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Teaching Strategies There are a variety of teaching strategies that instructors can use to improve student learning.

The links below will show you some ways to make your classes more engaging.

Active Learning - Active Learning is anything that students do in a classroom other than merely passively listening to an instructor's lecture. Research shows that active learning improves students' understanding and retention of information and can be very effective in developing higher order cognitive skills such as problem solving and critical thinking. Clicker Use in Class - Clickers enable instructors to rapidly collect and summarize student responses to multiple-choice questions they ask of students in class. Collaborative/Cooperative Learning - Cooperative and collaborative learning are instructional approaches in which students work together in small groups to accomplish a common learning goal.They need to be carefully planned and executed, but they don't require permanently formed groups. Critical Thinking - Critical thinking is a collection of mental activities that include the ability to intuit, clarify, reflect, connect, infer, and judge. It brings these activities together and enables the student to question what knowledge exists. Discussion Strategies - Engaging students in discussion deepens their learning and motivation by propelling them to develop their own views and hear their own voices. A good environment for interaction is the first step in encouraging students to talk. Experiential Learning - Experiential learning is an approach to education that focuses on "learning by doing," on the participant's subjective experience. The role of the educator is to design "direct experiences" that include preparatory and reflective exercises. Games/Experiments/Simulations - Games, experiments and simulations can be rich learning environments for students. Students today have grown up playing games and using interactive tools such as the Internet, phones, and other appliances. Games and simulations enable students to solve real-world problems in a safe environment and enjoy themselves while doing so. Humor in the Classroom - Using humor in the classroom can enhance student learning by improving understanding and retention. Inquiry-Guided Learning - With the inquiry method of instruction, students arrive at an understanding of concepts by themselves and the responsibility for learning rests with them. This method encourages students to build research skills that can be used throughout their educational experiences. Interdisciplinary Teaching - Interdisciplinary teaching involves combining two different topics into one class. Instructors who participate in interdisciplinary teaching find that students approach the material differently, while faculty members also have a better appreciation of their own discipline content. Learner-Centered Teaching - Learner-Centered teaching means the student is at the center of learning. The student assumes the responsibility for learning while the instructor is responsible for facilitating the learning. Thus, the power in the classroom shifts to the student. Learning Communities - Communities bring people together for shared learning, discovery, and the generation of knowledge. Within a learning community, all participants take responsibility for achieving the learning goals. Most important, learning communities are the process by which individuals come together to achieve learning goals. Lecture Strategies - Lectures are the way most instructors today learned in classes. However, with todays students, lecturing does not hold their attention for very long, even though they are a means of conveying information to students. Mobile Learning - Mobile Learning is any type of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed location. Online/Hybrid Courses - Online and hybrid courses require careful planning and organization. However, once the course is implemented, there are important considerations that are different from traditional courses. Communication with students becomes extremely important. Problem-Based Learning - Problem-based Learning (PBL) is an instructional method that challenges students to "learn to learn," working in groups to seek solutions to real world problems.

The process replicates the commonly used systemic approach to resolving problems or meeting challenges that are encountered in life, and will help prefer students for their careers. Service Learning - Service learning is a type of teaching that combines academic content with civic responsibility in some community project. The learning is structured and supervised and enables the student to reflect on what has taken place. Social Networking Tools - Social networking tools enable faculty to engage students in new and different means of communication. Teaching Diverse Students - Instructors today encounter a diverse population in their courses and many times need assistance in knowing how to deal with them. Teaching with Cases - Case studies present students with real-life problems and enable them to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real life situations. Cases also encourage students to develop logical problem solving skills and, if used in teams, group interaction skills. Students define problems, analyze possible alternative actions and provide solutions with a rationale for their choices. Team-Based Learning - Team-based learning (TBL) is a fairly new approach to teaching in which students rely on each other for their own learning and are held accountable for coming to class prepared. Research has found that students are more responsible and more engaged when teambased learning is implemented. The major difference in TBL and normal group activities is that the groups are permanent and most of the class time is devoted to the group meeting. Team Teaching - At its best, team teaching allows students and faculty to benefit from the healthy exchange of ideas in a setting defined by mutual respect and a shared interest in a topic. In most cases both faculty members are present during each class and can provide different styles of interaction as well as different viewpoints. Writing Assignments - Writing assignments for class can provide an opportunity for them to apply critical thinking skills as well as help them to learn course content.

Teaching Approaches and Strategies

Until recently, research into learning and teaching in universities has focused on what the teacher does rather than on what the learner does. However, recent research into student learning indicates what your students do in order to learn is of the greatest importance. Following on from this research, educators have developed "learner-centred" or "Student-Centred" pedagogy that has significantly influenced our understanding of university learning and teaching. As Thomas Shuell has said, student-centred teaching is built on the assumption that "what the student does is actually more important in determining what is learned than what the teacher does" (T.J. Shuell, "Cognitive Conceptions of Learning" (1986), 429 ). Therefore, as an important part of our learning and teaching approach, UNSW emphasises student-centred and active learning approaches to engage students in their learning. If you want your student-centred learning activities to be effective, communicate the objectives, benefits and expectations to students so that they feel prepared and supported in their learning. In particular, students who are used to more traditional (teacher-centred) teaching will need this support.

