Understanding Learning Processes

Remember, what your student does is actually more important to their learning than what you, as the teacher, do. Learning activities are what students actually do in your course in order to learn.

How can you construct a learning experience so your students will be able to learn the stated outcomes of your course? You have a vast range of teaching techniques to choose from, ranging from familiar lecture or tutorial through to small group discussions, role plays, group or individual projects, brainstorming, oral presentations, problem solving activities, debates, etc. (see Teaching Contexts)

The types of learning activities you develop for your course should be based on the particular learning outcomes that you would like to achieve. Learning activities need to support students in the achievement of course learning outcomes.

When choosing learning activities it is useful to reflect on the learning process and what we actually do when we learn something. There are several models of learning useful in universities, such as David Kolb's Experiential Learning Model (University of Leicester) and Diana Laurillard's Conversational Model (EduTech Wiki).

One model suggests that in order to learn something you need to do the following:

Stage of learning

Examples of related learning activities

Be introduced to it

Overviews, preliminary reading, listening to discussion, presentation, websites, media or video clip

Get to know more about it

Lectures, further reading, group discussion, demonstrations, asking questions, relating to earlier learning experience, interactive websites, audiovisual material, media, research projects

Try it out

Practical projects, discussion of ideas with peers and teachers, design tasks, structured experiences, role play, skills laboratories, writing

Get feedback

Informal and formal feedback with criteria from self, from peers, from teachers, from colleagues, from family and friends

Reflect, adjust and try again

Through contemplation, writing, reflective journals, discussion

Source: C. Hughes, S. Toohey and S. Hatherley (1992), "Developing learning-centred trainers and tutors," Studies in Continuing Education 14 (1), 14-27.