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About this book

This book offers a lively, engaging and potentially transformative introduction to the ideas, insights and practical know-how that a modern university teacher requires. Bringing together contributors with extensive practical teaching experience as well as pedagogical expertise, it uses accessible language and real cases to explore everyday teaching challenges and provide strategies and techniques for stimulating deep and satisfying learning.
This book is for anyone with the ambition to teach well at degree level.

Table of Contents

Teaching in Today’s Universities

Frontmatter

1. Learning and Learners in Modern Times

Abstract
This chapter offers an overview of the promises and challenges of teaching and learning in today’s universities. It presents an account of the relationship between prevailing market forces and an increasingly diverse student body, and of the special role university teachers can play in helping their students develop the knowledge, language and skills to become active and successful participants in their academic studies. By drawing on case studies of current university lecturers and students, as well as research findings, the chapter looks at the many ways teaching and learning in universities have changed in recent times and also at how students themselves have changed. Both these changes have profound implications for the experience and practice of teaching in the modern university. Getting a post as a university teacher is a major milestone after years of academic study. But along with the thrill of achievement comes the challenge of finding your way into a complex and demanding role. Here is the experience of Sarah, an energetic, successful young scholar who has taken up teaching for the first time at one of the leading UK universities.
Nicola Rolls, Andrew Northedge

Principles of Learning and Teaching

Frontmatter

2. Learning and Teaching Through Language

Abstract
In this chapter we explore the nature of academic discourse and why teachers need to help students understand and use this specialised language. The chapter provides an introduction to how academic discourse works to create complex abstract and technical meanings. It explores the structures of texts, the way academic language differs from everyday spoken discourse, and how we can work with what students already know to build their language and knowledge. Based on these insights, we provide strategies for university teachers to use that will enhance students’ ability to successfully participate in the spoken and written discourses that underpin their learning. These strategies are designed to be adopted across the curriculum. This section illustrates and discusses students’ experiences of academic discourse and what it is about academic discourse that makes it unique and challenging for the novice. We will start by considering a group of typical first-year students at a relatively young regional university in Australia. Most have entered university through means other than recent, successful high-school completion and scores. They might have entered through vocational training courses, English- language courses, university-enabling courses, or a tertiary admissions test. Many are mature students who work and raise families while studying.
Nicola Rolls, Peter Wignell

3. Learning and Teaching Through Active Engagement

Abstract
How can teachers enable students to learn? Somehow your students’ minds have to be impelled through a train of thought which disturbs pre-existing conceptions and leads to a workable formulation of newly encountered ideas. How can you help this to happen? The first section of this chapter explores the challenge of making meaning that lies at the heart of university learning and the teacher’s role in supporting students in that meaning-making. The second section charts the emergence of the recognition that learning is not a passive-receptive process but a constructive one on the student’s part and the corresponding rise of active learning approaches to teaching. The third reviews ways of focusing students’ attention on stimulating and rich active learning experiences. The fourth considers how to support students’ learning as they engage with activities. The fifth stresses the importance of weaving activities into a broader learning dialogue and, finally, the sixth section suggests how the use of learning activities can give shape to wider teaching strategies.
Nicola Rolls, Andrew Northedge

Designing Effective Learning and Teaching

Frontmatter

4. Learning and Teaching in the Online Era

Abstract
In the online era our relationship with knowledge and information has been transformed, as has our capacity to communicate with each other. This has profound implications for university teaching. No longer is a student confined to learning from what is available on a specific university campus, in terms of lectures, seminars and library resources. Now a whole world of resources can be drawn down to the laptop, or mobile phone, of a student with the means and the know-how to access it. This offers particularly significant opportunities for non-traditional students, who can access education more flexibly and with relevant support instead of just making the best of a teaching service designed for others. And, correspondingly, it presents a plethora of new opportunities and challenges for teachers working with significantly more diverse student cohorts. In this chapter we explore various ways online learning can be used in university modules, the advantages and challenges it presents and some of its implications for teaching strategies. We also explore how online dialogue with students works and discuss how online working can be made easy and attractive to students, as well as the skills teachers need to develop to use online learning well.
Nicola Rolls, Andrew Northedge, Greg Shaw

5. Creating a Positive Environment for Learning

Abstract
This chapter explores the importance of interaction in the classroom and its role in creating a positive learning environment. It examines teacher behaviour and its impact on students, their confidence and motivation to learn. The importance of teacher–student interactions in the classroom as well as via online study is explored. Interaction in the classroom refers to more than spoken communication; it also refers to the emotional meanings created by the teacher’s gestures and expressions, including their stance and ways of moving. An example of the latter would be how the teacher approaches students, whether quietly and assuredly or more forcefully and authoritatively. While the meaning of such behaviour varies in accordance with context and perspective, we see that the way the teacher behaves and interacts with students has a major influence on the emotional climate of the class both online and face-to-face. In addition, classroom interaction also includes the kind of activities that the teacher employs to engage their students in learning, because well-designed, engaging and supportive activities can greatly enhance the emotional climate of the classroom and students’ motivation to learn. In this chapter, all aspects of interpersonal interaction are referred to as embodied behaviour, in order to highlight the importance of body language as well as spoken language in communicating with students. Examples of teacher–student interactions and their impact on student learning are provided and discussed. Focus questions are also provided to stimulate reflection on each example, followed by a more detailed discussion of the implications for teaching.
Nicola Rolls, Andrew Northedge, Ellie Chambers, Linda Hodson

