Innovations in instructional methodologies and technologies combine with increasing knowledge of, and research in, how students learn, how the brain learns, and how learning can be promoted and maximized. Many developments in effective learning concern:
- Promoting effective learning inside and outside classrooms, and combining these.
- Developments in collaborative, active, interactive, engaged, student-centred, deep learning and teaching.
- The need to develop higher order thinking and creative approaches to learning and teaching.
- Assessment for, and as, learning in addition to assessment of learning.
- Promoting and harnessing student motivation.
- Blended learning and ICT.
Alongside these run the concern to develop ‘real world’, authentic, relevant and meaningful learning, developments in experiential learning, calls to professionalize teaching, and to develop creative and critical thinking in students. The effect of these main drivers of change are to reconceptualize teaching and learning in HE and to develop radical alternatives to the lecture-driven style of teaching and passive student learning.
The global trend toward outcomes-based education has shifted the focus from inputs to outcomes – what students know, can do and can apply as a consequence of their learning – and these shift the nature of teachers as delivery agents, transmitting knowledge to teachers as facilitators of learning. In conventional, didactic classrooms, the responsibility for the learning largely rests on the shoulders of the lecturer. The purpose of teaching is to promote learning, therefore teachers have to plan their sessions around learning rather than what they wish to ‘input’ into students. ‘Inputting’ (one-way lecturing) does not equate with learning.
Teachers in HE must promote engaged learning and further active, experiential, authentic, ‘hands-on’ learning, both individually and collaboratively, i.e. shift the emphasis from teachers to learners. Teachers must plan their sessions carefully, and from the learners’ viewpoint. Teaching must start with the learners rather than the teachers, and student-centred learning must be encouraged.
The impact of electronic media and software is revolutionalizing pedagogy in HE. The culture of the textbook and the ‘one size fits all’ approach to teaching is being replaced by flexible, adaptive, differentiated teaching and learning, in which Internet based technologies and the affordances of a range of software play a significant role, with students engaged in multiple forms and media of communication with each other and with the teacher. No longer can teachers require students to switch off their cell phones, but, rather, they should seek to utilise them in the classroom sessions and beyond.
Assessments are changing, from the testing of recall of pre-digested knowledge and summative assessment, to formative assessment and the use of feedback for both teachers and students to improve learning. Summative assessment of learning, whilst it clearly has a place, is being complemented by the use of assessment to promote learning – assessment for learning and, with assessment and feedback being built into the teaching and learning process, assessment as learning. Assessment is moving away from total reliance on the end-of-semester or end-of-course examination and multiple-choice tests to much more authentic, diverse and fruitful assessments.
Teachers must concern themselves with quality of learning rather than quantity of material addressed in a teaching session. Two hours of lecturing, cover very many points, does not ensure two hours of learning. If we wish to promote learning we must make it engaged and engaging, active, involved, authentic (real-world-related), and participatory. This is not to deny the place of a short, well-placed, well-planned, well-delivered lecture; this can be very efficient, but it has to be tempered by attention to alternative forms of teaching and learning. Further, assessment and learning have to be integrated and clearly communicated to students.