It is not uncommon for tutors at the Northern College to consider
a range of teaching methods that they might use, experiment with them,
assess their usefulness, and thus build up experience, expertise and
confidence in teaching. Being as it were 'on the job' does help them
to find out that what works well with one group of students in one
situation does not work at all with another group in a similar situation,
and that what works well with one group of students in one situation
does not work at all with the same group in every situation. In general,
tutors critically reflect on student feedback regarding what works
well or what does not in order to respond with a different approach.
Doing this time and again helps them to develop some notion of effective
a tutor outlines an approach for enabling students to make
active use of concepts to make sense of experience and apply
it to different scenarios
are asked to handle a realistic problem that they themselves
may well face. For example, they are asked to formulate a
strategy to tackle the under-representation of women in particular
university departments. Information on the availability of
childcare etc. is included in the case study to make for a
more detailed scenario. The students tackle this problem in
groups of three or four, providing an opportunity for co-operative
learning. Each group has to formulate a strategy that they
then share with the other groups who are given the opportunity
to critique the strategy. The role of the tutor is to help
each group probe how it understands the problem and how it
might solve it rather than providing the 'right answer'.
In practice, effective teaching involves a range of practices vis-à-vis
concern and respect for students and their learning
where students are starting from
account of students with different abilities
students and developing in them a commitment to learning
students to learn about something that they know little or nothing
students at their level of understanding
and modifying the students' approach to learning
students to value curiosity, integrity and accountability
students to communicate with each other and to develop their interpersonal
students to think for themselves
to and learning from students' criticisms
one-to-one or group tutorials with students to provide constructive
feedback on any completed assignments
critical, creative thinking in students
students to become independent or autonomous learners
account here incorporates some of the more important principles
of effective teaching
always start a course by establishing a relaxed and friendly
atmosphere amongst the students and by putting them at ease.
I emphasise that there is no pressure on them and that they
are free to work at their own pace.
establish the level of ability of all the students by asking
general questions rather than singling people out. I then
make it clear that to begin with I will ensure that everyone
has the basic skills necessary to do the work, and that once
this has happened everyone can work at his or her own pace.
I find that this gives confidence to the less experienced
in actually trying out the skills and makes those with existing
skills feel more confident in their own knowledge.
I am sure that everyone has reached a certain level of ability,
I let the students work at their own pace. I find this puts
less pressure on those less able to keep up with the more
advanced students, who in turn do not feel held back. As the
students progress, I give less and less direct instruction
and let the students explore for themselves, although I am
always available for guidance.
consider special needs at all times; for example if a student
has sight difficulties with the computer screen, I help to
enlarge it for him or her. I try not to make any big issue
of this, and try to help in any way to make learning easier.
keep the general atmosphere light-hearted. This helps the
students to learn more effectively if they are enjoying themselves,
and to alleviate pressure on those who are finding particular
tasks more difficult. I also constantly check on the progress
of students and give them helpful tips to improve their work,
without necessarily telling them that what they are doing
first few exercises allow the students to achieve the skills
necessary for the credit level. This allows the slower students
to manage to cover all their skills while the faster students
are able to carry on with more exercises to improve their
skills. I emphasise to all students that they are all there
to learn for themselves and that there is no competitive side
to the course. If any student does feel intimidated by another's
ability, I tend to emphasise that they are all attending the
course for different reasons and that anything that any of
them get out of it is a positive thing.
preferred method of teaching is to be attentive and constantly
available to guide the students, to let them practise their
skills and to help them remember. I feel that simply giving
them written instructions is not as effective, as when the
instructions are not available, the students often cannot
remember how to do some tasks.
find that encouraging the students to communicate with each
other and to get to know each other also helps with their
confidence-building. This also reduces nervousness amongst
the students and produces a more relaxed environment for learning
to take place."
Tutors are effective when they make their classroom sessions interesting.
Any session that they teach can appear interesting if it contains
elements of performance. Tutors as performers can be vibrant and engaging
in the classroom. This implies that a tutor should think of developing
an appropriate teaching or classroom persona - one that students would
like, listen to, be inspired by, learn for, and even emulate.
are really interested in their subjects and that rubs off
came to the course uninformed and unmotivated and went home
enthuse. You get your enthusiasm from them."
make the subject interesting, and you want to know more.
tutor made the learning easy and very interesting."
catch your imagination. They go out of their way to make the
Tutors are effective when they possess a good enough or even a high
level of knowledge and understanding of their own disciplines or areas
of teaching. They as scholars can contribute to the development of
their disciplines. They should, at the very least, keep abreast with
current research and scholarship in their disciplines and integrate
this into their teaching.
Tutors are effective when they become adept at using as many teaching
methods as they can and choosing the most appropriate ones for the
groups that they teach. The choice of teaching methods is often related
to the individual tutor's character or personality. However, there
are some overall guidelines that the tutor needs to take into account.
learning outcomes of a session, course, module, unit or programme
should be linked to teaching methods. Thus, a lecture might achieve
low-level objectives (such as the acquisition of knowledge) while
a seminar might be more appropriate to achieve higher level objectives
(such as analysis and evaluation).
making a choice about the appropriateness of various teaching
methods it is necessary to consider such factors as the size of
the group, the motivation and needs of students, and the ability
and learning styles of students.
In the rest of this section of the Guide three teaching methods will
be explored in some depth: small group or 'classroom' teaching, the
modified lecture and the tutorial.
Small group teaching encompasses all the various forms of teaching
in which two or more (but usually not more than twenty) students are
brought together to engage, as collaborators, in their own learning.