Teaching strategies
The following kinds of activities can be used to facilitate student-centred learning and teaching. Use these strategies to give students a chance to actively engage with the content and to provide variety within the lecture or tutorial:

Brainstorming Case Studies

Debates Discussion Group Work Questioning Simulations Teaching Settings ( Roleplays Scenario-Based Learning Projects

What is brainstorming?
Brainstorming is a large or small group activity that encourages students to focus on a topic and contribute to the free flow of ideas.
1. The teacher may begin a brainstorming session by posing a question or a problem, or by introducing a topic. 2. Students then express possible answers, relevant words and ideas. 3. Contributions are accepted without criticism or judgement and usually summarised on a whiteboard by the teacher or a scribe as the ideas are called out. 4. These ideas are then examined, usually in a open class Discussion format.

Why use brainstorming?

By expressing ideas and listening to what others say, students adjust their previous knowledge or understanding, accommodate new information and increase their levels of awareness. Brainstorming's main purposes are to:

focus students' attention on a particular topic generate a quantity of ideas teach acceptance and respect for individual differences encourage learners to take risks in sharing their ideas and opinions demonstrate to students that their knowledge and their language abilities are valued and accepted introduce the practice of idea collection prior to beginning tasks such as writing or solving problems provide an opportunity for students to share ideas and expand their existing knowledge by building on each other's contributions.

Common issues using brainstorming

Initially, some students may be reluctant to speak out in a group setting, but brainstorming is an open sharing activity which encourages all students to participate. Teachers should emphasise active listening during these sessions. Students should be encouraged to:

listen carefully and politely to what their classmates contribute tell the speakers or the teacher when they cannot hear others clearly and think of different suggestions or responses to share.

Effective brainstorming: how do I achieve it?

1) In a small or large group select a leader and a scribe (or this may be the teacher). 2) Define the problem or idea to be brainstormed. Make sure everyone is clear on the topic being explored. 3) Set up the rules for the session. They should include:

letting the leader have control allowing everyone to contribute suspending evaluation of ideas until all ideas are gathered the validity of all contributions recording each answer, unless it is a repeat setting a time limit and stopping when that time is up.

4) Start the brainstorming. Have the leader select members of the group to share their answers. The scribe should write down all responses, if possible so that everyone can see them. Make sure not to evaluate or criticise any answers until the brainstorming is complete. 5) Once you have finished brainstorming, go through the results and begin evaluating the responses. This can be done quickly by a show of hands to rank the ideas. 6) Some initial qualities to look for when examining the responses include:

looking for any answers that are repeated or similar grouping similar concepts together eliminating responses that definitely do not fit

7) Now that you have narrowed your list down somewhat, discuss the remaining responses as a group. It is important for the teacher to:

establish a warm, supportive environment emphasise that a quantity rather than the quality of ideas is the goal, and that it's okay for students to think outside the box discourage evaluative or critical comments from peers during the ideas-gathering phase encourage and provide opportunity for all students to participate initially emphasise the importance of listening to expressed ideas, and model printing and recording of the ideas, then read each contribution to the group.

How can I adapt brainstorming?

Use this procedure to plan a classroom activity such as a research project, a field trip, a concert or a party. Groups and individuals can use brainstorming to generate pre-writing ideas for projects or assignments. Categorise brainstormed words, ideas and suggestions. Use brainstormed words and sentences for exploring discipline-based jargon.

Case Studies
What are case studies?
Case studies are stories or scenarios, often in narrative form, created and used as a tool for analysis and discussion. They have long been used in higher education, particularly in business and law.

Cases are often based on actual events, which adds a sense of urgency or reality. Case studies have elements of Simulations, although the students tend to be observers rather than participants.

Why use case study?

Case studies are effective ways to get students to practically apply their skills, and their understanding of learned facts, to a real-world situation. They are particularly useful where situations are complex and solutions are uncertain. They can serve as the launching pad for a class discussion, or as a project for individuals or small groups. A single case may be presented to several groups, with each group offering its solutions. Used as a teaching tool, a case study

engages students in research and reflective discussion encourages higher order thinking facilitates creative problem solving allows students to develop realistic solutions to complex problems develops students' ability to identify and distinguish between critical and extraneous factors enables students to apply previously acquired skills creates an opportunity for students to learn from one another.

Case studies bridge the gap between a more teacher-centred Lecture method and pure problem-based learning. They leave room for teachers to give direct guidance, and the scenarios themselves provide hints and parameters within which the students must operate.

Common issues using case studies

The challenges with case studies are similar to those with Discussions:

getting students to talk, and keeping the class moving, pointless arguments, which can throw a case analysis off track.

Since case study analysis is student-led, it can be difficult to get the class to move through various stages of analysis and arrive at a reasonable conclusion.

How to teach effectively with case studies

Case content should usually reflect the purposes of the course, and should align with the course learning outcomes, other teaching strategies and assessment in your course or program.
1) Use complex cases requiring multiple perspectives

A good case has sufficient detail to:

necessitate research and stimulate analysis from a variety of viewpoints or perspectives.

It places the learner in the position of problem solver. Students actively engage with the materials, discovering underlying issues, dilemmas and conflict issues.
2) Assess the process of analysis, not only the outcome

The resolution of a case is only the last stage of a process. You can observe or evaluate:

quality of research structural issues in written material organisation of arguments the feasibility of solutions presented intra-group dynamics evidence of consideration of all case factors.

Case studies may be resolved in more than one manner.

3) Use a variety of questions in case analysis

Various ways to use questions in teaching are discussed in detail on the Questioning page. If you are using the Harvard Business School Case Study Method, when analysing case studies, use a range of question types to enable the class to move through the stages of analysis:

clarification / information seeking (what?) analysis / diagnosis (why?) conclusion / recommendation (what now?) implementation (how?) and application / reflection (so what? what does it mean to you?)

