Using evidence-based teaching
Just as good scientists and engineers use evidence to approach their scientific practise, good teachers use evidence to inform their teaching. There is a large body of literature that explores the effectiveness of various teaching methods which can be leveraged to enhance the teaching and learning process in your classroom.
Since you will be dealing with a diversity in both your audience (students), your topics and your methods (lectures, exercises etc.), your teaching toolkit should also contain a diversity of evidence-based practises. To learn more about the scholarship of teaching and learning, especially with respect to engineering and technical universities, refer to:
- Facilitating Experiential Learning in Higher Education, Teaching and Supervising in Labs, Fieldwork, Studios, and Projects By Roland Tormey, Siara Isaac, Cécile Hardebolle, Ingrid Le Duc
- Teaching Support Centre’s specialised book collection.
If you would like some personalised advice do not hesitate to contact a teaching advisor from the Teaching Support Centre.
Traditionally, teaching and learning in higher education has been defined by custom and practise, where teachers imitate the way they were taught. While this can be a good thing, it often means that practises developed in one context or at one time period continue when they are no longer appropriate.
A useful re-framing is changing the emphasis from “what will I teach and how will I teach it?”, to “what will students learn, and how will they learn it?” E.g., if you want students to be able to apply a particular concept in real-world settings, then they should have a chance to practise doing that. Starting with what students will be able to do at the end of the course enables you to define what students should do during the course. This in turn allows you to specify what you will need to do during the course (that is, how you will teach), to ensure your students reach those goals. Your exams can also be aligned with the learning goals and can be used to validate that students have achieved the goals which you set.
The first step in this process is to clearly define the learning goals (or learning outcomes) that you wish students to have achieved at the end of your course. Learning outcomes shift the focus from what the teacher does to what the students do. This requires a change of mind-set: while it is relatively easy to list the content you wish to cover in a course (that is, a ‘table of contents’), specifying learning outcomes means clarifying what you want students to be able to do with that content.
The course’s learning objectives (as well as the course content) are defined in the Course Description. Drawing up an appropriate list of learning objectives can inform the choices you make about the way teaching is organised.
The Teaching Support Centre has gathered and answered some FAQs regarding Learning Outcomes.
Giving students feedback on their work is one of the teaching strategies that has the strongest effect on student learning (Hattie, 2009). An analysis of 23 different reviews of quantitative data on feedback including over 1,200 studies involving almost 68,000 learners showed that feedback is “among the most powerful influences on achievement” (Hattie 2009, 173). Effective feedback reassures students that they can fail and try again. This section will go over some evidence-based techniques of providing your students with the feedback.
- Make the expected response explicit. Students should be very clear about what the good/correct performance / solution/ answer should look like. Often, students struggle to understand the steps to get to the right solution or the level of detail or sophistication expected by the teacher. You could achieve this by providing students with anonymised student responses from the previous year, and allowing them to distinguish between sufficient, excellent and insufficient performances.
- Give feedback on current performance, not only the result or the person.
Hattie and Temperly’s (2007) model provides guidance for giving feedback on the task and the process:
- Provide feedback on the specifics of the tasks, which can be right, wrong or misunderstood (i.e. feedback on precision, calculations, choice of formulas and models);
- Provide feedback on the process. This focuses students’ attention on the application of the tasks. This will facilitate students being able to transfer the knowledge when the same processes are used to solve different problems (i.e. when using this formula, it is faster/ more accurate to do it like this….). It’s important to provide feedback on both the specifics of the task and the process because only providing the correct response or indicating the incorrect response won’t help students understand why it is incorrect and how they could improve their performance.
- Feedback on the management of their work. This can empower them to become autonomous learners, and become more self-reflective, especially about situations in which they get stuck and frustrated (i.e. why did you choose to do this, what were your options, are you always making similar mistakes…)
- Personal feedback aiming to encourage students such as ‘well done, keep it up, good try, there is improvement’ is mostly efficient when linked to the three elements described above.
- Provide opportunities for the student to learn from the provided feedback. Feedback in itself is not effective if students do not use the information to improve their performance. One way of doing this is by providing opportunities for the students to engage with the feedback by asking questions such as “Based on this feedback, can you identify a potential strategy that could help you the next time you are stuck on a similar problem”
Go here to find information about characteristics of a good lecture and how to organise your lectures.
On this page you will find information about designing effective exercise sessions
This page has information about student learning in laboratory courses and designing laboratory sessions with purpose.