This is a useful format for promoting students' learning, because
it allows them to improve self-confidence, develop interpersonal skills,
promote team building, articulate views, show critical thinking, and
In small group teaching the learning contract can be used to jointly
agree on the ground rules of behaviour amongst participants, the learning
aims and outcomes of a session or course, the assessment procedures
and criteria of a course, the timetable for the completion of tasks
and activities, and so on. (A learning contract is a framework of
learning that is agreed between students and tutors, each agreeing
to undertake certain roles and responsibilities. For example, the
students agree to submit assignments on time, and the tutors agree
to return marked assignments within a specified timeframe.)
Whilst small group teaching may appear a loose and unstructured activity,
it can be effective if proper planning and preparation is undertaken
should give careful thought to the learning needs and prior knowledge
of students, to the intended learning outcomes, and to the appropriateness
of certain types of teaching methods.
have to prepare not just themselves but also students to participate
effectively in a small group. They need, for example, to reflect
on the ground rules of behaviour and other aspects of the learning
contract, on the arrangement of furniture within a physical environment
(e.g. a classroom), and the involvement of all students in discussion,
paying special attention to those who might remain silent (because
of nervousness or some other factor) and those who might dominate.
Tutors employ many different methods of small group teaching: the
brainstorming exercise, the role play, the seminar, the group tutorial,
collaborative learning, and so on. They remain open-minded and flexible
about using as wide a range of methods as possible. They avoid relying
on one method only or too frequently; this could have a negative effect
on students' learning. The criteria for choosing one or more of the
various teaching methods depends on how a tutor sees their suitability
for a certain session or group, their potential for student participation,
and their practicality for the physical environment in which the session
Tutors need to develop a range of skills for ensuring that small group
teaching is really effective. Two important skills are listening and
has both cognitive and affective dimensions. It requires a comprehension,
analysis, synthesis and evaluation of what students say (content)
and an appreciation of what students feel (tone and significance).
with interest and seriousness helps tutors to know how and when
to respond and in what ways. Tutors respond appropriately when
they take into account the learning outcomes of a session, course,
module, unit or programme and the intellectual and interpersonal
needs of students.
The lecture is an important means of promoting student learning. It
remains the most widely used teaching method in higher education.
Generally, it is seen as necessary for quickly providing the information
that students require before they can learn independently and can
effectively participate in classroom discussion. More specifically
it is seen as a useful method to:
information already documented in publications
information not usually found in published sources
students to find a framework in which to fit new facts and ideas
similarities and differences between two or more phenomena
the subject matter in a way that suits particular student learning
the tutor's/lecturer's personal experiences
a passion for a particular subject
While the lecture may be effective in transmitting information, it
is less effective than other methods for promoting thinking and changing
The College does not encourage tutors to use the traditional lecture
as part of their teaching methodology. In this sort of lecture students
take on a largely passive role and are afforded little or no opportunity
for active learning or for actively engaging with the subject matter.
Students do not engage in the deep processing of information, thus
missing out on the opportunity of 'uncovering' it. As educational
research demonstrates, students concentrate up to a certain point,
say for the first ten minutes of a 50-minute lecture, and then their
attention levels drop. They frequently forget, or never learn, much
of the subject matter, especially those aspects presented after the
first ten minutes. Given these limitations the important question
to ask is: How can the lecture involve more active communication between
the lecturer and the students? One way to do this is to use an interactive
approach as a means to promote active learning. This can be done by
regularly punctuating the lecture with questions to some or all students
and by encouraging students themselves to ask questions during the
lecture. It is important that the modified lecture has a clear enough
structure to allow students to take a more active part in their learning.
A lecture will thus be effective if it:
the learning aims and outcomes
not overloaded with content
an easily recognisable structure or outline
delivered at an appropriate pace
the material at the right level
for student participation
high levels of attention
students with a solid framework into which they can fit new knowledge
supplemented with handouts
students to take notes in a range of appropriate formats (concept
maps, spray diagrams, linear outlines, sequential notes, etc.)
a summary of the main points covered
To break the monotony of a tutor-dominated lecture, a variety of strategies
can be used to keep students actively involved. For example:
footage can be used to illustrate points
from the internet can be presented to introduce new data
can be asked to briefly work in small groups to clarify issues
can be raised to prompt students to think and provide answers
After the lecture it may be helpful to students if a PowerPoint presentation
is mounted onto the Internet so that they can reinforce their learning
at a time more suited to them.
Perhaps more than any other teaching method that is used in adult
education it is the tutorial that promotes deep and intensive learning,
often leading the individual student to reflect on and change a particular
learning style and the level of academic performance. The College
uses three types of tutorials.
tutorial manifests as a meeting between a tutor and a student
to identify the literature that can be used to complete an assignment
(especially an essay) and to work out an approach to planning
and structuring it. In this type of tutorial the tutor acts primarily
as a guide to facilitate the development of skills in respect
of research, reading and writing.
tutorial manifests as a meeting between a tutor and a student
to go through an assignment that the latter has completed and
submitted for marking. In this type of tutorial the tutor goes
through comments, shows ways in which the work can be improved,
and explains the mark, grade or level awarded to the student.
tutorial manifests as a meeting between a tutor and a student
to help the latter identify his or her learning needs, assess
his or her progress and consider progression routes. This type
of tutorial is commonly called a personal tutorial.
If the tutorial is to prove to be effective, the tutor must show an
understanding of and sensitivity to the processes of human relations.