What is debate?
Debating is structured way of exploring the range of views on an issue. It consists of a structured contest of argumentation, in which two opposing individuals or teams defend and attack a given proposition.

Why use debate?

Debate engages learners in a combination of activities that cause them to interact with the curriculum. It:

forces the participants to consider not only the facts of a situation, but also the implications encourages participants think critically and strategically about both their own and their opponent's position encourages engagement with and a commitment to a position, by its competitive nature encourages students to engage in research develops listening and oratory skills provides a method for teachers to assess the quality of students' learning.

Debates are also an opportunity for peers to be involved in evaluation.

How to achieve effective debating

Debates range from formal 3-per-side affirmative and negative teams with established roles of first speaker, whip etc., to more informal but structured arguments for or against a proposition. Here is one method that works:
1. Brainstorm topics and have the students present them as statements with a strong and clear point of view. For example: If introduced, capital punishment would solve the crime problem. Jobs are more important than the environment. 2. Divide the class into teams of 6 (3 in favour of the motion, 3 against it). To start with, it is best if the students debate their own point of view. Spare students can take on the roles of time keeper, adjudicator, chairperson.

3. 4. 5. 6.

Allow sufficient preparation time. It may be best to set the task and allocate positions in advance Set the room up appropriately. The illustration below shows one way this can be done. The chairperson introduces the debate. Debaters speak, in the order (i) Affirmative 1 (ii) Negative 1 (iii) Affirmative 2 etc., for an agreed time, which would vary according to experience and age.

As the group gets more experienced

As the group gets more experienced, it is worth renegotiating many of the "rules" to suit their evolving method of debating. For each team:
1. Introduce topic, team's argument and team. (Speaker 1 in the negative can rebut also.) 2. Rebuttal and continue team's case 3. Rebuttal and summary of team's case

Judging should be equally divided between:

Matter (the content) /10 Manner (how the content was presented) /10, and Method (how well they worked as a team) /10

How can I adapt debating?

Introduce peer adjudication. Use brief, 3-minute debates to practise the skills with less experienced or reluctant students:
1. Students work in groups of four for each topic. Each side has one presenter and one coach to assist in preparation 2. Preparation time is brief, a maximum of 5 minutes to start with 3. One side presents an argument, followed by the other side 4. The class votes on the winning argument through a show of hands.

How can debate be used to evaluate students' learning?

The following can be assessed through debating:

knowledge of content social skills in working with others contextual understanding speaking and listening research skills

Example: Class Debate Ratings Sheet LEVELS OF PERFORMANCE CRITERIA 1 Organization and Clarity: viewpoints and responses are outlined both clearly and orderly. Arguments: reasons are given to support viewpoint. 2 Clear in some parts but not over all 3 Most clear and orderly in all parts Most reasons given: most relevant Many examples/facts given: most relevant 4 Completely clear and orderly presentation Most relevant reasons given in support Many relevant supporting examples and facts given

Unclear in most parts

Few or no relevant reasons given Few or no relevant supporting examples/facts

Some relevant reasons given

Examples and Facts: examples and facts are given to support reasons. Rebuttal: arguments made by the other teams are responded to and dealt with effectively.

Some relevant examples/facts given

No effective Few effective Some effective Many effective counterarguments counterarguments counterarguments counterarguments made made made made Few style features were used convincingly All style features were used, most convincingly All style features were used convincingly

Few style Presentation Style: tone of voice, use features were of gestures, and level of enthusiasm used; not are convincing to audience. convincingly

What is discussion?
An effective discussion moves towards one or two major points, but unlike the Lecture, this process is not controlled by one individual presentation. Rather, the teacher must walk a fine line between controlling the group and letting its members speak.

Why use discussion?

Discussion lets class members work actively with the ideas and the concepts being pursued, and discussion sessions can be an extremely effective in changing behaviour or attitudes. Consequently, teachers use them frequently in instructional situations where the goal is to:

develop problem-solving or critical thinking skills or enable students to articulate a position or an informed opinion.

Common issues using discussion

Most teachers are aware that getting students to talk, and keeping the discussion moving, can be problematic. Another common issue is long digressions or pointless arguments by dominant students or the whole group, which can throw a discussion off track.

How do I achieve effective discussion?

1) Encourage students to contribute

You can direct a discussion by asking Questions before and during the session. The questions should offer a genuine starting point for debate. At the beginning of a discussion session, ask students open-ended or multiple-answer questions such as, "What did you think about a particular chapter (or article)?" These have several advantages:

They decrease the odds that students will be completely unable to answer the question. They encourage multiple viewpoints. It is less likely that the most vocal student in the class will answer and dispose of the question straight away. If you record these multiple responses on the blackboard, you can use them to begin further topics for discussion; students often participate more freely in discussions when they feel their own concerns and ideas have contributed to the agenda. (See Brainstorming)

2) Direct the discussion

Effective discussion leaders know their students' skills and perspectives. They use this knowledge to decide whom to call on to start a discussion moving in the appropriate direction, and to maintain its momentum. Send clear signals about the kind of contributions you want.

If you pose a question that asks for real debate, pause long enough for participants to think and respond; this is referred to as "wait time". Not waiting long enough after posing a question is one of the most frequent errors by beginning teachers. If silence follows after the first person presents an opinion, ask follow-up questions, such as, "How do the rest of you feel about it?" Alternatively, pursue the topic with the first student by asking them to clarify or elaborate, or analyse further (for example, "What reasons do you have for thinking this?" and "How might someone state the opposite perspective on this point?").

Emphasise that students should listen to each other and not just to you. Model this behaviour by:

building on a student's point withholding judgment until several responses are put forward, or listing the multiple responses on the board and asking the students to regroup them.

