Design Deliver EvaluatePutting together new teaching materials or updating your existing ones? These things all take time. In this Design, Deliver and Evaluate section of StaffNet we introduce a series of materials, ideas and links to staff from around the University of Aberdeen that are aimed at helping you to make informed, evidence-based decisions about your teaching. Investing your valuable time wisely in the early stages of your teaching can pay dividends later on.

Few teaching methods (or problems) are truly new and unique; frequently colleagues from another part of the University are grappling with, or indeed might have solved, the very issue with which you are tasked. A quick email or phone call to a colleague either within or outwith your discipline could help with new course design or enhancements. To facilitate this approach throughout these sections reference is made to examples submitted by teaching staff from across the University of Aberdeen.

Design
Overview

Design of any taught element, from a single tutorial or lecture through to an entire Programme, can be made simpler if a few basic design principles are applied.

Some useful starting points for designing any teaching can be broken down as follows:

  1. Start with the end in mind – what are the learning outcomes? In other words what do you want your students to know or be able to do as a result of your teaching? Also consider at this stage the relationship between these outcomes and the University’s wider Graduate Attributes.
  2. In parallel with 1 above, what content will be included – and what will be left out? Curricula are always full, and it is easy to overfill them. Coverage is the enemy of understanding. Fewer concepts, well explained, can be beneficial.
  3. Which other concepts, not traditionally thought of as part of the formal curriculum, will be included. These include due consideration being given to aspects such as employability, enterprise and entrepreneurship and generic skills development.
  4. Assessment and feedback: How will students and you know that the learning outcomes have been achieved? How will students know how they are progressing along the way, before it is too late for them to change their practice?
  5. Methods of delivery: How are you going to help your students to engage with the materials, ideas and concepts that you have set out above? Are lectures the best way to do this or are there others? Have you taken account of the accessibility of your materials from an equality and diversity perspective?
  6. Evaluation: How will you know that your teaching is effective?
Learning Outcomes

Writing learning outcomes is not an easy task. Striking a balance between being over-prescriptive (producing too many) and too vague to be of use (too few) is never easy.

Download the guide to writing learning outcomes, which has been written to be used alongside the University’s course and programme descriptor forms.

Check out the University’s Graduate Attributes website.

Content

It is difficult to write learning outcomes without reference to your content, and in practice the two are usually considered together. Some pointers at this early stage to help with this phase of design include:

  1. Don’t think that you have to cover everything. Many curricula are too “full” already
  2. Ensure that the students know why particular content is in the curriculum
Employability, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship

At this stage consider how you might build in those aspects of the curriculum that sometimes get forgotten. Remember you don’t have to do all of them, and not all topics lend themselves to this (although with a little lateral thought often they can). The following is not a prescriptive list, but consider:

Employability

Have a look at our employability resources for some ideas and inspiration. Also, employability case studies has a range of examples of how staff from around the University have engaged with the concept of employability in their teaching.

Enterprise and Entrepreneurship

Although we won’t all be able to produce a spinout company from our courses, there are plenty of opportunities to help and encourage your students to engage with the wider concepts of enterprise and what it means to be entrepreneurial.

You can find examples on the Careers Website and in our Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Spotlights.

Assessment and Feedback

Thinking about the assessment strategy at the start of the design process will aid the design of learning activities that help students to not only achieve the learning outcomes, but stretch them academically in order to demonstrate their mastery of the topic or subject matter. There are plenty of novel methods of assessment that might also be used; don’t feel constrained to use written, timed, closed book assessments at all times of this doesn’t help to test students in an effective manner.

Feedback is one of the areas of teaching most commonly singled out by students for criticism. The University of Aberdeen has developed a Feedback Framework, containing helpful ideas along with examples of feedback proformas in use from around the University, whilst we also have examples of feedback from staff from around the University.

One of the largest studies in recent years on feedback was the Re-engineering Assessment Practices (REAP) project, (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2007).

 

Deliver

Delivery of teaching encompasses a vast range of methods, and colleagues in each discipline will have their own ideas as to the most effective blend of these. With changing patterns of work for both academics and students, often traditional forms of delivery are no longer the most effective way to encourage students to engage with ideas and materials; this is not to say that a good lecture, well delivered, is not a useful teaching method. However, there are many techniques that exist and that are in use around the University to which staff might not have been exposed.

