3. Select learning activities
Plan relevant teaching methods and learning activities
Once you have clarified the goal of the teaching by specifying the learning objectives and the planned exam, you can plan each session as part of a comprehensive course.
Students can achieve the simpler learning outcomes by reading the curriculum alone or in self-organised study groups. To achieve the more complex learning outcomes, students require support both from the teacher and from fellow students.
- In the study hall, students can read the syllabus and get to know the material on their own and at their own pace.
- Seminars are best suited for activities such as discussion groups, problem solving, and peer feedback.
- Lectures give students an overview of major trends and key concepts, and introduce students to subject- and profession-specific ways of thinking. Lectures can also support students to organise and structure the new knowledge. By using activities in the lecture, the students can also be actively involved in the course material.
- In Canvas, students can test their own knowledge in preparation for lectures and seminars, as well as submit assignments and provide peer feedback.
- In the laboratory, in the field, and in the work place, students acquire relevant skills, link theory and practice, and reflect on their own learning.
- Submissions and presentations allow students to combine knowledges, skills and general competencies.
Student activities promote in-depth learning. The activities can range from month-long project work to 60 second micro-writing, and support and strengthen the students' learning process.
Choosing the relevant activity depends on what learning outcome you want the students to achieve, as well as whether you meet the students in a lecture room, in a seminar room or online.
You can discuss with the students why you have chosen specific activities and how you intend the activities to support the students' learning.
Most activities can be customised to support digital teaching in Canvas and Zoom.
See an overview of methods for active learning on the KURT website (Competency center for teaching in science and technology).
What:Short writing exercises (3-5 minutes) to practice writing skills.
When:In a lecture or a seminar.
How:Give clear instructions, everybody in the room participates. Set the timer to one to five minutes. Everybody writes about a given topic until the time is over. The teacher gives a signal for discussion in pairs or small groups, and coordinates a plenary discussion at the end.
Example:“Before the break, let's do a short writing exercise. I will set the clock at three minutes, and everyone spends the time writing a short definition of a maximum of three sentences explaining the term 'periodic movement'. The most important thing is that you write something, not that you write a correct and perfect definition. Write a maximum of three sentences, without looking at notes and in the textbook. After the three minutes are over, we will discuss the definitions with each other. Is everyone ready? "
- Definitions of subject terms
- Compare two or more concepts
- Write explanations of code, figures, tables or graphs
- Write code, draw figures or graphs
What:Exercise to activate all students in discussions about the subject.
When:In lectures and seminar groups
How:Ask students a question relevant to the lecture or reading. First, students get one to two minutes to think on their own, preferably by writing down key words or drawing mind maps. Then, students discuss in pairs or small groups for two to three minutes before sharing their findings with the whole group. This exercise ensures that both the active and the cautious students get an opportunity to contribute.
To achieve a high degree of student activity, the principles from flipped classroom can be useful. In short, the principle is that students prepare to read subject material and watch videos on their own before meeting for group work and discussions.
The flipped classroom approach helps you to think systematically about how students can be activated in different ways and for what purposes. Read more about flipped classroom (in Norwegian).
In order for student-active learning to work well, the learning environment is very important. Some students will discover that they have not understood what a term means, and they can then use this experience to build new knowledge. Such a learning process can be very vulnerable, and if students are afraid of each other, or unsure if it is okay that they do not have all the answers, it could block their learning.
Think about how you can create a good learning environment for the students, and how the activities you choose can both contribute to and be influenced by how the students feel.
Learning assistants (also referred to as seminar teachers or group teachers) contribute to lectures, seminars, laboratory exercises and assessments. In order to ensure a coherent plan for your teaching, it is important to facilitate a close collaboration in teaching team.
Regular meetings allow you to discuss both subject-specific questions and strategies to support the learning environment and use student-centered learning activities.
Guest lecturers provide up-to-date and relevant subject knowledge, and allow students to gain valuable insight into the research field. To function as an integrated part of the teaching, guest lecturers need insight into the learning goals and activities that you want the students to do.
Questions for planning:
- Have you chosen activities that support students to achieve the learning goals?
- Have you planned both smaller and more comprehensive activities that provide variation in your teaching?
- Do the activities give the student training in skills that you will assess later?
- How do you plan to facilitate a good learning environment in your teaching?
- How do you plan to include the learning assistants in the your course planning and throughout the semester?
- How can you collaborate and support guest lecturers who participate in your course?