There are a number of on-campus environments in which learning activities can occur, including lecture theatres, tutorial rooms, laboratories, video conference rooms and flexible spaces. For the purposes of timetabling, you are likely to need to indicate the type of 'activity' that you are booking a room for, with a fairly narrow list including titles like tutorial, lecture, practical, seminar and similar. These session titles provide relatively little information about the learning activities that may occur during the scheduled period, however.
When designing and selecting the learning activities that will enable students to develop the skills knowledge and understandings required to achieve the unit ILOs, you may need to take into account the space you have been, or are likely to be assigned. Although it is the learning activities that should dictate the space or room, the reality is that we are constrained by the spaces that exist and are made available to us on campus, so at times you may need to adjust the activity choices to suit the assigned room.
Many of the learning activities described on the Examples of Learning Activities page can be used and adapted for use in most of the learning spaces available on UTAS campuses.
On this page are some specific ideas about approaches to and organisation of learning activities in specified spaces.
Learning Activities in Lectures
- they start with a question,
- then try to help students understand the question's significance (e.g., its implication, its connection to larger questions),
- they then encourage students to engage critically with the question, to draw on evidence and reasoning to make arguments about how it should be answered,
- and they finish with a conclusion (which often does not include their own 'answer')
- The Teaching Large Classes project website, funded by the Australian University Teaching Committee and developed by the Teaching and Educational Development Institute at the University of Queensland. This site provides helpful case studies that include both learning activities and assessments, as well as guidelines for planning and teaching, and a set of activity types that enable interaction from students.
- The Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) website has an extensive resource library with a collection of Good Practice Reports and links to resources developed as part of the many projects the OLT has funded over the years.
- The Higher Education Academy website from the UK provides ten years worth of resources and materials on a very searchable website.
- Ako Aotearoa is the New Zealand Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, and they also have a searchable set of evidence-based practical resources.
- You may also find this short list of active learning activity descriptions [DOC 28KB] helpful to start thinking about how you can engage your students in your classes.
Learning Activities in Laboratories
Typically, the sort of learning outcomes that can be addressed effectively in a laboratory setting are those that relate to investigation, manipulation, hypothesising, problem solving, application, synthesis, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, scientific methods and theoretical models, among others (Shulman & Tamir, 1973)
Effective teaching in science-related laboratory settings occurs when students are asked to observe a phenomenon, ask questions and devise a testable hypothesis or model (Adams, 2009). Students are likely to score better on laboratory tests and enjoy their laboratory sessions more when, rather than following written instructions, they are asked to do the following:
- design and carry out an experimental strategy,
- record and critically analyse their results,
- reach conclusions about the validity of their hypothesis, and
- decide whether more experiments are needed to answer the original questions or new questions that may have arisen during the course of the investigation
(Lord and Orkwiszewski, 2006).
Some useful websites that may help you when designing, planning for, and preparing to teach laboratory sessions include:
- The Higher Education Academy's site dedicated to Learning and Teaching in Laboratories provides a well-structured set of ideas and practical guidance for designing learning appropriate to laboratories. Although it specifically addresses teaching Engineering, most of the resource is also directly applicable to other disciplines.
- The Advancing Science by Enhancing Learning in the Laboratory (ASELL) website has a database of "materials relating to undergraduate science experiments which are educationally sound and have been evaluated by both students and academic staff" in the disciplines of Chemistry, Biology and Physics.
- Strategies for Developing Students' Group Work Skills in the Laboratory Class, a University of Michigan web page, contains a number of approaches derived from literature.
- Teaching in Labs is a terrific website from the University of Auckland aimed at tutors, lab demonstrators, technicians and teaching assistants.
Adams, D.J. (2009). Current Trends in Laboratory Class Teaching in University Bioscience Programmes. Bioscience Education 13, DOI: 10.3108/beej.13.3
Lord, T. and Orkwiszewski, T. (2006) Moving from didactic to inquiry-based instruction in a science laboratory. The American Biology Teacher 68, 342–345.
Shulman, L.S., & Tamir, P. (1973). Research on Teaching in the Natural Sciences. In R.M.W. Travers (Ed.), Second Handbook of Research on Teaching (pp. 1098-1140). Chicago, IL: Rand McNally.
Learning Activities in Tutorials, Seminars and Workshops
When teaching with small groups, typically between 15 and 50 students, in rooms with flat desks and tables, often the focus is on discussion and the sharing of ideas, beliefs, perspectives, and understandings between students. These learning environments provides opportunities for the use of a range of learning activities, and can be useful in supporting students to progress towards most types of learning outcomes.
A key element in running an effective workshop, tutorial, seminar, or similar, is having clear learning outcomes for the session. It is typically beneficial to communicate these to students, prior to, or at the beginning of each session as it helps them to focus their learning, as well as contributing to their motivation.
It has been found that the most effective tutors:
- Facilitate and support good relationships within the group
- Get students actively involved
- Vary the activities in each session
- Challenge students: question and probe students' reasoning processes and critical thinking
- Anticipate the difficulties and problems that the students are likely to have
- Demonstrate flexibility: admit to not knowing and be open to learning from students as well as with them
Because these types of sessions typically have lower student numbers, they are ideally suited to the provision of feedback on progress, and ideally every session would include at least one opportunity for each student to receive personal feedback on their progress towards the unit ILOs. The form that this feedback would take, however, would vary according to the unit and session.
The Guide to Workshops and the Guide to Tutorials are printable resources designed to assist you in planning, delivering, and evaluating small group sessions for your class. They also incorporate ideas about creating positive learning environments and inclusive practice.