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Foundations of University Teaching

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Teaching seminar notes. Not for citation or referencing. Please excuse the brevity and any errors or omissions.

Learning as conditioning (memorising) or rewards/reinforcement.

Active learning- get students to do stuff that exercises learning

Small group teaching- less a bout size and more about what happens- between 3 and 6 people is a classic small group

Students collaborating with each other and talking with each other

Our role more as facilitators than lecturing- up front

Types of small group learning-

  • staff led (tutorials/workshops)
  • student led (learning groups/peer tutoring/project teams)
  • embedded (small group activity within a larger scenario i.e lecture)
  • virtual (discussion boards/forums, e-tutorials)

Advantage of small group learning

  • Encourages inclusive, sustained peer interactions where students can learn from each other
  • Students learn to express conclusions and defend them
  • Students learn to judge feedback and incorporate or reject as required
  • Multiple directions that learning can go in
  • Real world experience where working in groups is the usual modus operandi

When a tutor gives a lecture rather than facilitates a dialogue

  • students don’t get a proper chance to understand
  • need to keep an eye on time
  • stand back and observe
  • hold back where possible
  • NOT stepping in as the default
  • just wait and assess the situation
  • make sure that students understands what is expected
  • ask the students what they want to get out of the learning

If a student is reluctant to talk

  • why? shy, language difficulties, not prepared, group dynamics
  • use ice breakers
  • set individual activity followed by group activity
  • use a written activity before a group activity
  • check that you are making students confident by your language

When students do not prepare

  • set ground rules at the beginning
  • provide information about support
  • how much is to do with reading load
  • provide interactive handouts

Tips for small group teaching

Be prepared, bring handouts, keep record of sessions
promote active participation, encourage student interaction
vary teaching methods
provide relevant information- fill in gaps in knowledge only
make careful judgement about when you step in

Reflection on existing knowledge


Paper reading and small group sharing

Larger group sharing

Reflection on activities and things learned

Large Group learning

purpose of lectures:

  • to provide knowledge of topic: active learning
  • to give understanding of what is required
  • understand new concepts, how to solve problems: explaining and modelling
  • flip the lecture- give information early, use the lecture to explain hard concepts and get interactive
  • Inspire and stimulate: Delivery
  • Give feedback: Formative assessment methods- “how am I going? “
  • Link to the curriculum: signposting- explain why this is important, relevant, where it fits in

Student engagement- student to student, lecturer to student, small group learning, student with a worksheet with problems, questions, give them time to work something out and reinforce what has been learned

Active participation- Inspired, aroused, motivated students through enthusiastic delivery

Logically structured lectures

Varied activities- change activities every 20 minutes (less?)


Clickers- JPOLL as automatic response system, formative assessment, activities

Get to know your students- ask questions


Relationship between lectures and course materials

Know the course profile


break lecture into chunks

keep an eye on time

schedule the class beforehand

small group activities

Structuring your lecture:

  • start with examples
  • signpost direction and structure
  • highlight and emphasise key points
  • framing- endings and beginnings- ask questions before moving on

Be prepared to deliver lecture without any technical assistance in case everything fails

Rehearse first few minutes to get you go

Know your stuff to be able to deliver in varying timeframes

Opening and closing lecture in interesting ways. Sum up and conclude

The use of resources/slides

Working on a tablet and keeping it as a record for future use- demonstration purposes

Online and technology-enhanced learning

Context- where are we

Things to impact learning within the next 5 years

1 year

  • social media
  • online, hybrid, collaborative learning- MOOCs
  • flipped classes
  • learning analytics

2 to 3 years 

data driven learning and assessment- tracking of stats (input online forums etc)

shift from students as consumers to students as creators

3D printing


4 to 5 years

trends- agile change management

evolution of online learning

quantified self- tracking your time online, social media, word documents etc

virtual assistants/wearable technology

Rationales- why?

teaching methods haven’t changed but technology means attention is distracted to laptops, devices etc. Old world methods vs new world habits

what do we know about learning, how does that influence educational technology and how can we design courses to work with changes in technology

Possibilities for teaching

pedagogical content knowledge (PCK)- collaborating with education people to tailor teaching strategies for the content

Evaluating your teaching

How to evaluate?

  • Triangulation model via- Student/Peer/Self reflection
  • Self evaluation- a journal of reflection/teaching portfolio
  • teaching philosophy- What do I want to do? What is the outcome? How does it mean to be a teacher. Student centred? Constructivism (application of knowledge)? Critically evaluating my teaching.
  • Peer review- summative/formative- summative leads toward a grade. Formative is informal and gives feedback along the way
  • Student feedback- SET and SEC (Student Experience Teaching and Student Evaluation of Course)

Assessment Principles and Practice

  • ‘Frontloading’ assessment- explaining up front at the start of semester/teaching period what is expected from assessment and how it will be assessed.
  • Remediation if a student fails or performs badly- what do i do?
  • Assessing- What worked well was… What to improve on is….
  • Encourage student reflection by asking open questions- “Can you tell me you rationale for why did you do this?” etc.
  • Choose only a limited number of suggestions for improvement so as not to overwhelm them