Simply negating a student's response and asking another student exactly the same question generally does not help to maintain active participation by all students. How you handle students" responses is important; just calling on them can have a stifling effect, especially for quieter members of the group. If a student asks a complex question, or some members of the class don't hear the question, restate it for the whole class.
3) Control the discussion

A vocal student who dominates a group is a common problem in discussions. Another problem can occur when the entire class hijacks the discussion and moves it on to another issue. If you encounter these problems, it may be that the students do not have enough information to engage in the intended discussion. Another possibility is that the topic at hand might be too controversial for them to deal with it objectively. Sometimes, finding out what students are thinking and how they respond to a given question is more important than momentary control. Listen for a while until you see the students' agenda clearly; try to summarise the key points they have made, then, if appropriate, ask the group to connect their points to those you originally made.
4) Aligning discussion with the curriculum

To be truly effective, each discussion session must work within the course as a whole. Never operate without some kind of a curriculum-related plan. Sometimes, your students will comment or raise questions in class that will make you adjust the discussion's objectives, but without a plan to begin with, it is difficult to make these adjustments responsibly. One way to ensure the alignment of discussion with learning objectives is to assign specific tasks before each class, such as setting study questions to provide a common ground for the discussion and focus the students on the goals of the course.

Points to consider

If my students left this discussion with one or two key ideas or insights, what would they be? Who are my students? o What can I assume with absolute certainty that they know? o What evidence do I have for these assumptions? o What misconceptions are they likely to have about the topic? o What misconceptions are they likely to have about what is expected of them in the class? How important is it that we achieve consensus? On which points will I be most tolerant of divergent viewpoints? With which kind of group process am I most comfortable? o Do I want to control the whole agenda, or might the students set part of it? o Do I plan to call on my students? If not, do I have an alternative plan for encouraging participation from the whole group? o How will I handle digressions? What kinds of digressions are likely? How might I make them work for the goals of this session? How does this class session fit in with the last class discussion? With subsequent ones? With the course as a whole? Are there parts of this class that would be better served by the lecture format?

Group Work

Group work or cooperative learning is a method of instruction that gets students to work together in groups. Employers value a person's ability to work cooperatively. Indeed, studies show that they value it more highly than the ability to work independently. This is because, in most contemporary workplaces, people work in teams, which are often cross-disciplinary and quite diverse (DETYA, 2000). The value, to students, of cooperative learning has long been well recognised. This page discusses the use of group work as a fully-fledged teaching strategy that requires students to engage in learning activities within the same group over a period while working on a substantial task with a shared outcome (e.g. a report or a project).

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When to use

In the past two decades there has been a rapid growth in the use of small group learning experiences in higher education (Fink, 2004), where group work is used:

occasionally in small discussion groups in Lectures and Tutorials, or as a fully-fledged teaching strategy that requires students to engage in learning activities within the same group over a period while working on a substantial task with a shared outcome (e.g. a report or a project).

This page discusses the latter use of group work.


Research shows that group work:

allows students to become active participants in their learning helps students develop skills valued by employers (such as problem solving, negotiation, conflict resolution, leadership, critical thinking and time management) exposes students to diverse ideas and approaches acknowledges and utilises individual students' strengths and expertise through discussion, helps students articulate their ideas, refine concepts and develop interpersonal and communication skills allows students to experience situations that resemble the workplace, e.g. authentic real world projects, and facilitates a deeper understanding of course content

For teachers, group-based learning can often reduce the marking and feedback load associated with individual assessment.


Although group work has the potential to encourage positive student learning experiences, research evidence suggests that this potential is not always realised (Fink, 2004, Pieterse & Thompson 2010). Although some students report that their group work projects or tasks are the best learning experiences of University, others find them the worst, and feel reluctant to work in groups again. Some students (particularly students who do not feel confident about their ability to communicate, or to communicate in English) prefer to work independently, and find the group experience challenging and confronting. Added to this tension is group work's appeal for teachers in the face of increasing class sizes and staff workloads (Burdett, 2003). But teachers often underestimate the effort involved in organising effective group work. Staff have commented that group work can be time consuming and difficult to implement. Nevertheless, given the benefits for learning and future employability, it is important that all students have the chance to work in groups during their study at the university. When it comes to developing students group work skills, there is no single best approach or assessment strategy. It all depends on your particular learning and teaching context and objectives. The challenge is to choose a range of strategies that will allow your students to develop effective group work skills within the context of your discipline.


The page Ideas for Effective Group Work is a useful quick guide to some group work strategies you might use. For more in-depth resources, consult the following pages of this website:

Preparing for Group Work All about expectations, group setup, the first meeting, group dynamics, and dealing with uncertainty and change. Developing Students' Group Work Skills Help students learn how to identify group issues, listen reflectively, give constructive feedback, structure discussions, manage their groups, give group presentations and compile reports, review individuals' contributions and deal with common group work issues Facilitating and Monitoring Group Work Your role in facilitating and monitoring group work. Helping Students Reflect on their Group Work Getting your students to monitor their development, reflect on their performance and identify how they can improve.

For advice on using group work for assessment, see Assessing by Group Work in the Assessment Toolkit section of this website.

For how to embed group work in your course and incorporating reflection into skills development, see Integrating Group Work in the Curriculum Design section of this website.

