Encouraging critical practice in curriculum delivery

One of the challenges we are often faced with as educational developers is supporting academics to engage as critical agents in the design of delivery right from the start of their teaching careers. The study by Daniela Jaklová Střihavková approaches the issue from the perspective of Social Work, and describes an intervention by the author to support students in developing an early appreciation of key concepts in Social Work and in particular how to relate their learning to Social Work practice and problems, as well as developing specific academic skills for essay writing. Students were first years drawn from Czech and Slovak backgrounds, and taught in Czech. Continue reading

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Active engagement in class can encourage active engagement before class

In her chapter, Natália Gachallová considers a familiar challenge: how to encourage students’ engagement with pre-class preparation. This is one of the more common issues I hear from academics, and one perhaps more acute for PhD students like Natália. They may feel they have limited power over the rest of the course and what happens outside their class, yet are frequently teaching the small classes where such preparation is expected so often. Continue reading

Heutagogical partners rather than pedagogical passengers

In her chapter, Alica Rétiová, of Masaryk University tackles the issue of self-directed or heutagogical learning in an innovative study on introducing her students to ‘the intriguing world of social theories’ and ‘the fascinating realm that is academia’. Heutagogy is defined as the ability to direct one’s learning. According to Lisa Marie Blaschke and others,  heutagogical learning environments facilitate the development of independent learning, as well as the learner’s capability and capacity to learn. Continue reading

Constructing constructive alignment, the benefits of a hands-on approach

Petra Srnišová, who works as a teaching assistant on a mandatory accounting module for economics students, considers in her chapter the key question of how to foster better student outcomes through aligned engagement. This is especially pertinent when teaching material important to their overall studies but not necessarily of significant immediate interest to students. Specifically, Srnišová decided to test a hypothesis that student disengagement on this module resulted, at least in part, from less than optimal alignment of two assignments that acted as a gateway to the final exam and an overall teaching design aimed at passive and rote learning. Continue reading

Time for change: Putting students at the centre of their learning experiences

In his chapter, Alexander Pechersky has explored the effectiveness of the Student-Centred Learning (SCL) approach which he had identified through comparing his lived experiences as a student both while studying at a Business School in Vienna where SCL was prominent and at University of Economics in Bratislava which was more teacher centred. He displays a good awareness of student-centred approaches, the skills it evokes such as independent study, critical thinking and communication which is refreshing particularly as he is from the next generation of teachers. Alexander also identified that real-life application of theory through case-studies is essential, which is something I completely agree with, as it helps students put their learning into context, see the point and rationale for what they are being asked to do and clearly aligns to the course of study or employment pathways. Continue reading

Active engagement = better understanding. Doesn’t it?

I read the introduction to this chapter and thought, ‘I know where this is going…’, but I was wrong…. The results of a well-designed study seeking to report the benefits of active learning challenged my expectations. Whilst the author, Martin Karas, found that active learning did indeed lead to higher levels of engagement, it did not affect knowledge retention and understanding. This I found surprising and wanted to read more as to why that had been the case in this study. Continue reading

Active learning: Something we all have to get used to

In this chapter Shpend Voca attempts to break the cycle of student passivity that goes hand in hand with lecturing as the dominant form of teaching. The aim of his teaching innovation was to increase the quantity and quality of student contributions during the teaching process and the methodology he used to achieve this goal was having students work in pairs. Two four-minute blocks were included in six of his fifteen lectures. During these blocks, students working in pairs would share their experiences, if they thought they had learnt anything new during the discussion, or to raise questions. Continue reading

There is a space between a traditional lecture and Problem Based Learning

The traditional, leading place of lectures in university education has been undermined since the second half of the 20th century (Gibbs, 1981; Rhett, 2017). Although many university teachers still think that lectures are the best way to convey knowledge, this view is not supported by pedagogic research. First of all, from the theory of communication we know that there is no such thing as undisturbed copying (‘transferring’) of the lecturer’s knowledge to the student’s mind. Second, learning only takes place when information is processed in the learner’s mind. And finally, new knowledge is more operational if it has been ‘acquired’ by the student and not given to him/her readily on a silver plate. All this together gives support to the constructivist model of education. Continue reading

From unpopular course to meaningful learning experience

Ludmila Kašpárková encountered the challenge of teaching a course on an unpopular topic area that didn’t appear to enthuse students. As an early career academic and part of the teaching team, this was an opportunity for her to participate in course development. Her experience of the new approaches to learning, teaching and assessment are discussed in a study entitled “Redesigning an unpopular university course: ways to promote students’ motivation and quality of learning.” Continue reading

One step at a time; the potential of formative assessment

Nikita’s chapter on enhancing formative assessment as the way of boosting students’ performance and achieving learning outcomes is inviting. It speaks to the potential of academic intervention in effecting changes in student outcomes, in this case an improvement in their writing and argumentative skills. Continue reading