Models of Teaching and Learning

Models of learning and teaching
Dr. Charles Buckley
Dr. Jo Maddern
Learning outcomes
At the end of this session participants will be able to:
• Evaluate critically some of the key issues
associated with variation theory and threshold
• Assess the practicality of, and ways that the
above theories might inform practice.
• Reflect critically on personal conceptions of
learning and teaching in relation to a selection of
theoretical propositions covered in the session.
Threshold Concepts
“…In certain disciplines there are ‘conceptual
gateways’ or ‘portals’ that lead to a previously
inaccessible, and initially perhaps ‘troublesome’
way of thinking about something.” (Meyer and Land,
2005, p. 373).
Hegemony (cultural studies)
Threshold Concepts
‘Retracing own days of innocence’ (Cousin, 2006)
– Identify the key threshold concepts (2-3)
related to your discipline .
– Retrace your journey.
– Explain to a colleague.
– Listen and reflect.
5 key characteristics of threshold
1. Transformative
Ontological as well as conceptual shift.
2. Irreversible
Once understood, unlikely to forget.
3. Integrative
Exposes the hidden relatedness of a phenomenon.
5 Key characteristics of threshold
4. Bounded
Will have frontiers…
5. Troublesome
Likely to involve ‘troublesome knowledge’ which is
counter-intuitive, alien, or seemingly incoherent
(Meyer and Land, 2003, p.7).
Liminal states and curriculum design
Rites of passage (e.g. van Gennep, 1960 and
Turner, 1969):
Streamed video Cousin (2006)
– Transformative
– New knowledge and status
– Problematic
– Transformation protracted with oscillation
– Demonstrates mimicry of new status
“Learning is both affective and cognitive and it
involves identity shifts which can entail
troublesome, unsafe journeys. Often students
construct their own conditions of safety
through the practice of mimicry… in this case,
learning is the product of ritualised
understandings” (Cousin, 2006: p. 5) .
Threshold concepts and curriculum
1. Jewels in the curriculum (Land et al., 2006)
“A tendency among academic teachers is to stuff their
curriculum with content, burdening themselves with
the task of transmitting vast amounts of knowledge
bulk and their students of absorbing and reproducing
this bulk. In contrast, a focus on threshold concepts
enables teachers to make refined decisions about what
is fundamental to a grasp of the subject they are
teaching. It is a ‘less is more’ approach to curriculum
design.” (Cousins, 2006, p.4)
2. Listening for understanding
‘gaze back across thresholds’
cultivate a ‘third ear that listens not for what a
student knows… but for the terms that shape
a student’s knowledge’ (Land et al., 2006,
3. A ‘holding environment’
tolerate learner confusion and ‘hold’
their students through liminal states.
4. Recursiveness and excursiveness
Learning involves a number of ‘takes’ and
looping back on conceptual material – critique
of linear approach.
Learning is also a journey or ‘excursion’
Variation theory
• Meyer and Land (2005) argue that supporting
students’ understanding towards grasping
threshold concepts is enhanced by focusing on
the notion of variation. At a basic level:
Variation theory
The variation theory of learning is based on
the idea that for learning to occur, variation
must be experienced by the learner. Without
variation there is no discernment, and without
discernment there is no learning. (Marton &
Trigwell, 2000).
Blended learning
• Blended learning can involve students learning
through experiencing variation in aspects of
what it is that they are studying (Oliver and
Trigwell, 2005).
• Improvements in students’ performance
attributed to an increase in choice (e.g.
Entwistle & Ramsden, 1983; Ramsden, 1991,
Blending for variation
• Careful planning based on sound pedagogical
• Forms?
– Instruction
– Mixed media
– Encouraging students to identify their own views and
relating those views to the scientific views
– Letting students be confronted with each other’s
views is a most powerful pedagogical tool (Fazey and
Marton, 2002, p. 239)
Examples of variation using networked technologies.
Echo 360
Brenda Smith Podcast
Variation in learning
within disciplines
In a group of three/four with colleagues from
a similar discipline(e.g. within humanities,
social sciences, arts, etc.), discuss how you
might use principles of variation theory in a
level 2 undergraduate module.
Blended learning and students’
approaches to study
Approaches to learning are markedly influenced
by the teaching and learning environment
(Kember et al., 2008).
Buckley et al., (2007) Sport students’ approaches
to study and blended learning
– 52 ASSIST survey n=144
– 23 item questionnaire: conceptions of learning
– Judgements about Networked Learning Scale
(Goodyear et al., 2003)
– Focus group interviews n=19
Residential fieldwork trip,
group presentation,
reflective portfolio
regular asynchronous
web searching,
RSS feeds,
Kolb Learning Style Inventory
(Kolb, 1985) and The Learning
Styles Questionnaire (Honey &
Mumford, 1986).
Findings and implications
Students with Deep and Strategic approaches somewhat more
comfortable with a blended learning environment than Surface
Being actively involved in doing and/or having a visual stimulus
“I personally prefer like videos and pictures and sound bytes
rather than just like 19 slides of black and white, You
remember if like there’s a funny video or if there’s just like a
video, of an athlete, like I don’t know running or something
like that it soaks in a bit, better because you can relate to
what you’ve learned already” (David)
Students should be:
• encouraged to reflect and offered critical guidance on
understanding the way they approach study within a
blended learning environment. (In line with existing
research e.g. Thorne, 2003; Sharpe et al., 2006).
• empowered and encouraged to take on responsibilities
e.g. make contributions to course content. (In line with
Pritchard et al., 2006;). Provide for shared learning
experiences through communal constructivism(In line
with Buckley and Donert, 2004 and Holmes and
Gardner, 2006).
Changing Conceptions of Teaching
Think-Do-Think or Do-Think-Do?
“The discomfort of change is eased when people
anticipate and plan how to manage it. One effective
plan for overcoming the theory-or-practice dilemma
described above is to aim to combine theory and
practice into one rhythm of effort. In practical terms,
that means taking either a think-do-think approach
to enculturating thinking dispositions in the
classroom, or a do-think-do approach.” (Tishman, Jay
and Perkins, 1992).
• By focusing on threshold concepts you create
more space in the curriculum.
• Understanding of threshold concepts can be
cultivated through variation.
• Threshold concepts and variation encourage a
deeper approach to learning
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