assessment curriculum learning physiotherapy students teaching

Workshop on Intended Learning Outcomes

I’ve already mentioned that my institution has increased the emphasis on the scholarship of teaching and learning over the past few years, by placing it on an equal footing with research. This has forced all academics to reconsider their roles within the university, which many have resisted. Luckily (for me) I work in a department where we see these changes as opportunities for growth, rather than obstacles to be baulked at. As part of our response to this challenge, we’ve been working at integrating a scholarship of teaching and learning into our everyday teaching practices, including (among many other things), regular workshops to aid with both staff development and curricular alignment.

Today we had a workshop on using learning outcomes to structure a module, with the intention that we would each take one of our modules and refine the outcomes before working on aligning teaching strategies, assessment and content. I didn’t take too many notes, as we were provided with handouts but here are the notes I did take. Nothing ground breaking if you’ve read anything about learning outcomes before but bear in mind that the emphasis of the workshop was on the application of concepts to our actual modules, as opposed to a purely learning activity.

  • It is important to expose learners’ current and prior knowledge / understanding before beginning a learning activity, and then try to build on that
  • We don’t “teach”, so much as we create an environment conducive to students’ learning
  • Learning outcomes can be useful guides / “maps” for both new and experienced staff members
  • Objectives (related to teacher) are different to outcomes (related to student)
  • Programme outcomes (might be found in a mission statement) must be linked to module outcomes
  • Outcomes must be specific
  • Use concept mapping to link outcomes, lectures and assessment
  • Students just out of high school may need to be taught how to learn
  • Get students to agree to take responsibility for their own learning, possibly in the first lecture, by making explicit what the roles / expectations are of everyone involved
  • Make a list of the things that bug you about students, and get students to agree to not do those things. Then ask them what you do that bugs them, and agree to try and avoid those too. Ask regularly, “what is working / not working for you right now?”

Benefits of learning outcomes:

  • Helps to structure the module content
  • Helps to guide assessment practices
  • Helps to direct teaching strategies
  • Provides a measure of accountability
  • Helps students to focus on what to study / learning outcomes are the “scope of the exam”


  • Learning activities are “supported” by assessment / assessment drives learning
  • Many students come into higher education thinking “Give me the stuff, and I’ll give it back to you”. How can we change that mindset?
  • Look at how SAQA’s level descriptors link to learning outcomes, and make them specific to module descriptors (1st year = level 5, 2nd year = level 6, 3rd year = level 7, 4th year = level 8)
  • Try to get students to see why the outcomes are important i.e. do they have personal meaning for the students, or are they just words
  • Review the lecture outcomes at the beginning and end of the lecture. Ask students if they felt that the outcomes were achieved
learning physiotherapy teaching

Aligning curriculum with assessment

Our department is gearing up for it’s annual planning meeting, where we review the physiotherapy course from the past year and plan for the next one. This is also the year that our newly formed Directorate of Teaching and Learning has developed an institutional teaching and learning policy, with a strategic implementation plan over the next 5 years. As part of the development of a scholarship of teaching and learning at the university, all faculties and departments are now being asked to develop their own teaching and learning policies, aligned with the institutional one. I’ll be conducting a short workshop at the planning meeting, where we’ll look at the institutional departmental policy and flesh out the draft document I’ve been working on for the past week or so.

As part of my presentation, I’ll be showing an example of how we can align a simple assessment task with the departmental teaching and learning policy. Here’s my initial idea, feedback or comments are welcome.


SAAHE conference, 2010 – day 3

How can teachers improve their teaching using concepts that matter? (Prof. Joke Denekens)

We have to reduce the context, content and noise when moving from a clinical setting to an educational setting. In an educational setting, we have to create context and content

There are, in principle, similarities between South health system and the Belgium health system. Different scales and context, but problems exist nonetheless

Development of competencies is an ongoing process, because the health system, science and society is changing all the time

Millers pyramid is a simple model of competence

Students work for what you inspect, not what you expect


Drowning in words (Athol Kent)

Teachers don’t know what student’s don’t know, so we might use language / concepts that students aren’t familiar with. Relates to Bechers’ notion of tribes

knowledge is gained by understanding, but before you can understand concepts, you must understand language

Developed a self-teaching concept that is computer based i.e. a dictionary of terms (what do students need to know to converse in this “tribe”

Students self-test when they think they are ready and they need 80% to pass

Interesting discussion following presentation. Will be great to extend the platform to include not only definitions, but deeper concepts. Athol suggested they are moving towards offering multiple levels of access i.e. superficial for quick review, more in-depth content for further though, and also adding links to more material. I suggested making an open wiki for the project, which would allow faculty to scaffold / structure it, but students could also participate in the direction it goes.


