Research suggests that effective teaching and learning environments: 1) facilitate a deep approach to learning where students are actively involved and seek further meaning and understanding through experience, application, practice and reflection; 2) provide organization and structure through clearly defined goals, learning objectives and standards for performance; 3) provide opportunities for students to receive frequent feedback; 4) provide authentic learning experiences that establish personal and real-world relevance; and, 5) provide opportunities for independence and choice (Entwistle and Tait, 1990; Trigwell and Prosser, 1991; deWinstanley and Bjork, 2002; Lizzio et al., 2002; Newmaster et al., 2006; Weiman, 2007; Kember and Hong, 2008; Revell and Wainwright, 2009).
The following 3 strategies translate these fundamental concepts into action:
1) Establish organization and structure
- Establish and communicate clear learning objectives throughout the course
- Establish and communicate clear standards for performance (e.g. rubrics and grading guidelines)
- Give clear and useful explanations
- Vary and structure learning activities (~20 min.) to focus attention
- Focus each lesson/session on a few main concepts
- Repeat and space key information within and between lectures/labs/seminar
2) Keep Learners Intrinsically Motivated
- Establish personal and real-world relevance
- Provide opportunities for independence and choice in learning content and process
- Provide opportunities to receive frequent feedback and to scaffold learning
3) Involve the Learner
- Provide opportunities for peer interaction and discussion
- Provide opportunities for independent interpretation, elaboration and meta-cognition
- Use activities that promote practice and problem-solving to facilitate synthesis, integration and application
- Ask questions and demonstrate an interest in students’ opinion, and their challenges with the subject matter
- Promote a sense of reciprocal learning and interaction by demonstrating a sense of enthusiasm, trust, approachability, honesty and humility
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Entwistle, N. and Tait, H. 1990. Approaches to learning, evaluations of teaching, and preferences for contrasting academic environments. Higher Education 19: 169-194.
Kember, D., Ho, A., and Hong, C. 2008. The importance of establishing relevance in motivating student learning. Active Learning in Higher Education 9(3): 249-263.
Lizzio, A., Wilson, K., and Simons R. 2002. University students’ perceptions of the learning environment and academic outcomes: implications for theory and practice. Studies in Higher Education 27(1):27-52.
Newmaster, S., Lacroix, C.A., and Rossenboon, C. 2006. Authentic learning as a mechanism for learner centredness. International Journal of Learning 13 (6): 103-112.
Revell, A. and Wainwright, E. 2009. What makes lectures ‘unmissable’? Insights into teaching excellence and active learning. Journal of Geography in Higher Education 33(2): 209-233.
Trigwell, K. And Prosser, M. 1991. Improving the quality of student learning: the influence of learning context and student approaches to learning on learning outcomes. Higher Education 22:251-266.
Wieman, C. 2007. Why not try a scientific approach to science education? Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 39(5): 9-15.