7 Teachinglearning environments in contemporary mass higher education
The concern of this chapter is with research into undergraduate course settings as teaching-learning environments, in which how and what students learn may be subject to a range of direct and indirect influences. The chapter discusses findings from a large-scale ESRC-funded project concerned with the investigation and enhancement of teaching-learning environments in undergraduate courses in contrasting subject areas. The findings presented in this chapter are focused on student and staff experiences and perceptions of first- and final-year course units in three bioscience departments, and draw on both questionnaire and semi-structured interview data. The outcomes of the research are distinctive in two principal respects. First, the concept of ways of thinking and practising in a subject is introduced as a promising means of encapsulating key facets of high-quality learning, particularly in the later years of study. These are not confined to knowledge and understanding but also include subject-specific skills, an evolving familiarity with the values and conventions of scholarly communication within a discipline and an understanding of how new knowledge is generated within the field. Secondly, building on Biggs' model of constructive alignment, the concept of congruence is introduced as a broader framework for investigating and analysing aspects of teaching-learning environments that reflects contemporary mass higher education. Four dimensions of congruence are highlighted in this chapter: teaching-learning activities, assessment and the provision of feedback to students, students' backgrounds and aspirations, and course organization and management.
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