Noel Entwistle

  • Ways of thinking and ways of teaching across contrasting subject areas

    Noel Entwistle, University of Edinburgh

    Research paper

    This paper will discuss the findings of the four-year ESRC/TLEP project on "Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments in Undergraduate Courses". The project has involved working collaboratively with colleagues in 25 course units across 15 British universities in four subject areas.

    Background to the study

    The collaboration was carried out over two academic sessions in most of the units, with the first-year collecting baseline data, based on over 6700 questionnaires and over 100 group interviews with students , as well as extensive discussions with staff. Analyses of these data suggested ways in which the teaching-learning environment might be enhanced, and these were discussed with departmental collaborators. As a result, collaborative initiatives were developed in most of the units and were implemented during the second year of the collaboration. Equivalent data were collected during this second year and compared with those collected during the baseline year.

    From analyses of both years and the comparison between them, we have been looking at similarities and differences in the teaching-learning environments provided in contrasting settings across the four subject areas, using the notions of 'ways of thinking and practising in the subject', 'congruence of aims, teaching and assessment', 'threshold concepts', 'delayed understanding', adequacy of feedback and the 'inner logic' of teaching within the subject area. The paper will illustrate the findings through the themes emerging from the qualitative analyses of the interviews, as well as cluster analyses within each subject area to examine the relationships between approaches to studying, experiences of the teaching-learning environment (including assessment and feedback on course work), the knowledge and skills believed to have been acquired, and grades awarded.

    The focus of the paper

    The paper, presented on behalf of the whole project team, will provide an overview of the conclusions emerging from the project. Clearly, this will involve the main concepts that are mentioned above, but with no further explanation, as these have been covered in previous papers to previous conferences. As the strength of the study depends on the ways in which quantitative and qualitative analysed have been used together in reaching conclusions it will be essential to show this process. To keep the focus tight, however, this paper will draw on the findings relating specifically to electronic engineering, to illustrate the ways in which the concepts, used more generally in the project, apply to a particular content area. Discussion will be encouraged of the implications of our approach to research into student learning and the implications for educational development in higher education.