Knowledge and attitudes of Wits medical students concerning the role of nurses in the healthcare team (O Oyedele)

When doctors and patients work together, patient care is improved

Negative stereotypes hinder effective collaboration

When groups from different disciplines do work together, they end up having higher levels of respect for each other

Study looked students perceptions following an interdisciplinary module where medical students are taught by nurses during a “nursing block”

Nurses should have an equal “social” status as doctors? That’s a perception determined by society, not doctors. Wouldn’t it be more relevant to find out if nurses should enjoy the same “professional” status as doctors?

Some stereotypes about nurses persist among medical students at Wits

But there were also clear benefits to nurses teaching medical students on nurse-orientated blocks.


Reflection sucks – Avoiding the black hole: medical student responses to formal reflection during an academic service learning module (D Cameron)

Students have weekly, facilitated reflection sessions, as well as written reflections before, during and after the sessions – during a 4 week academic service learning module in a Primary Healthcare Clinic

Reflective learning:

  • What happened? What did I do? How did you feel?
  • Why did this happen? (various points of view) → reviewing concepts
  • Does this make sense in relation to what I know? → theorising and forming new ideas
  • Planning for the future, how will this influence practice

Do students grasp the concepts of reflection?

Asked students what has happened during the past week to influence students opinions of reflection, and then convince a colleague why they believed that

Perceived benefits:

  • Personal growth
  • Self-insight
  • Camaraderie
  • Self-confidence
  • Changed attitude to service

“Nobody can take my reflections away from me”

Some students dislike written reflection, but are OK with verbal reflection

Students have had negative experiences where they write reflections but don’t receive feedback, this frustrates students

Students are briefly introduced to Kolb’s cycle to provide some context to the students


The differences in perceptions in GEMP III and GEMP IV students in the exposure to expected case competencies of internal medicine at the 3 Wits academic hospitals (F Indeviri)

Reclassification of one of the hospitals led to a reduction in the number of common conditions seen at that hospital

Few students are satisfied with the level of exposure to competencies they receive

Students felt that the block rotation was too short to adequately cover the core competencies

Students also preferred to go to hospitals where they would see a greater variety of common conditions that would allow them to gain greater exposure to core competencies


The scholarship of pedagogy in the health sciences: On teaching, learning and qualitative variation (Shirley Booth)

Scholarship is a hallmark of academic professions

Teaching and research should be placed on an equal footing, and promotion strategeies should take it into account

Scholarships of discovery, application, integration and teaching (Boyer, 1990)

It’s important to reflect on your own practices, as well as the practices of colleagues

Scholarship of teaching (Kreber, 2002)

  • Excellent teachers – full participation and approval of colleagues and students
  • Expert teachers – making full use of resources
  • Scholarly teachers – all of the above, but also sharing outcomes / results as local and global knowledge

Academics conceptions of the SoT&L (Trigwell, Martin, Benjamin & Prosser, 2000, pg. 160)

  • Scholarship (discovery, application, integration, teaching)
  • Scholarship of teaching (making teaching insights public)
  • Scholarship of teaching and learning (as above, with learning brought into focus)

How do we bring learning into focus? Do we give students the essence of what they need to know, or do we open it up to allow them to identify what they need to know?

Methodologies for SoTL

  • Ad hoc approaches
  • Informed by disciplinary research
  • Educational theory (often from sociology or psychology)
  • Educational research approaches (quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods)
  • Phenomenography – a purely educational (or pedagogical) research approach: an analysis of qualitative variation which brings learning into focus
education research technology

Reflections on improving teaching practice

Up until today, I was kind of maintaining 2 blogs…this one, and a reflective commentary that I included in my teaching portfolio wiki. The portfolio is something that our faculty suggests we keep for when we apply for promotion, etc. but I thought it could be something more. So when I started teaching in 2007, I thought about putting all of my teaching-related activities online in a public wiki, both for my own archiving purposes and for anyone else who might find it useful / interesting. Over time, it grew to become a portal to some of what I’m interested in. For example it’s also where I document my PhD progress, and my Open Textbook project. I’ve decided that since I was essentially doing the same thing in 2 places, albeit with subtle differences (evident only to me), it was time to post those reflections on teaching practice in one place, which from now on will be here.

One of the resources I enjoy most is the Tomorrow’s Professor blog, which is almost always a great starting point for a few minutes of reflection. I’ve just finished reading this post on improving the teaching of poor teachers, taken from the book A Guide to Faculty Development: Practical advice, Examples, and Resources by Ann F. Lucas.

