Teaching methods and activating learning in a study programme
The composition of the programme by the Programme Committee
At the educational level, the Programme Committee is responsible for designing a high-quality programme in which a varied set of working methods is used and in which active learning is used in a well-considered way.
General points for attention regarding programmes
In programmes that run smoothly, the coordination between the proposed study programme competencies, the learning and teaching activities and the evaluations is a fact. The alignment of these three elements with each other is called ‘Constructive alignment’. This is therefore one of the important principles in the design of education. It is good to approach both study programmes in their entirety and individual course units from this principle.
The programme is regularly evaluated by the study programme and updated where necessary. Reasons for this are:
- recent innovations or evolutions in the field
- results of surveys or other quality measurements (course unit feedback, educational feedback, focus groups with students, alumni survey, etc.)
- recommendations from the international programme assessment, feedback from representatives of the professional field, advice from the Education Quality Board or the annual quality consultation, etc.
All practical guidelines and procedures regarding programme changes and other aspects of the study offer can be found in the VadeMecum Study Programmes.
Important aspects in programme changes:
- Programme changes follow a specific timing and sequence depending on whether they are ‘minor’ or ‘major’ programme changes.
- All proposals to change the programme first pass the Programme Committee, which provides a thorough motivation, followed by advice from the director of education and submission to the Faculty Council for advice.
- When formulating programme changes, there are certain rules and points for attention that are best checked well in advance.
- Programme changes are always thoroughly checked with the internal stakeholders: it is important to involve both the students and the lecturers sufficiently early in the process when developing the programme changes.
- Programme changes are invariably checked with external stakeholders. This is an essential part of what is called the ‘external view on study programmes’ at Ghent University.
- Feedback is gathered sufficiently early in the process from representatives of the professional field and alumni.
- A programme test is executed in the event of a major programme change. At least three international independent academic peers, with a broad view of the programme, each individually or in panel express their views on the substantive quality of the programme. In a reflection, the three peers indicate to what extent the programme proposal complies with international standards.
- View the guidelines and the framework regarding the involvement of external parties in the development of a new programme here.
Variation in working methods: what does a Programme Committee take into account?
A programme always comprises a varied set of teaching methods (cf. Glossary of didactic teaching methods at the end of the Education and Examination Code) appropriate to the intended competencies and the Ghent University educational concept ‘Creative knowledge development’. A study programme can monitor this, among other things, via the competency matrix and additional tables in Oasis (the latter can be obtained from the Educational Quality Control Unit).
In order to take targeted action with regard to adapting or improving the use of teaching methods from a study programme perspective, it is recommended to first perform an analysis of certain data in Oasis (and UGI), such as the competency matrix (and the additional ‘competency teaching methods’ table). On the basis of this information, the following guiding questions can be discussed within the Programme Committee – or in a broader lecturer consultation:
- Is the whole of the teaching methods used for a study programme competency appropriate for the pursuit of the study programme competency?
- Is there a balanced use of certain teaching methods in relation to pursuing a specific educational competency?
- Are the working methods appropriate for the intended final competencies?
- Have agreements been made regarding the use of certain teaching methods? Is there mutual consultation between teachers where relevant?
- Do the teaching methods allow the student’s degree of self-management to increase? Are they appropriate for dealing with more complex contexts and/or problems throughout the study programme?
- Is sufficient attention paid to variation and combinations of teaching methods within a study programme?
- Are there sufficient activating teaching methods included? (and how activating are lectures?)
The study programme ensures that a balanced combination of more ‘classic’ teaching methods and ‘newer’ teaching methods is used in the programme. When educational competencies are dominantly grafted onto the acquisition of knowledge, lectures can be very effective. If the study programme competencies are dominantly aimed at acquiring skills and attitudes, it is of course obvious that other teaching methods are often more effective. This does not mean, however, that lectures cannot, for example, support an attitude of criticism and pluralism. Nor does it have to mean that all knowledge transfer is best done through lectures.
Within course units too, it is best to pay attention to variety and combinations of teaching methods and methods. The lecture, in which the teacher transfers his own knowledge to the students in one direction, can be combined with the use of voting boxes, role play, discussion groups, microteaching, etc. Keep in mind that students can get tired of certain teaching methods or methods if they are not handled properly or when students are confronted with them too often.
Attention to activating learning in the programme
Programmes that offer quality education and pursue broad competencies dare to focus on activating education. View the Ghent University interpretation of active learning and action plan to shape the activating plan here. In this regard, be sure to contact the faculty antenna for active learning.
Keep in mind that activation is not a yes/no story. Course units can be more or less activating and within this continuum they are good as they are. More traditional forms of education can often be more activating with very minor interventions. When activating techniques are not used properly, very challenging teaching methods can cause students to work passively.