The Book: “Hitting Pause”

Hitting Pause: 65 Lecture Breaks to Refresh and Reinforce Learning was published in 2017/18 by Stylus Publishing, LLC.  The book, an attempt to inspire educators to give up the non-stop lecture approach to teaching, was in process for more than 10 years. Published authors have the incredible opportunity to share their journeys and insights with the reader. Gail sees writing as a way of paying forward some of what she has gleaned from the teachers and mentors she has had the privilege of working with and learning from these past 50+ years.

The book has received an excellent response from educators across the country.  Several conferences where Gail keynoted provided a copy of the book to each attendee.  One of the attendees at the Utah conference in 2018 told Gail that she had found the book so helpful that she had organized a “book club” on her campus the previous year and the group gave an outstanding presentation to the conference about their experiences with the concepts in the book.

For 2018 and 2019 the Harvard Macy Institute provided a book to each of the 150 scholars in the Program for Educators in the Health Professions program.

Gail wrote a couple of blogs that nicely summarize the book.  You can access them here.

Reviews of the book (check out the last one minute teaching tip by Deborah Navedo)  (an audio review)

What Others Said

“This well written guide provides teachers with the practical skills required to promote and ensure learning.  The classic lecture format can be transformed to promote student engagement and learning when it is enriched with the powerful strategies grounded in cognitive science presented here. This book is a worthy addition to every teacher’s library.” — Elizabeth G. Armstrong, Ph.D., Director Harvard Macy Institute Professor, Part- time in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School

“Gail Rice is a gifted teacher who clearly understands how to design and deliver effective learning experiences. Gail’s new book is not only engaging to read, but will be immediately useful to any faculty member wishing to help students better understand and retain what is taught. Interesting stories enhance and support the many evidence-based methods that can be put into immediate practice. After reading this book, faculty members are likely to change their teaching styles forever, starting by simply Hitting Pause.” — Dixie L Fisher, PhD, Assistant Professor Clinical, Research and Faculty Development, Department of Medical Education, Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California

“In this extraordinarily helpful book, Gail Rice provides two tremendous services to college faculty. First, she draws together research and arguments from a wide range of fields in order to demonstrate that simple, brief activities in class―built around the idea of creating “pauses” for student learning―can have a major positive impact on student success. Second, she presents a wealth of thought-provoking activities that faculty could begin using in their classrooms tomorrow. No faculty member will be able to read this book and not want to get immediately back into the classroom and put some of these excellent ideas into practice. An outstanding resource for faculty and those who work in faculty development.” — James M. Lang, PhD, Professor of English, Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence Assumption College
Author, Small Teaching, 2016, Jossey Bass Pub

“In this book, Gail Rice provides an excellent marriage of evidenced-based teaching and learning with practical methods for creating student learning opportunities as they “pause” to reflect using active learning techniques. As a professor in the classroom and a faculty developer, I am excited to be able to implement and share these ideas with students and faculty. This book provides resources aimed towards student learning and success, and the format provides the reader opportunity to jump straight to the collection of “pauses” and implement quick, creative, and meaningful activities instantly.” — Charlotte Henningsen, Associate Vice President for Faculty Development in Teaching & Learning Adventist University of Health Sciences

As a junior faculty, Hitting Pause has been an absolute blessing. Having struggled against the dreaded death-by-lecture academic culture, I have found the thoughtful strategies suggested by Dr. Rice to reinvigorate my enthusiasm for teaching. And not just me, but my students seem more engaged in class, and offer better feedback on my courses. Before offering your next lecture, read this book.” — Peter C. Gleason, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, Walla Walla University

Hitting Pause Workshop

Put Learning Ahead of Teaching

This workshop/plenary/seminar is available to groups of educators. It is based on the book “Hitting Pause”.  The workshop (1-5 hours) is available to campuses and conferences.  Objectives for the workshop are tailored to the requesting group.

Pausing with our students at critical teaching moments can make all of the difference between a lecture and a memorable, meaningful learning experience.   This session is planned for teaching faculty who:

•          want to improve lectures to more fully engage students

•          want to rehabilitate their lectures, not dispense with them

•          want to provide information in manageable chunks

•          want practical suggestions to chunk lectures to capture student attention and improve retention

•          are willing to try “small changes” if cognitive science backs them up

Session objectives:

•          Identify research-based ideal characteristics of learning pauses

•          Experience/Analyze/Critique/Design learning pauses

•          Take home pause plans ready to insert into learning sessions

Pausing with our students at critical teaching moments can make all of the difference between a lecture and a memorable, meaningful learning experience.


Cognitive science encourages us to:

•          Create curiosity and anticipation

•          Chunk teaching into manageable segments

•          Encourage retrieval and interleaving

•          Assist creation of meaning

•          Encourage action planning

And yet we fill nearly all of our classroom time with teacher talk and wonder where the magic of teaching has gone.

What matters is what students learn, not what teachers teach.  When educators insert pauses into lectures, students focus, personalize, check for understanding.  Beginning Pauses can increase interest, arouse curiosity or anticipation, or activate prior knowledge.  Closing pauses ask students to review through retrieval, and commit to action, thus increasing the likelihood of transfer.  Pausing instruction allows the instructor to assess the effectiveness of instruction and receive feedback from students about their learning and their personal responses. 

Lang, James, (2016) Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning, Jossey-Bass.

•                Providing students with opportunities to look back during the last 5 minutes of class can maximize the learning experience of the classroom.

•                Pausing every 15 minutes or so during the lecture resets student attention

Rice, GT, (2018) Hitting Pause: 65 Lecture Breaks to Refresh and Reinforce Learning, Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

•                Even the best and most entertaining lecturers begin to lose the attention of the audience within 15-20 minutes

•                Keeping students’ attention requires regular “mental breaks.”

•                Students learn more from a short lecture than a longer lecture.

•                The opportunity to teach each other results in improved understanding of course concepts and improved exam performance.

•                Students retain more from lectures focusing on a few well developed points than from those with a great deal of new information.

•                Students perform better on outcome exams when the teacher pauses periodically during the lecture in order for the students to review their notes and teach each other.

Engagement activities

Activities for f2f meeting will include running responses on sticky notes, working in small groups, forming a large circle around the perimeter of the room, observing video clips, analyzing research data, reflecting on implications, completing pause worksheets, and critiquing the pauses experienced.

Zoom conference includes online adaptations of these activities.

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