The Edge Effect

By Rachael Brothers

Promoting Deeper Learning

James M. Lang, is an English professor and Director for the Center for Teaching Excellence, at Assumption College. In his article Learning on the Edge: Classroom Activities to Promote Deep Learning, he explores how, due to new ideas and research, teachers can better use classroom time to promote material retention and class engagement.

Using ideas he found from microbiology Lang introduces the idea of the edge affect; which in science refers to the edges of two different ecosystems that support the same creature life. Lang transfers this idea of how ecosystems use their coexistent edges, and applies it to the first few minutes before and after class. These moments are often cluttered with administrative activities, and the hustle of students either coming or going (their minds otherwise occupied) thus Lang views this time as a perfect example of the "edge effect." 

This, according to Lang, is where precious moments are wasted. He proposes that these moments be filled with class oriented cognitive activity.

Using Predicting and Retrieving methods to maximize student learning, Lang describes how teachers can strengthen class engagement and test-material retention. In Predicting: teachers ask students pointed questions about the material that will be presented in class. This gets them thinking about what they will be learning and what they might have already read. In Retrieving: teachers either open the class with a quiz about previous reading, or end the class with a quiz or questions about the material just covered.

Land surmises that using these two methods will generate longer and more effective classroom time for students to keep learning, thus introducing the "edge effect."

To learn more, you may read Learning on the Edge: Classroom Activities to Promote Deep Learning in the July 28, 2014 issue of Faculty Focus.


Lang PhD., James. (2014, July 28). Learning on the Edge: Classroom Activities to Promote Deep Learning. Retrieved September 23, 2014, from


Special thanks to: Pamela K. Coke- Associate Professor of English Education Director, CSU English Education Program, CLA Master Teacher Initiative Coordinator, Colorado State University- for sending us the link for this teaching tip.