The LTE Summer Programme (June 2018) included two days of LTE workshops where we took the opportunity to ‘launch’ Design for Active Learning (D4AL). This post reflects on the session as well as proving an introduction to D4AL for anyone unable to be there.*
Design for Active Learning is an approach to learning and teaching enhancement, with or without technology but its 2018 – the technology is going to be in there somewhere! Ideally, a session would be blended with some prerequisite preparation followed by hands on time to develop a piece of learning, be it a module, programme or short course.
In the meantime, we’ve squeezed the fundamentals into this blog post…
One of our favourite approaches to discovery is the key questions underpinning any process of inquiry; Who, What, Where, When, Why and How so we’ve structured this post around these.
Who developed Design for Active Learning
Sue Watling and Patrick Lynch, Teaching Enhancement Advisors in the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Directorate
What is Design for Active Learning?
D4AL is all of the following:
- pedagogically informed approach to learning and teaching enhancement
- evidence/data informed design and evaluation of student learning activities
- philosophy as well as practice
- Toolbox (activity templates) and Evidence Hub (resources, videos, literature etc)
D4AL is not about
- auditing or quality control
- telling teachers how to teach
- supporting passive, didactic teaching methodologies
Where can Design for Active Learning happen?
Anywhere where people can be together physically or virtually; technology is not required.
When can Design for Active Learning take place?
Any time which suits staff who teach and support learning.
Why develop Design for Active Learning?
‘Curriculum design in higher education is not a formal activity and there is little support, formal or informal, provided in most higher education institutions to help academics become better at designing learning activities, modules and courses (Nicol, 2012:4)
Nicol, D. (2012) Transformational Change in Teaching and Learning Recasting the Educational Discourse Evaluation of the Viewpoints Project, Jisc. https://www.reap.ac.uk/Portals/101/Documents/PEERToolkit/VIEWPOINTS%20EVALUATION_Final_dn.pdf
Alongside an absence of formal approaches to the learning design, LTE had observed a reluctance to engage with ‘Technology-First’ approaches to enhancement, in particular from staff who were digitally shy and resistant to making digital shifts, both in attitude and practice. We believed all staff who teach or support learning would have a vested interest in the design of learning activities for their students, and wanted to test if brokering discussions via Learning Design or ‘Pedagogy-First’ might take us where TEL-First had been less successful. Our conversations with staff this year plus experience co-leading Module Two of the PCAP ‘Effective Learning, Teaching and Assessment Design’, suggested this was indeed the case.
How does Design for Active Learning happen? (Part One)
D4AL has three distinct processes.
- Perspective: the philosophy of higher education e.g. its purpose in 21st century society (this might include widening participation policy, inclusive practice, being for the public good, social justice and sustainability etc) and pedagogic allegiance (this might include a social constructivist approach with an emphasis on active learning, reflective practice and critical thinking).
- Planning: time to talk and to investigate the D4AL Toolbox and Evidence Hub for the most suitable approach to use. Questions to ask during the Planning might include the following:
- What do you want your students to do?
- What would success look like?
- How will you know when you’ve achieved this?
- Practice: Carrying out the plan and evaluating its effectiveness. Questions might include:
- What went well and less well?
- What would you do again?
- What would you do differently?
We’ve tried several times to visualise Design for Active but been unsuccessful. Following the session last week, we drew these triple rings within a square.
Also, we realised the toolbox and evidence hub needed to be defined more clearly. The D4AL Toolbox is a collection of activity design templates while the D4AL Evidence Hub contains the supporting literature and resources.
How does Design for Active Learning happen? (Part Two)
An initial teaching enhancement conversation might be brokered in a number of different ways. Institutionally it could be driven by red flags on a data report relating to any aspect of AMREP for examples NSS, MEQ, SEERS, or from a discussion by the water cooler, over coffee or a corridor chat. We would then meet with the programme, module or subject team to discuss requirements and plan the way forward.
Planning begins with Perspective. We’re finding asking staff to think about their rationale for teaching, alongside identification of their pedagogic beliefs, is useful CPD as well as a team building activity. After this, the team would be introduced to the Toolbox and Evidence Hub and discuss which of the activities and resources are the most appropriate.
The Practice stage will be dependent on each iteration. The idea of the Design for Active Learning Approach is it’s flexible enough to adapt to different situations. Whatever is needed, there should be an activity on the Toolbox or a resource in the Evidence Hub which fits.
Not every discussion will lead to a D4AL intervention while not every time the D4AL process is followed, will there be an automatic success. Teaching and learning are complex human endeavors and open to multiple environmental influences. What D4AL can offer, is a way forward, based on combined knowledge and experience. The processes are iterative and cumulative. The more we do with D4AL, the more we can collect evidence of what works well, less well, and what we would do differently next time.
So… this has been an introduction to Design for Active Learning. The next post will take a look inside the D4AL Toolbox and Evidence Hub and share some of the resources to be found there.
* See https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/ltesummer/conference for Workshop Abstract