A discussion with colleagues from outwith one’s own discipline, and even the opportunity to sit in on teaching taking place in other disciplines, is a valuable piece of professional development.

  • Support materials for staff giving large lectures (content to follow)
  • Support materials for teaching small groups (content to follow)

There is a legal expectation that teaching materials and sessions will be as inclusive as possible. Equality and Diversity is frequently thought of in legislative terms (it is), but by making your materials and sessions as accessible as possible, this may benefit all of your students.

Evaluation

Looking for new or innovative ideas for your teaching? Our Spotlight section highlights examples of good and innovative teaching practice from across the University of Aberdeen.

Our Enhancing Feedback page also provides useful tips and policy information on how to provide effective feedback to students.  Evaluating your teaching? Feedback?

Student Course Evaluation Form (SCEF)

During a course, students should be provided with the opportunity to provide feedback on a course, using a Student Course Evaluation Form.

SCEFs are available online and should be created by the administration team with responsibility for a course. The form is flexible in that it allows Schools to design their own questions to elicit feedback specifically in relation to their courses and School.

The SCEF is the cornerstone of the University’s mechanisms for seeking feedback from students. The SCEF exercise is undertaken each half-session for all courses offered. The main features of the exercise are:

  • Course Co-ordinators discuss the outcome with the Course Team and report to the Head of School
  • Heads of School report to their Staff: Student Liaison Committee and College Director of Teaching and Learning, and to the Quality Assurance Committee
  • Policy issues are referred to the University Committee on Teaching and Learning
  • Standard forms to assist Course Co-ordinators and Heads of School in reporting the outcome of the SCEF and course review exercises

Although it is a Head of School’s responsibility to ensure that the exercise is conducted, in practice Course Co-ordinators are responsible for organising such feedback.

Further details are provided in the Academic Quality Handbook.

Enhancing Feedback

The University of Aberdeen recognises the importance of feedback in supporting and developing students’ learning, and is proactive in its approach to working with developments in this important area. It is also committed to working with the University’s Students' Association to enhance the student learning experience, and this website is one example of collaboration of this type.

  • The complete joint statement by Professor Peter McGeorge, Vice-Principal (Learning and Teaching) and Tessa Birley, Students’ Association President is available online.
         
 

This website has been developed on behalf of the University of Aberdeen and the Aberdeen University Students' Association by the Centre for Learning and Teaching.

Institutional Statement

The University of Aberdeen recognises the importance of feedback in supporting and developing students’ learning, and is proactive in its approach to working with developments in this important area. It is also committed to working with the University’s Student Association to enhance the student learning experience, and this website is one example of collaboration of this type.

The University has consulted widely with its academic staff to produce its first Feedback Framework in 2009, which encapsulates the key elements of the process; that feedback should be timely, supportive, understandable and focussed on improvement.

The University takes part in a range of major national student-informed surveys which monitor student opinion of feedback provided to them, including the National Student Survey (NSS), the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES), Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) and the International Student Barometer (ISB). Data from these surveys are used to inform practice at the course and programme level, highlighting both effective practice and areas for further development.

The University recognises the importance of ongoing development opportunities for staff whose roles include providing feedback, and makes available a range of development sessions and supporting materials.

This website brings together materials and sources of further information to support staff in providing the best possible feedback to their students, including examples of feedback proformas from Schools within all three Colleges. The website also provides information to raise students’ awareness of their role in the feedback process and to help them to engage successfully with the feedback they receive.

If you have further ideas or examples of effective practice that you would like to share with colleagues from across the University, please forward them to clt@abdn.ac.uk.

Professor Peter McGeorge, Vice-Principal (Learning and Teaching), &
Tessa Birley, President, Aberdeen University Students' Association (2011/12)

Spotlight on Good Practice

Looking for new or innovative ideas for your teaching? Our Spotlight section highlights examples of good and innovative teaching practice from across the University of Aberdeen.

On this page you will find examples of good practice from across the University. To make these easier to navigate we have divided into a number of themes, including

and we will also have a section on Enterprise and Entrepreneurship

We are keen to continue identifying new examples from across the University, so if you have an idea which you think is interesting or worth sharing, email the Centre for Academic Development at cad@abdn.ac.uk. Alternatively you can submit your own idea by downloading a template and returning it to the above email address, where we can upload it for you. We also welcome alternative formats so please contact us if you have an idea.