PURPOSE OF THE PROJECT
PURPOSE OF THE PROJECT
The project sought to
develop subject-specific conceptual frameworks to guide institutional
and faculty or departmental development of teaching-learning environments.
The frameworks were deployed to integrate findings from research
both with the professional knowledge of academic staff and with national
and institutional criteria describing high quality teaching and learning.
By working collaboratively with departmental partners, ways of enhancing
the system-wide capacity for research-based practice were explored
Key concepts underpinning the project's work are as follows.
- Teaching-learning environment
This term is used to describe the whole set of teaching, learning
support, assessment and administrative arrangements, as well as
the facilities and resources provided within a degree course. Our
particular focus is on those aspects expected to influence most
directly the quality of student learning.
This term is designed to capture the goodness-of-fit
between the aims of a course and the teaching-learning and assessment
procedures followed; constructive indicates that the
aims involve a focus on developing conceptual understanding and
ways of thinking and practising in the subject..
Ways of thinking and
practising in the subject (WTPs) Initial work suggested that
a term was needed to cover not just approaches to studying, but
also the thinking processes and subject-specific skills that staff
are seeking to develop in their students. Deep approaches to studying
which are well organised and applied with effort are being used
to indicate engagement with the courses being studied.
- Troublesome knowledge
and threshold concepts There is particular value in focusing
on topics or ways of thinking that students find difficult, particularly
when these act as a threshold to further learning. Examining these
in relation to teaching and assessment provides a focused way of
investigating influences on learning outcomes.
OVERALL RESEARCH STRATEGY
The overall intention
was to explore the applicability of these concepts and previous research
findings in accounting for the extent to which teaching-learning environments
encourage the active engagement of students, and deep approaches to
studying, in achieving high quality outcomes of learning.
The project focused on four subject areas, chosen to provide good coverage
of academic disciplines and professional areas: electronic engineering,
cell and molecular biology, business economics, and history. Course settings were mainly chosen in clusters
of universities around Coventry, Durham and Edinburgh, where our research
team was based, whilst also encompassing a variety of traditional and
innovative teaching-learning environments.
The main strategy involved working collaboratively with departmental
colleagues to look in detail at two target course units due to run in
successive years, one at first-year level (or Scottish second-year)
and the other at final-year level, using interviews with staff and students,
and questionnaires with students. During the first year of the collaboration
we collected the data, analysed them, and reported the findings back to the
departments. Discussions of the implications of the findings for each
course unit then lead to a collaborative initiative during the second
year of work with the department, designed to enhance the teaching-learning
environment in whatever ways proved to be acceptable and practicable.
The various outputs of the project have been brought together and disseminated
through web-accessible resources, printed materials, as well as collaborative
workshops and seminars. The aim is to assist those responsible
for modules, courses or programmes of study to monitor, review and enhance
the efficacy of teaching-learning environments by deploying data gathering
and analytic tools which are evidence-based and have clear conceptual
Phases: a chart of the activities of the project by phase
as PDF file