Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Learning and Teaching Theories – a module under development

We have undertaken to develop the module on learning and teaching theories for the Induction program.

One of the reasons for our interest in this particular topic was that both of us have had extensive experience in assisting applicants for Learning and Teaching grants and awards, and in preparing and mentoring staff for Higher Education Academy Fellowships. In both these mentoring roles, we have found that most applicants have little knowledge of the higher education literature, and the long history of educational research, principles of teaching, and how students learn. Nor can staff readily call on theory to support their learning and teaching approaches and practices. At best, there may be a single reference in applications to Biggs and Tang (which is of course, a standard text in higher education), or a brief reference to Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, as an argument for ‘social learning’.

As teaching academics, we need to be ‘double professionals’ who know about not only the seminal work in our discipline field, but also how that discipline is best taught. There are specialist journals in teaching particular disciplines and professions, and the module on Scholarly Teaching directs your attention to such journals, but there is a rich literature in learning and teaching in general, and if you are to think reflectively and deeply about your practices for teaching students effectively, you should have some knowledge of this literature, and the significant theories that shape or have shaped our current pedagogies. We would have liked to have included a lot more in our module but it was not feasible given the limited amount of time participants will have to spend on each module.

Our module so far consists of some learning activities, video sections, some links to several short documents, and an MCQ, to ‘test’ that you have a very basic knowledge of the education theorists. It also, as a stretch activity, includes making a voki, to encourage participants to use a free app that may open up a world of new technologies that can be used to engage students in this digital world.  The voki activity is at the icebreaker level. It starts to get participants thinking about articulating their first thoughts about their philosophies of teaching. Participants will need to continue to grapple with the development of their teaching philosophies and may need some other form of professional development, like mentoring to fully develop written artefacts.

We would welcome any comments you have for the scope of the module, and any resources we might consider essential.
Sue Bolt and Yoni Ryan


  1. Hi Sue and Yoni,

    Looks like a great module and one that has scope to become huge. I imagine you will get many suggestions here as there are numerous "classic" texts and many have there favourites - Chickering and Gamson for example - though old I do think it is a classic and still widely used. Other texts that spring to mind are: Boud, D., & Prosser, M. (2002). Appraising new technologies for learning: A framework for development. Education Media International, 39(4), 237-245; Merriam, S. B., Caffarella R. S. & Baumgartner L. M. (Eds.), (2007) Learning in adulthood. A comprehensive guide (3 ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. and Hunt, L & Chalmers, D (eds) 2012 University Teaching in Focus, ACER Press though are these easily accessible online?
    Sounds like its coming together really well already, my suggestions are merely a response to your call.

    1. Hi Ann
      Great suggestions. Within the module, I don't think there is time for additional reading. However, perhaps there could be an section for additional resources related to each module so that those who what to go further can?

  2. Thanks Sue and Yoni for sharing your module bones. I must say I'm excited to see the finished product. It is an important area and I think we take some of this for granted, bearing in mind most of us are in educational development.

    Thanks also Ann for your suggestions on the other texts, which i think should fit nicely as well.


  3. Thanks Sue and Yoni - it is great to get some idea of scope and depth of the modules as we all progress. This one will be especially helpful and a good place for people to start, as a springboard into the TandL literature. First chapter in Hunt & Chalmers, 2012 gives useful overview - and the Fig 1.3 helps make sense of theories for practice. First chapter in Fry, Ketteridge & Marshall, 2009 also give an overview and useful list of 'precepts' to be aware of in reading theory, and using it in practice ( p. 22-23).
    Perhaps some extracts and pointers to lead the way

  4. Thanks Caroline. I don't have a copy of the first chapter in Fry, Ketteridge and Marshall (2009). If you could provide it please it could make a useful addition to the module. However, with only two hours of learning time available we are pushing our luck with what participants can read.