What is questioning?
The art of asking questions is at the heart of effective communication and information exchange, which underpins good teaching. If you use questioning well, you can improve the student learning experience in a whole range of Teaching Settings. Socrates believed that to teach well, an educator must reach into a learner's prior knowledge and awareness in order to help the learner reach new levels of thinking. Recent research into student learning (Biggs and Tang, 2007) and learning from experience (Andresen, Boud and Cohen, 2000) support this view. You can use questions to draw from and build on students' prior knowledge and experience to help them to develop deeper understanding of a topic.

Why use questioning?

Through thoughtful questioning, teachers can not only extract factual information, but help learners:

connect concepts make inferences think creatively and imaginatively think critically, and explore deeper levels of knowing, thinking and understanding.

Developing good questioning skills is particularly important if you use Case Studies in your teaching.

Common issues with questioning

The challenges with questioning are similar to those with Discussions:

getting students to talk, and keeping the discussion moving, pointless arguments, which can throw a discussion off track.

Sometimes lecturers tend to overuse particular types of questions, for example, only factual or only divergent questions (see question types in the table below). This can hinder the development of a good debate, or stop students moving through discussion towards a conclusion.

Effective questioning: how do I achieve it?

Use a variety of question types. Hone your questioning skills by practising asking different types of questions. Monitor your teaching so that you include varied levels of questioning.

Types of questions
There are 5 basic types of questions: factual, convergent, divergent, evaluative and combination. Factual Factual questions solicit reasonably simple, straightforward answers

based on obvious facts or awareness. They are usually at the lowest level of cognitive or affective processes. Answers are frequently either right or wrong. EXAMPLE: What is the name the Shakespeare play about the Prince of Denmark? Answers to convergent questions are usually within a very finite range of acceptable accuracy. These may be at several different levels of cognition (comprehension, application, analysis) or the answerer may have to make inferences or conjectures based on personal awareness, or on material read, presented or known. EXAMPLE: On reflecting on the entirety of the play Hamlet, what were the main reasons why Ophelia went mad? (This is not specifically stated in one direct statement in the text of Hamlet. Here the reader must make simple inferences as to why Ophelia committed suicide.) Divergent questions allow students to explore different avenues and create many different variations and alternative answers or scenarios. Correctness may be:



based on logical projections contextual, or arrived at through basic knowledge, conjecture, inference, projection, creation, intuition, or imagination.

Divergent questions often require students to analyse, synthesise, or evaluate a knowledge base and then project or predict different outcomes. Frequently the intention of these types of divergent questions is to stimulate imaginative and creative thought, or investigate cause-and-effect relationships, or provoke deeper thought or extensive investigations. Be prepared for the fact that there may not be right or definitely correct answers to these questions. EXAMPLE: In the love relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia, what might have happened to their relationship and their lives if Hamlet had not been so obsessed with the revenge of his father's death? Evaluative questions usually require sophisticated levels of cognitive and/or emotional or affective judgment. In attempting to answer evaluative questions, students may be combining multiple logical and/or affective thinking processes, or comparative frameworks. Often an answer is analysed at multiple levels and from different perspectives before the answerer arrives at newly synthesised information or conclusions.


EXAMPLES: a) What are the similarities and differences between the deaths of Ophelia and Juliet? b) What are the similarities and differences between Roman gladiatorial games and modern football? Combination Combination questions blend any combination of the other 4 types.

Tips and techniques

Plan key questions to provide structure and direction to the lesson. Spontaneous questions that emerge are fine, but make sure to plan the overall direction of the discussion. Phrase the questions clearly and specifically. Avoid vague and ambiguous questions. Adapt questions to the level of the students' abilities. Ask questions logically and sequentially. Ask questions at various levels. Follow up on students' responses. Elicit longer, more meaningful and more frequent responses from students after an initial response by: o maintaining a deliberate silence o making a declarative statement o making a reflective statement giving a sense of what the students said o declaring perplexity over the response o inviting elaboration o encouraging other students to comment. Give students time to think (wait time) after you ask a question. Use divergent questions, as the question type that is most likely to produce a range of responses.

What is a simulation?
Simulations are instructional scenarios where the learner is placed in a "world" defined by the teacher. They represent a reality within which students interact. The teacher controls the parameters of this "world" and uses it to achieve the desired instructional results. Students experience the reality of the scenario and gather meaning from it. A simulation is a form of experiential learning. It is a strategy that fits well with the principles of StudentCentred and constructivist learning and teaching. Simulations take a number of forms. They may contain elements of:

a game a role-play, or an activity that acts as a metaphor.

Simulations are characterised by their non-linear nature and by then controlled ambiguity within which students must make decisions. The inventiveness and commitment of the participants usually determines the success of a simulation.

Why use simulations?

Simulations promote the use of critical and evaluative thinking. Because they are ambiguous or open-ended, they encourage students to contemplate the implications of a scenario. The situation feels real and thus leads to more engaging interaction by learners. Simulations promote concept attainment through experiential practice. They help students understand the nuances of a concept. Students often find them more deeply engaging than other activities, as they experience the activity first-hand, rather than hearing about it or seeing it. Simulations help students appreciate more deeply the management of the environment, politics, community and culture. For example, by participating in a resource distribution activity, students might gain an

understanding of inequity in society. Simulations can reinforce other skills indirectly, such as Debating, a method associated with some large-scale simulations, and research skills.

Common issues using simulations

Resources and time are required to develop a quality learning experience with simulations. Assessment of student learning through simulation is often more complex than with other methods. Simulated experiences are more realistic than some other techniques and they can be so engaging and absorbing that students forget the educational purpose of the exercise. If your simulation has an element of competition, it is important to remind the students that the goal is not to win, but to acquire knowledge and understanding.

