About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 6712-6717
Publication year: 2016
ISBN: 978-84-608-8860-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016.0457

Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain

TEACHING AS TASK DESIGN: AN ACTIVITY-BASED APPROACH TO STUDENT LEARNING

V. Gynnild

Norwegian University of Science and Engineering (NORWAY)
This study reports on an educational development project in science and engineering aimed to enhance conceptual understanding. It explores the view that higher education teaching should pay more attention to the planning phase, or design, not only interactive teaching. In this case, a thorough revision of a third-year science course was conducted, including reorganizing major components and redrafting set tasks in exercises and exams. These interventions were motivated by consistent high failure rates and generally poor learning outcomes. Despite various minor interventions in lectures, the professors had come to the realization that a focus shift was needed. Tasks and questions are vital for learning, and therefore of great interest.

The course under scrutiny consisted of two parts that had previously been taught separately. In the merged course, grades were assigned on the basis of aggregate scores on a scale ranging from 0-100. The course team enjoyed favorable feedback until a policy decision mandated a minimum of 40 points in each part in order to achieve an overall pass. By this, the failure rate was raised instantly from 15 to 30 per cent. This caused a thorough examination of the entire course, including analysis of tasks offered in tutorials, and questions asked at the exam. Based on this, a severe misalignment was uncovered in terms of that nature of tasks offered in exercises and at the exam. Students were good at demonstrating procedural skills and facts; however, deep learning of key concepts and their implications was missing.

Based on this observation, the following research question was raised: How can task design be utilized to meet demands of constructive alignment, as well as enabling students to achieve set learning objectives? During this session, analytical tools to craft conceptual tasks will be presented, as well as the theoretical rationale behind the new approach to teaching. It fundamentally differs from transmission theories in that the focus of attention is on drivers of learning and student engagement. It draws on the argument that the construct of ‘teaching’ needs to be redefined, and that its ontological and epistemological underpinnings clarified. Yet the effects of any intervention in complex systems are never fully predictable, effects of measures can be examined in learning outcomes and inform later interventions.

Given increasing demands directed towards higher education, it is simply inadequate to conceive of teaching solely as transmission of knowledge, while leaving other variables unattended. Institutions adopting a design approach will find themselves better placed to cope with the needs of students and the changing nature of higher education. This study introduces conceptual tools as well as practical methods to increase student engagement as determined by intended learning outcomes. The study draws on theories of human agency rather than on transmission theories of teaching, and outlines ways in which academics’ design skills can be enhanced as part of an introductory program for new academic staff.
@InProceedings{GYNNILD2016TEA,
author = {Gynnild, V.},
title = {TEACHING AS TASK DESIGN: AN ACTIVITY-BASED APPROACH TO STUDENT LEARNING},
series = {8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN16 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-608-8860-4},
issn = {2340-1117},
doi = {10.21125/edulearn.2016.0457},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/edulearn.2016.0457},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {4-6 July, 2016},
year = {2016},
pages = {6712-6717}}
TY - CONF
AU - V. Gynnild
TI - TEACHING AS TASK DESIGN: AN ACTIVITY-BASED APPROACH TO STUDENT LEARNING
SN - 978-84-608-8860-4/2340-1117
DO - 10.21125/edulearn.2016.0457
PY - 2016
Y1 - 4-6 July, 2016
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN16 Proceedings
SP - 6712
EP - 6717
ER -
V. Gynnild (2016) TEACHING AS TASK DESIGN: AN ACTIVITY-BASED APPROACH TO STUDENT LEARNING, EDULEARN16 Proceedings, pp. 6712-6717.
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