Assembling the heterogeneous elements for (digital) learning

Month: April 2007

A model for evaluating teaching – a useful lens?

As part of CQU’s moves around improving its evaluation of good teaching I was sent a paper by Keith Trigwell (2001), “Judging university teaching”.

From that paper comes the following “model of teaching (or a framework for judging teaching)”

Trigwell's model of teaching

My interest in this model is the assistance it can provide in thinking about how a group charged with helping academics design, develop and delivery quality learning can understand and go about it’s task. This is a problem I face in my new job.

I think it also offers a useful framework for thinking about literature that may help such a task. Also in framing the research and evaluation tasks which such a group might do to help achieve its goals.

Time to think more deeply about this and whether or not it is really useful, comes later. Time now to write down some of the initial ideas the model has generated, before they’re lost due to the fallibility of an aging memory.

The initial ideas include the following (some expanded below):

  • Research reinforcing the primacy of the academics’ influence of the student experience
    A colleague has already done some surveys around online learning in which one of the questions really reinforced this view. An area for more research and literature review.
  • It’s more than what the student wants.
  • Knowing the current state of affairs.
  • The fine line between manipulation and assistance.
  • Investigating the model, fleshing it out in more detail.

All of this is framed around trying to understand the problem

How can you effectively and efficiently bring about change for the better in university learning and teaching?

It’s more than what the student wants

While it is important to understand what the student is experiencing and the preferences, desires etc of the student body. This, by itself, is not sufficient to make any meaningful change.

There needs to be an emphasis on how to communicate this knowledge to the teaching staff. Thought needs to be given about how the knowledge of the students’ preferences and experience can be appropriately harnessed/disseminated to change the teaching and learning context and the thinking, planning and strategies of the teaching staff.

If you don’t change these, then the student experience won’t change to any significant level. – there’s a question to be researched.

Knowing the current state of affairs

A group that is attempting to improve (i.e. change) the learning and teaching practices of an organisation and its members (leaving aside, for the moment, questions about the ethics and desirability of such a group thinking it can, or even should, improve/change such things) really should have a good handle on the current state of affairs.

In talking about “good teachers” Trigwell (2001) says that they “recognize the importance of context, and adapt their teaching accordingly; they know how to modify their strategies according to the particular students, subject matter, and learning environment.”

Obviously, at least for me, the same applies for the group trying to improve learning and teaching. It needs to know the current state of affairs with respect to teachers’ strategies, planning, and thinking, as well as the teaching and learning context.

The institution’s teaching and learning context implies both internally and externally to the institution. So knowledge of technology, government and other external influences on the practice of learning and teaching is needed. As is knowledge about the institution. Most importantly, perhaps, is that this needs to be based on the perceptions of the teaching staff. Whether or not senior management believe something may be beside the point in terms of influencing student learning.

The line between manipulation and assistance

It is possible that some of the above can be seen as a framework for understanding how to manipulate academics to achieve the goals of the few. You could certainly use this approach for that. I would hope that’s not what we’ll do, but it is a fine line between descriptive and normative development.

Fleshing out the model

As I look more at the model, a few questions appear.

Why are the arrows to the outer “skins” apparently one way?

Why is there only one arrow to the teaching and learning context? It’s as if the student influences and is influenced by all the four outer skins. But Teacher’s thinking has a much more limited influence.


Keith Trigwell, Judging University Teaching, The International Journal for Academic Development, 6(1):65-73

Personality type – INTP

D’arcy Norman (yes, I did borrow the look of my blog from his, though I use my own photos which aren’t quite as accomplished as his) has a post about the results of an online survey which apparently evaluates your temperament type. My results…

You Are An INTP

The Thinker

You are analytical and logical – and on a quest to learn everything you can.
Smart and complex, you always love a new intellectual challenge.
Your biggest pet peeve is people who slow you down with trivial chit chat.
A quiet maverick, you tend to ignore rules and authority whenever you feel like it.

You would make an excellent mathematician, programmer, or professor.

I must say I was a bit skeptical. Last year I was introduced to the Keirsey temperament types and did a much longer, paper-based survey. The result was the same, INTP. In Keirsey language that maks me an Architect Rational.

Does ICT provide choices of learners and learning in higher education

This post contains some initial thoughts for a potential paper for ASCILITE’2007, a conference that has as its theme “ICT: Providing choices for learners and learning”.

The full couple of paragraphs for the conference is

Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) provide many opportunities for learners and learning. High on the list of opportunities is the provision of choice. The informed use of ICT by institutions and their teachers supports flexibility and choice in what is to be learned, how it is learned, when it is learned and how it will be assessed.

The theme for ascilite 2007 focuses on catering for the diversity of learners and learning and how we as educators can provide stimulating and engaging learning environments and experiences for all our learners through the use of ICT in higher education.

The basic structure of my thoughts at the moment go something like this

  • Let’s accept that diversity for students is a good thing.
  • Let’s even accept that diversity in learning/teaching is going to be a given because of individual, discipline and other differences.
  • The trouble is that most learning and teaching at universities within Australia does not offer choices. At the extreme end it closes off choice and diversity.
  • Coates et al (2005) found that three quarters of Australia’s universities use Blackboard or WebCT as their LMS – the main form of ICTs used. They had this to say

    such trends….are somewhat surprising in a sector which claims to strive for diversity and innovation

  • As I’ve argued elsewhere I believe the lack of diversity and choice is because of the teleological design process that underpins every decision at universities.
  • I hope to use later blog posts (and the paper) to argue that the teleological approach and the nature of universities and the people inhabit them make a teleological design process completely inappropriate. I hope to show how an ateleological approach offers greater potential for enabling choice and increasing diversity….and that this is a good thing.


Hamish Coates, Richard James, Gabrielle Baldwin (2005), A Critical Examination of the Effects of Learning Management Systems on University Teaching and Learning, Tertiary Education an Management. 11:19-35

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