How to achieve effective teaching with case studies

In a simulation, guided by a set of parameters, students undertake to solve problems, adapt to issues arising from their scenario and gain an awareness of the unique circumstances that exist within the confines of the simulation. Some simulations require one hour, while others may extend over weeks. Scope and content varies greatly. However, similar principles apply to all simulations.
1) Prepare in advance as much as possible

Ensure that students understand the procedures before beginning. Frustration can arise when too many uncertainties exist. Develop a student guide and put the rules in writing. Try to anticipate questions before they are asked. Some simulations are fast-paced, and the sense of reality is best maintained with ready responses. Know what you want to accomplish. Many simulations have more than one instructional goal. Developing evaluation criteria, and ensure that students are aware of the specific outcomes expected of them in advance.

2) Monitor the process closely

Teachers must monitor the simulation process to ensure that students both understand the process and benefit from it. Ask yourself:

Does this simulation offer an appropriate measure of realism for my group of students? Are the desired instructional outcomes well defined? Is the level of ambiguity manageable for this group? Does the student demonstrate an understanding of his/her role? Are problem-solving techniques in evidence? Does the research being generated match the nature of the problem? Is cooperation between participants in evidence? Has the student been able to resolve the issue satisfactorily? Does the student provide meaningful answers to probing questions? Will follow-up activities be necessary?

3) Consider what to assess

You might find it best to use simulations as part of the process of learning rather than as a summative measure of it. Use follow-up activities to establish a measure of comprehension and as a de-briefing

mechanism when students return to reality (e.g. use reflection on the process as the assessable component of the activity, rather than participation in the simulation itself).

Teaching Settings
As a lecturer, you probably teach in both large group and small group contexts. For some academics a large class might be 40 students, for others it might be 400. The definition of "large" and "small" classes can be quite variable depending on: the discipline, the nature of the class (e.g. lecture or lab work), the level of the course (e.g. undergraduate or postgraduate) and the perceptions of lecturers and students. You teach within a context of wider changes in higher education, including: increasing internationalisation, larger numbers of students and increasing numbers of students from non-traditional academic backgrounds. (See also Teaching Diverse Groups) The implications of these changes generally are that as class sizes have increased at UNSW while staff-tostudent ratios have decreased. As a consequence, you might have to organise your teaching in ways that are more compatible with the numbers of students involved, to:

avoid additional stress ensure that you are able to achieve your objectives and from the student perspective, create a more satisfying and effective learning experience.

Teaching settings
The implications of large and small group contexts are discussed in the following pages:

Small Group Teaching Large Group Teaching

Some teaching strategies discussed in these pages can be applied equally well in large and small group teaching. The benefits, challenges and appropriate strategies for the most common teaching contexts in universities are discussed in these pages:

Tutorials Lectures Laboratory or Practical Session Studio Teaching

Assessing with Role Play and Simulation

Role play and simulations are forms of experiential learning (Russell & Shepherd, 2010). Learners take on different roles, assuming a profile of a character or personality, and interact and participate in diverse and complex learning settings. The terms "role play" and "simulation" are sometimes used inconsistently or interchangeably. However, "simulations" often involve a familiar or realistic situation in which a participants role may not be as prominent or distinctive as it would be in a role play. Frequently simulations incorporate role play, leading to the term "role-playing simulation". The difference is generally one of degree rather than kind.

Role plays and simulations function as learning tools for teams and groups or individuals as they "play" online or face to face. They alter the power ratios in teaching and learning relationships between students and educators, as students learn through their explorations and the viewpoints of the character or personality they are articulating in the environment. This student-centered space can enable learner-oriented assessment, where the design of the task is created for active student learning. Students are actively involved in both self and peer assessment and obtain sustainable formative feedback. [See Transcripts of videos]

Using Role Plays in Formative Assessment - Ben Barry & Gail Trapp

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When to use

Good-quality learning design provides opportunities for situated and authentic learning. As Figure 1 indicates, high quality learning is situated in a real-life context and simulates the learning activities of the graduate's employment area. Figure 1: eLearning opportunities to address principles of high-quality learning design (Wills, Leigh & Ip, 2011).
Boud & Prosser: Summary of Principles Engage learners Acknowledge learning context Challenge learners Provide practice Consider learners' prior knowledge and desires and build on their expectations. Consider how the implementation of the learning design is positioned within the broader program of study for the learner. Seek the active participation of learners, encouraging them to be self-critical. Encourage learners to articulate and demonstrate to themselves and their peers what they are learning.

Siemens & Tittenberger: Summary of Principles Social Learning is a social process and knowledge is an emergent property of interactions between networks of learners. Learning occurs within particular situations or contexts, raising the importance of educational activities mirroring actual situations of use. Learners require time to assimilate new information. Learning incorporates a range of theory, engagement, "tinkering" or bricolage, and active construction.

Situated Reflective Multi-faceted

Authentic learning and task design provides students with:

opportunities to reflect on the way knowledge will be gained in real life activities that are authentic in nature modelling of expert performances and processes the opportunity to learn about new perspectives and roles in life opportunities to reflect on learning. opportunities to see how tacit knowledge can be made explicit scaffolding and coaching at critical times in the learning and assessment process assessment that is aligned with learning objectives within the task.

Role plays and simulations significantly contribute to students' learning and assessment when they allow students to view multiple perspectives on their responses in a safe but challenging environment.


