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Reflecting on our teaching practice to bring about a more student-centred approach to learning and promote “deeper” learning by the students

Authors: Alan O'Donnell - Niall Delaney


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3. Methodology

We have examined the theory elements of the Carpentry and Joinery programme with a view to finding a viable alternative assessment to the current format. To enable this, it was necessary to try out different forms of learning and teaching, and then assess which forms of learning worked more effectively for the students or promoted a greater understanding of the knowledge. The project was conducted over two semesters involving 110 students from phase 4 and phase 6 of the Carpentry and Joinery program. Within each semester there was a focus group of one class (approximately 16 students per class) with which we applied controls and sampled differing learning and teaching methodology. It was primarily within the focus groups, outside of normal structured lessons, that we sampled the differing teaching and learning. We attempted to examine the depth of this learning by offering two alternative summative exams at the end of term, an open book exam and multiple choice exams, and also by a problem-based task within the term. With the three assessment options, the students were presented with quality assurance questionnaires, feedback and mini-interviews in relation to assessment, learning and teaching.

3.1 Strategy

A four point strategy was developed to move the teaching towards a student centred focus. 1. to make the student more active in acquiring knowledge and skills 2. to make the student more aware of what they are doing and why they are doing it 3. to increase the interaction of the student in class 4. to develop core transferable skills

3.1.1 Strategy one

The first strategy was to make the student more active in acquiring knowledge and skills. A problem based task was offered to the focus groups. The student set about with their peers in sourcing and developing the information required for a task they could face in their future work. The students were introduced to differing books and sources of information, encouraged to collaborate and work in teams. However the end product was the studentsí work and formative feedback was provided on this work. No assessment grade was given. Also, part of this strategy was working towards the summative exam. An open book exam was proposed. The exam focus was on acquiring knowledge and skills in a wider context than previously taught, as there was less focus on the memorizing. The teaching of theory leaned toward the wider understanding and application of the knowledge and where to source it. Tutorial questions were asked of the student in class. The student would have to research the answer and study the broader context of the subject. It is important to note that no answers were directly attainable from the text, but could only be answered by demonstrating a broad understanding and application of the knowledge. A multiple-choice exam was introduced also as a summative exam option. This was a diversion from the original plan, but the students were willing and wished to explore alternative exam options.

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