It is the learning activities in a unit that are used to teach the students the things that we want them to know, understand and be able to do. It is useful to keep in mind that if you want your students to be able to do something, you must make sure that you teach them how, especially when it is an element of an assessment task. For example, if you have an assessment task that requires students to write an essay, then it will be important for the learning activities in your unit to include elements and aspects of essay writing skills, including critical analysis, presenting arguments, supporting ideas with evidence etc.
Regardless of where and when learning activities that make up a high impact learning experience take place, they all have a set of common features.
- They are planned in advance
- They have clearly defined session/module outcomes
- The focus is on what the students are doing (they are engaged in active, authentic learning)
- Students receive feedback on their learning as part of the experience
Because the ILOs of a unit define what students will know, understand and be able to do at the end of the unit, and progress towards these is typically incremental, it can be difficult for students to connect the learning activities they are engaged in at the start or middle of a unit with these end goals. In addition, when students do not know or understand the reason or goal of what they are being asked to do, they will not be as motivated, and may not focus their time and energy as effectively. For these reasons, it is valuable to provide students with clear learning outcomes for every session and module in your unit.
Find out more about session and module learning outcomes.
Because we learn from experience, it can be challenging to come up with a range of learning activities to use in our sessions and modules if our own learning experiences have been somewhat limited. Therefore, we have put together a few ideas for different activities which have been successful for others teaching in universities for you to consider. These are organised into types of activities (i.e. what the student is doing) and include those suitable for on campus, online, or delivery in either mode.
Look at the examples and ideas for high impact learning activities.