6. Designing Assessment to Promote Learning

Abstract
Assessment is not an afterthought that comes when you have designed and delivered all your teaching. It is not just a test at the end. It is the driving force that gives life and potency to your module. Assessment makes more difference to the way that students spend their time, focus their effort, and perform, than any other aspect of the courses they study, including the teaching. If teachers want to make their course work better, then there is more leverage through changing aspects of the assessment than anywhere else, and it is often easier and cheaper to change assessment than to change anything else. (Gibbs, 2010, p. 3) Assessment is also the process through which students ought to be able to achieve some of their deepest learning. Learning, as emphasised in Chapter 3, is an active process of constructing new ideas and students seldom think more actively than when working intensively on an assignment. However, assignments can also present significant stumbling blocks. An assignment can be the point at which a student is most vulnerable to losing heart, feeling defeated and potentially dropping out. Equally, assignment work often fails to display the deep learning that teachers hope for. Why, after committing themselves to years of study and large debts, do some students submit work apparently done at the last minute, showing poor use of course content, thin analysis, weak writing and that most self-defeating of practices – plagiarism? Is it just poor application, laziness and the distractions of student life? Or is there a fundamental problem with the assessment system, or with students’ level of ability? Or, more mundanely, is it that students are not really sure what they are being asked to do, or how to set about doing it.
Andrew Northedge

7. Designing and Presenting a Student-Friendly Course

Abstract
This chapter offers a step-by-step guide to developing a course of study capable of drawing students from all backgrounds into academic work, and supporting them to study and learn effectively. In other words, it takes on the principles explored in previous chapters and puts them into practice. When preparing a student-friendly course the most important strategy is to ensure that students have the time to study, to understand what they study in depth and to perform well. They simply cannot do so if our courses are ‘overloaded’ – the meaning of which will, we hope, become clear. A student-friendly course, then, is both accessible and doable – that is, the course can actually be studied in the time available and, furthermore, can be studied successfully. Clearly, students will need help to plan and manage their studies, as we shall see later. But primarily a teacher’s job is to think strategically about how students’ study time can best be used and to provide a framework for such study, along with clear expectations. So how can this be done?
Nicola Rolls, Andrew Northedge, Ellie Chambers

Inclusive Practice for Diverse Cohorts

Frontmatter

8. Supporting Demographic Diversity

Abstract
Increasingly, students entering English-speaking universities come from a range of different social, cultural, linguistic and economic backgrounds, bringing with them different experiences of education and different expectations, aspirations, skills and attributes. While many students enter university after completing high school, many others transition through other entry paths. These may include technical education courses, university preparatory programmes and scholarship programmes for priority courses or disadvantaged communities, to name a few. Differences in age, previous education and employment or disability also add to the diversity in our classrooms. Students from remote or rural regions may have different strengths and have faced different challenges from local students, and those juggling work and family life with study will bring different perspectives to the classroom compared to those entering university straight from school. Students may also find themselves in a first-year classroom studying alongside others from different discipline areas, or taking a subject for the first time along with students who have previously studied it through high school.
Nicola Rolls, Andrew Northedge, Frances Tolhurst, Kerin Bolton

9. Embedding Literacy Skills in Academic Teaching

Abstract
A central feature of university study is academic texts that can be very challenging to make sense of, for all the reasons set out in Chapter 2. Such challenging texts include both course readings and spoken lectures. Although meaning-making is a prerequisite of genuine learning, students are often left to struggle to understand these texts as best they can. This includes students for whom English is another language, and those who have come to university through alternative pathways, but also includes many students who come to university through standard pathways of matriculation from secondary school and still struggle to understand academic texts. One result is that students may not attempt course readings, or may not understand what they are reading. As readings are often intended to prepare students for the lectures that follow, these students may not adequately understand the lectures. Another consequence is that students may not have sufficient control of either course content or academic language to write their assignments effectively. These problems are not merely aberrations in academic practice; they are central issues for educators in universities today.
Nicola Rolls, Andrew Northedge, David Rose

Bringing it All Together

Frontmatter

10. Teaching that Communicates and Inspires

Abstract
Surely everyone would like to be an inspiring teacher. Why wouldn’t you? We all remember the lasting impression a good teacher could make on us during our own education. And most of us also remember teachers who stifled our interest in their subject, while seemingly wasting endless hours of our time. So what kind of university teacher will you be? Is it primarily a question of having charisma, intellectual prowess and command of language? Certainly not! Anyone can become an excellent teacher. It’s just a matter of having the commitment and taking the time to learn how. Indeed, it makes sense to learn how, since as a university teacher you will be under pressure to achieve good results for your student cohorts, whatever your subject matter or the diversity of your students. And the surest way of getting good results is to make your students’ learning experience fascinating and deeply satisfying. This final chapter pulls together the central themes of the book to show how they provide a basis for an approach to teaching that will consistently draw the best out of your students.
Nicola Rolls, Andrew Northedge, Ellie Chambers
Additional information