One of the first points made is that poor teachers will often externalise the blame for underperforming students, often citing low student motivation or high teaching loads as the reasons for this. Effectively, this frees the lecturer from any responsibility to improve. When I first started teaching, I remember clearly how my tendency was also to look outside of myself for the problem, and it was only with a great deal of personal honesty that I could admit to myself that I wasn’t always doing a very good job. Having no teaching experience other than the teaching I was subjected to, I had taken on the role that had been modeled to me as a student, with most of my colleagues having the same viewpoint. There was no incentive to change teaching practice, especially not at the expense of research activities. This is changing at UWC though, with both grassroots programmes and upper management policies rewarding a scholarship of teaching and learning.

When you think about the misguided notion that knowledge of a subject conveys some kind of ability to teach it, you begin to understand how deeply entrenched is the centrality of content in a standard curriculum. What the universities are saying is that you don’t need to be able to teach in order to transmit content, an idea that is hardly ever challenged by our students, who seem to accept (and expect) that their experience of higher education will be a continuation of the previous 12 years of learning. Maybe that’s because the voice of the student is often missing from conversations on improving teaching practice? To address this issue in our department, we’ve taken steps to not only formalise our student feedback process, but to implement it in a way that facilitates engagement with that feedback by eliminating the more repetitive tasks associated with it e.g. data capture and analysis. I believe that if students are give the opportunity to be more involved in the teaching and learning process, to see their concerns addressed and suggestions valued, they may move to a space where the rewards for their participation are clear to them, and are no longer things that need to be externally motivated.

However, giving students an authentic voice means having to address them. I’ve had a few students openly reject the idea that they are at university to exercise their minds, and that instead, I should just pour forth the knowledge they require to be good physiotherapists. In these situations, it’s all too easy to throw your hands in the air and shout: “Why should I care if they don’t”? But isn’t the whole point of the job to guide students to a place where where their preconceived notions of education and the world are challenged? If we’re not up to the challenge, should we rather consider employment elsewhere?


Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-01-18

  • IJ-SoTL: Current Issue: Volumn 4, Number 1 – January 2010 #
  • RT @lauradoggett: Want to see educational innovation in practice? Here’s 12 excellent examples (via @chadratliff) #
  • RT @davidworth: RT @mashable: Our most retweeted post right now: “3 Ways Educators Are Embracing Social Technology” – #

Powered by Twitter Tools

twitter feed

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-07-13

  • Put 3 conference presentations on SlideShare a few days ago, why didn't I think of this before? #
  • Spent 3 days on a writing retreat with no internet, wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. Was productive, got a draft of a publication done #
  • International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning – open access and peer reviewed #
  • Permission granted: open licensing for educational resources – Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning #

Powered by Twitter Tools.

conference education

HESS conference: a summary of my thoughts

OK, so I’ve been back for a few weeks now and have had a little bit of time to gather my thoughts regarding the HESS conference, and thought I’d make a note of some of the highlights from my limited perspective.  If anyone from the conference feels that I’m way off the mark, feel free to drop me a line.

One of the key themes that emerged was the idea that research should be taken down off of it’s pedestal and integrated into the curriculum as a functional, useful and exciting aspect of teaching and learning.  Dr Angela Brew established this idea in the first keynote of the first day.  That research should not be seen purely as a series of steps to be undertaken in the lofty towers of higher education, but should rather be seen as an integral part of teaching and learning.  The phrases “research-based learning” and “inquiry-based learning” cropped up regularly over the three days.

This idea that research should become part of the curriculum, rather than something tacked on, moved the conversation into another strong theme, that of the “scholarship of teaching and learning”.  In order to teach in your field, it’s no longer enough to merely know your subject.  The move towards evidence-based practice doesn’t only apply to our own niche fields, but should be applied equally strongly in how we approach the way we teach.  The concept of “communities of practice” came through strongly in this realm.

Martin Oliver’s keynote negotiated the fine line between technology in education as an all-powerful saviour, and a potentially misleading mindset that puts the technology, rather than pedagogy, first.  While e-learning was generally lauded as a powerful tool, enthusiasm should be tempered with optimistic caution.  With technology changing so quickly, it seems that a predominant focus on the tools themselves, rather than pedagogy, will be met with failure.

There were a few presentations I attended that urged educators to become more aware of students social lives, which came with evidence of the fact that they are not always as we imagine them to be.  Realising that students often have significant difficulties in almost every aspect of their personal lives can (and should) change how we relate to them.  As educators, we should understand that not only do we bring our own personalities and quirks into the higher education space, but so do our students.

Here are the notes I took while at HESS 2008:

Summary of HESS 2008 (OpenDocument format)
Summary of HESS 2008 (MS Word format)