Widespread evidence suggests that educators and students experience satisfaction with assessment-aslearning through role play, games and simulation (Russell & Shepherd, 2010). Simulated learning environments (SLEs) provide a safe, supportive environment where students can develop their clinical skills, competency and agency. SLEs are also flexible and controllable, and educators find they can design suitable and varied education events within them. The blended learning environment can provide face-to-face students with a virtual classroom where students and educators can deliver content and interact in a simulated learning environment. This benefits both staff and students; it has, however, meant a shift in practice for the educator as the room changes to accommodate the required infrastructure and seating arrangements. The benefits listed below are attributed to either role plays or simulations; however, some benefits can be attributable to both forms to some extent.

Benefits of assessing by role play

Role play is an excellent means of evaluating decision-making and interpersonal communication skills. Role play is particularly useful to students who will operate in a tense professional environment (e.g. diplomacy, acute or sensitive medical care settings, psychology and counselling) or requires complex decision-making. Scenarios can be scaffolded, gradually increasing in complexity to ensure that students reach a sufficient level of competence. Role plays help you evaluate students' ability to work under pressure and with others, including providing opportunities for inter-professional learning. With online SLEs, students can role play anonymously.

Benefits of assessing by simulation

Simulation is a form of authentic assessment. When exposed to active, experiential, reflective and contextual learning approaches such as simulated environments, students can see the direct relevance of their educational experience to their future practice. Educators can assess a student's preparedness for the practical placement component of their degree. Technology-based forms of simulation can enable instant feedback to students. Simulations are effective means of evaluating students' competencies, such as their professionalism, as well as their content knowledge. In the medical and allied health literature, SLEs are consistently found to have 3 significant benefits. They: o promote an increase in self-efficacy in clinical decision making, o improve clinical communication skills, and o promote greater awareness in students of the role they play in a collaborative care setting.


As with the benefits, the issues are listed here as characteristic of either role plays or simulations; however, some apply to both forms.

Challenges of assessing by role play

Role plays are resource intensive and both costs and available time will constrain them. Constraints can be reduced by developing a bank of role play scenarios and sharing role play resources, as has been done with Project enROLE. Many universities utilise shared training and evaluation centres in the fields of medicine and allied health.You can reduce the setup cost of role plays by utilising the university platform. You can also use many learning designs that are distributed online at no cost. A new platform for learning, requiring students to learn new skills just to participate in the learning, can distract them from the conceptual learning the role play was intended to promote. Institutional Learning Management Systems that require students to tick a box to ensure that each of their posts is anonymous can compromise student anonymity.

Challenges of assessing by simulation

For students who struggle with public speaking or group participation, simulation assessments can create so much anxiety that it affects their performance or participation. It is impossible to genuinely recreate authenticity in a simulated environment. The most you can do is use different aspects of simulation to cater to the assessment needs of the students. Students need to be guided throughout a simulation, and learning must be scaffolded.

It is advisable to flag the timing of simulations with your colleagues, as preparing for a simulation can prevent students from completing other learning and assessment work. Setup costs can be significant. Staff and students' accessibility can present challenges during simulation setup. Facilitators sometimes need to invest significant time learning the tools required to develop a simulation, to track and structure activity and to monitor and communicate with students during simulations. This investment can only benefit their teaching, but expect time-pressed teachers to be resistant at first.


When assessing role plays and simulations, we recommend that you:

align the task with the learning outcomes and structure it accordingly provide clear and explicit information as to what is expected of students ensure that the task is authentic and real-world based scaffold the learning experience, breaking tasks down to manageable size use both formative feedback and summative assessment.

Once debriefing sessions have been held, evaluate the learning design. Gredler (1996) suggests using a 3step evaluative procedure to redesign a role play or simulation:
1. Document the design validity of the innovation. 2. Verify the cognitive strategy and the social interactions using formative feedback and redesign them where needed. 3. Conduct follow-up evaluation and research on specific processes and effects of the learning and assessment.

Role play
Online role play is described by Project EnROLE as having the following characteristics (Wills, Leign & Ip, 2009):

It is designed to increase understanding of real-life human interactions and dynamics. Participants assume someone else's role or place themselves in someone else's situation. Participants undertake authentic tasks in an authentic context. The task involves substantial in-role interaction with other roles for collaboration, negotiation and debate. Interaction between roles takes place substantially online. Learning outcomes are assessable and generate opportunities for student reflection.

These characteristics can also aid in setting up the face-to-face learning environment of a role play or simulation. As Figure 2 demonstrates, adaptive learning in role plays includes modelling and input from students that can alter the learning outcomes. These disciplines can utilise this type of active and adaptive learning and can film it for evaluation (including peer- and self-evaluation). Actors can be used to perform the role of a patient or client, so that students' communication and clinical decision-making skills can be explored. Actors are usually trained in the details of a case, in the array of issues and behaviours a patient or client is likely to present to the health professional, and to replicate the performance from student to student to ensure standardisation of assessment . Studies have shown the level of standardisation achieved is usually very high.

In the following table, Siemens and Tittenberger (2009) outline the ways in which you can use role play with other experiential learning. They enumerate the opportunities that role-based eLearning provides for high-quality learning design and the tools that can be integrated into the learning experiences. The elements of design for authentic eLearning specified by Lombardi (2007) include basing a learning task on real-life problem solving, within a meaningful context. Online role plays embody Lombardi's suggestion that a learning task provide long-term student engagement with learning, involve a variety of resources and perspectives over a sustained period of time, and entail collaborations to promote engaging, open conversation. Figure 2: Role play in comparison with other experiential learning activities (Wills, Leigh & Ip, 2011, modified from Siemens & Tittenberger, 2009).
Type of What is it? learning activity Media forms Technique Technologies Tools


