the “power pointing” of our textbook, the managing of our classrooms – these are only a few of the plethora of tasks we face as the new students pile into our classrooms. Over the summer, we may have dreamed of the magnificent projects and deep learning experiences we wanted to bring to our students as well as new innovative practices and tools we were so excited to integrate. But alas, minds shift to immediate concerns like when Tommy disrupts the entire class or Jennie has a meltdown over her homework. Teaching is one of the most difficult jobs in the universe so making pedagogical changes to our established teaching practices slides down that priority pole the minute that school bell first rings.

Given the reality of teaching, it is easy to become overwhelmed at the idea of changing practice. It is best to think of change as happening in small, incremental steps. Instead of looking at completely revolutionizing your teaching, perhaps we need to narrow down the scope and think of that One Thing we could change this year which can be built upon in future years. If we orchestrate change in a more manageable way, I think we could make our classrooms more successful.

Cramming for the Exam

In Peter Brown’s book, Make it Stick, he demonstrates how small changes in the classroom can make all the difference in student success. Based on his research, Brown explains the brain learns best when, “practice is spaced out, interleaved with other learning, and varied,” (Brown, p.121).

Cramming for exams is considered massed practice, a.k.a. jamming as much into the brain as possible in a short period of time only to spew it out the next day, hoping your memory holds up. So, how could you make the content stick?

One change that is more beneficial to long-term, deeper learning is spacing out what you want students to learn by introducing concepts over longer periods of time because “the increased effort required to retrieve the learning after a little forgetting has an effect of retriggering consolidation, further strengthening memory” (Brown, p.124). Struggle is a good thing! For example, five hours spread out over two weeks is better than the same five hours right before the exam. One small change.

Spacing out your studying

Another change that could reap benefits is what Brown calls, “Interleaved Practice.” Interleaving the practice of two or more subjects or skills leads to deeper understanding through personal connections to previous knowledge. For example, if a student is learning how to play an instrument, they might practice scales, learn new chords, and spend some time improvising all within the same time period instead of simply focusing on practicing scales over the same period of time. A few tips on interleaving practice: make sure the skills connect with the content, mix in old and new material, and be patient because this takes time to establish. One small change.

Finally, mix it up! Variety is so important in the life-cycle of a classroom. Changing classroom practices encourages positive growth in all learners, including the instructor. For example, “instructors can design assignments or projects and train learners on skills that can be used to solve problems creatively; techniques including design thinking and rapid prototyping will help students to produce great solutions to any problem. Studies show more varied practice engages different parts of the brain,” (p.130). The inference being, the more challenging tasks and varied practice opportunities evokes deeper learning in all learners.

Change is difficult. But small changes are manageable and will lead to more success over time in the classroom. What’s your one thing?


Weinstein, Yana. “Learn How to Study Using… Spaced Practice.” The Learning Scientists, The Learning Scientists, 21 July 2016,

“Interleaving: Variety Is the Spice of Learning.” 3, 17 Sept. 2018,

BROWN, PETER C. MAKE IT STICK: the Science of Successful Learning. BELKNAP HARVARD, 2018.

Summertime Reads from the LEARN Team Vol. IV

June 25, 2019 – 9:10 am | Comments Off on Summertime Reads from the LEARN Team Vol. IV385 views

When the time finally rolls round to assemble this final LEARN blog post of the year, most educators we encounter tend to be dazed, confused – often struggling to understand what the heck just happened …

Teachers leading the way with reconciliACTION

June 18, 2019 – 11:10 am | Comments Off on Teachers leading the way with reconciliACTION277 views

June 21st is National Indigenous People’s Day.  I’m taking this moment, four years after the release of the final report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools to reflect on the role of …

Walk a Mile: A story of entrepreneurship and the Arts

June 4, 2019 – 4:29 pm | One Comment | 702 views

Entrepreneurship is a way for individuals to be fulfilled, express their values, bring their ideas to life, gain control of their lives and contribute to their community. Entrepreneurial spirit is forged and evolves throughout one’s …

À la découverte de Livres ouverts!

May 21, 2019 – 1:16 pm | One Comment | 1,054 views
Je lire le père goriot par Balzac

À la dernière minute, la direction de l’école me demande d’acheter des livres.
Je désire exploiter une thématique avec des livres de niveaux différents.
Je veux trouver des livres qui répondent à l’intérêt de mes élèves ainsi …

Growth Mindset: Our Mistake about Mistakes in Math

March 27, 2019 – 3:19 pm | 4 Comments | 983 views

Does the expression “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” ring true for some of your students’ mindsets? Or “that’s just how I am,” or even the classic “I’m just no good at (fill …

Do Board Games Have a Place in Education?

February 27, 2019 – 3:45 pm | One Comment | 968 views
Girl Contemplates the World

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion around gamifying the classroom, from classroom management apps like Classroom Dojo, to gamifying curriculum milestones. But what about good ol’ board games? You know, the ones that …

Inside Birding: How community partnerships can ignite student curiosity

February 18, 2019 – 4:08 pm | One Comment | 1,143 views

“Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?”
-David Attenborough, The Life of Birds

This is the …

Teacher Appreciation – There’s More to Teaching Than What Happens in the Classroom!

February 13, 2019 – 10:28 am | Comments Off on Teacher Appreciation – There’s More to Teaching Than What Happens in the Classroom!995 views

When we picture educators, perhaps we most often usually imagine them in a classroom full of students, in front of a whiteboard, or working at a desk. Many of the teachers highlighted this week, are …

Teacher Appreciation – Merci! Thank you!

February 4, 2019 – 5:00 pm | Comments Off on Teacher Appreciation – Merci! Thank you!878 views

This year’s Teacher Appreciation Week, as highlighted by le Ministère de l’Éducation et Enseignement Supérieur, has as its very simple theme: Thanks! Merci!
Expressing and recognizing gratitude has been shown to make one feel happier. It is …

Daily Physical Activity in Schools. Let’s Get a Move On!

January 30, 2019 – 12:45 pm | Comments Off on Daily Physical Activity in Schools. Let’s Get a Move On!2,282 views

“Schools have an important role to play in helping students to understand issues related to health and well-being and to adopt a healthy lifestyle. They must provide students with an environment that is safe and …