Teaching & Learning

On campus

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 tutoriallecturepracticalseminar 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

Passive, non-interactive lectures are not supported on-campus at the University of Tasmania. Information-giving, particularly to large classes, is better facilitated through flexible, online materials. However, interactive classes can occur when teaching in a lecture theatre with a large number of students (more than 40 or 50). In these environments, effective teachers typically include these key elements:

  • 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')

(Bain, 2004)

The combination of short information-giving with focused question(s) to guide student activity is sometimes referred to as a 'lectorial'.

In making each of these elements work, effective teachers draw on a range of strategies and incorporate multiple learning activities. There is quite a bit of literature available that presents one or more learning activities and strategies, as well as case studies and guidelines presented online.

Some useful places to start include:


Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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 & Orkwiszewski, 2006).

Some useful websites that may help you when designing, planning for, and preparing to teach laboratory sessions include:


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., & 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 Tutorials is a printable resource designed to assist you in planning, delivering, and evaluating small group sessions for your class. It also incorporates ideas about creating positive learning environments and inclusive practice.