CMAP, Hot Processing Concept mapping, Potato, Google, narrative brainstorming, Word processing MS Office media Lectures, DVDs or buzzwords, software, presentation products, social managing and reading texts crosswords, defining, software, text, image, bookmarking, structuring mind maps, web blogs, wikis, audio, video pageflakes, information search Google reader An environment that changes according to learner input


Simulations, games


Virtual worlds, models, Second Life, simulations, games MMORPG

Communicative Discussing

Asynchronous or synchronous discussions, chats, text messages

Reasoning, arguing, coaching, debate, discussion, negotiation, performance

Electronic whiteboards, email, discussion boards, chat, instant messaging, VOIP, videoconference, web conferencing, blogs, wikis Creative applications (image editing, CAD, design software) computer-aided assessment tools, electronic learning environments

Online bulletin board, Skype, IM, Facebook, social bookmarking, blogs, wikis


Learners producing something

Creating, producing, writing, drawing, composing, synthesising, remixing, mashups Practising, applying, mimicking,

Artefact, book report, thesis, essay, exercise, journalling, literature review, multiple choice questions, puzzles, voting portfolio, product, test

Indesign, Photoshop, YouTube, Google Video, Office software, Sketch


Interactive activities that focus on

Case study, Virtual lab, 3D experiment, immersive laboratory, field trip,

Google Earth, MMORPG, Second

problem solving

experiencing, exploring, investigating, performing

game, role playing, scavenger hunt



Online role play/simulation

Important steps in the process:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Design the problem. Design the rules and roles. Set up the scenario. Assign student roles. Consider the practical limitations of playing out the simulation, and make adjustments to the task design as necessary. Develop moderation and other necessary skills. Assess the technological requirements and develop them as necessary. Assist in developing students' skills in asynchronous posting online. Develop students' understanding of the "story" that accumulates as they post. Develop their skills in reflective practice; use a blog, journal or wiki space during the role play or simulation, and afterwards to assess students' participation and to evaluate the role play or simulation as a learning experience.

You can use role play and simulation within a game, or use a game within a role play or simulation. Games are engaging, can be highly authentic and can incorporate a competitive element, up to and including advancement to the next stage or problem, or winning a prize at the conclusion of the game. Game feedback is generally immediate, reinforcing the students application of subject matter knowledge. The success of using games in learning relies on the application of strict rules. In the academic setting they should meet 2 requirements (Gredler, 1996):

Random factors should not contribute to winning. Winning should depend on the application of knowledge of the subject matter.

Games have 4 general purposes in learning and assessment, says Gredler:

for practice and refinement of skills to aid in identifying gaps or weaknesses in knowledge for review or evaluation to learn new ways of investigating concepts and principles in the learning of problem-solving skills.

Crookall and Saunders (1989) view academic games as a simulationa representation of an authentic realworld system that can itself take on some aspects of reality for participants or users. Games are useful tools as feedback responses for students; a key characteristic of game learning is that one cannot progress to the next stage of a game without gaining the knowledge to accomplish the requisite task. Groups as diverse as the American military and the National Association of Home Builders in the United States invest in games that represent and instruct their particular content and views (Squire, 2006). "Serious games" such as the US Army's America's Army are designed to impart their content by immersion of the players in game-playing activities.

Simulations have the "potential to develop students' mental modes of complex situations as well as their problem solving strategies" (Gredler, 1996). You can use experiential simulations in a number of strategic ways for groups or individual students, and assess them using various techniques. Some examples of simulations are:

data managementoften team-oriented and containing variables that are manipulated diagnostic and crisis managementcause and effect contingencies are drawn from real cases; experts aid in the working through of the task. social-processThese simulations require the learners to personally interact with the situations, and can have unexpected outcomes.

Experiential learning that focuses on the interactive activities of problem solving fits with Kolbs experiential learning cycle (Kolb (1984). Kolb differentiates learners according to which feature of the experiential learning cycle they prefer: concrete experience, active experimentation, reflective observation or abstract conceptualisation. Kolb (1984) developed this concept of the learning process to "ensure that teaching and tutoring activities give full value to each stage of the process. This may mean that for the tutor or mentor, a major task is to 'chase' the learner round the cycle, asking questions which encourage reflection, conceptualization, and ways of testing the ideas" (Atherton, 2010).
Assessing simulations

In the course outline, give students adequate warning of the workload requirement for the simulation. This gives them a chance to opt out if their current load is already heavy. Arm students with the required content. Have them work on a position paper and an objective sheet from the initial stages. Conduct surveys before and after the simulation, and implement a debrief questionnaire. Dedicate the final class to debriefing the students about the process and evaluating the learning within the simulated environment.

Virtual reality and other online learning tools

Virtual reality and other online tools can play an important role in both online teaching and simulated environments. They provide what Russell and Shepherd (2010) referred to as optimal elements of learning design, a complex social learning space and reflective practice. Educators commonly combine these simulated environments for assessment. For example, combining a parttask trainer within a role play scenario, or a DVD can create a high-fidelity simulation environment. Low-fidelity SLEs such as case studies and role-plays are being overlooked "despite an established base of research to support their effectiveness". Published research does indicate that higher fidelity is better; however, the effectiveness of any simulation technology depends on how it is used (Beaubien & Baker, 2004, 55).
High- and medium-fidelity mannequins

Mannequins are commonly used by medical and allied health disciplines to assess clinical competency, such as self-confidence, clinical judgment, interpersonal communication and inter-professional teamwork. More common to the medical and allied health disciplines are part-task trainers, which utilise anatomical models or computer software models that replicate a specific physical intervention; for instance, a spinal simulator to assess physiotherapy students' ability to perform passive oscillatory movements.