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Blended learning: Planning teaching methods for active student participation

Photo of Marita Ljungqvist, Senior Lecturer.

When you start teaching using the flipped classroom or make use of digital media to free up time for more active student participation methods in the classroom, you might sometimes feel that it is difficult to come up with meaningful activities for the students to spend time on now that there is a time surplus in the classroom, especially if you were previously used to lecturing for a large proportion of that time. How can you get started creating meaningful activities for students that help them progress in their learning?

Photo: private.

Learning outcomes as a starting point

It is often a good idea to review learning outcomes for the course you are teaching. Even if you are only teaching part of a course or a number of components, you might be well served by sitting down and thinking about how the learning outcomes in the syllabus are reflected in the course content you are going to teach, and what they mean in terms of what students are expected to learn to do. Perhaps the learning outcomes mean that students are to be able to discuss, critically reflect upon and apply a method or theory, or perhaps they need to work in groups in order to practice the skills and knowledge that the outcomes describe. 

Translating learning outcomes into activities

One starting point that can be useful when seeking to ‘translate’ learning outcomes into activities may be to use Laurillard’s (2012) six learning types. Laurillard describes six categories of activities according to the way that the student engages with the content. These are:

Acquisition: when learning occurs through reading, listening or watching (e.g. books/articles, radio programmes or videos).

Investigation: when learning occurs through investigation, comparing, evaluating or analysing (e.g. by conducting searches in databases, collecting and analysing data, comparing texts, evaluating information).

Discussion: when learning occurs through discussing ideas with others (e.g. in the classroom or in a discussion forum, in groups or whole class).

Practice: when learning occurs by testing ideas and receiving feedback (e.g. through experiments, the application of theories in text or other media etc., or through multiple-choice tests). The feedback can be given automatically (e.g. through online quizzes) or by classmates or teaching staff. 

Production: when learning is reinforced through actively producing something that demonstrates what you have learned (e.g. a text, a film, a model or an oral presentation).

Collaboration: when learning occurs through collaboration towards a joint goal, in which several other learning activity categories are also often included. We often call this group work. It may, but does not have to, be concluded with a joint or individual production, such as an oral presentation or a text.

Course conditions

Based on the learning outcomes and the course content, the types of learning categories can help you to analyse what kinds of activities may be most suitable for students to undertake, both inside and outside the classroom, in order to practice the knowledge and the skills that they are expected to develop. Certain types of activity are likely to be more suitable than others, and some media more appropriate than others. Here, as well as course content, you may need to think about other constraints such as time, resources, course level and student group. You may want students to discuss certain issues relating to the course content, since it is a skill that leads to the achievement of one or more learning outcomes. In that case, you might contemplate which questions are best suited to classroom discussion – where the teaching staff can raise things that require clarification in a whole-group scenario – and which are suitable for a discussion forum where students have more time to reply. Teaching staff can then raise thoughts and questions that have arisen in a future session. More inexperienced students may need more support and guidance and classroom discussions might therefore be best suited to the beginning of the course. Students who are accustomed to and know each other may be able to manage quite a lot on their own. Students who take longer to formulate their thoughts may feel more secure when they are given more time and can write down their answers, while students with reading and writing difficulties might prefer to answer questions orally. Here, as ever when planning learning activities it may be useful to think about variety, and attempt to vary the activities as far as is possible. 

Digital support for teaching activities inside and outside the classroom

When students are working with course content outside the classroom, it is natural that they often use the course platform, when the teaching staff have provided the opportunity to do so. Certain activities inside the classroom can also be reinforced by digital tools and platforms such as the polling tool Mentimeter – which also provides the opportunity for anonymity – but sometimes analogue methods (such as voting via a show of hands or handing in an answer on a piece of paper) are just as efficient and convenient. Padlet can be a useful tool for gathering information from various groups’ discussions, and it also provides the opportunity for students to go back and look at what they’ve written afterwards. An analogue method for the same kind of group work is to let the students draw mind maps in groups, or make notes on large sheets of paper on the table, before they go around and look at what other groups have written, or move between tables to develop ideas in new constellations. Multiple-choice tests in Canvas could, for example, be a compliment to a video that students have watched, and when done well they can provide both students and lecturers with the opportunity for valuable feedback. You can also encourage students to write down their reflections on paper after a lecture (e.g. around questions such as: “What was the most important thing you learned from this lecture?” or “What question are you still grappling with?”). Giving students five minutes to do this can be incredibly efficient in getting them to reflect on their own learning and review what has been said, and if the lecturer collects these answers they can also be used as information for future teaching. 


Finally: you can use trial and error to see what best suits a particular course. It may be useful to make small changes during a new running of the course – rather than attempting to change all the activities on a course at once – and then evaluating in terms of what the students thought, the result of the course and how you feel that the activities went. 

Contact details

Marita Ljungqvist
Lecturer in Higher Education Development at AHU (Division for Higher Education Development at Lund University)
marita [dot] ljungqvist [at] ahu [dot] lu [dot] se

Read more about Marita Ljungqvist in Lund University’s research portal – portal.research.lu.se

For references and further reading

Laurillard, D. (2012) Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology, third edition, Routledge.

Link to the book – routledge.com

Read more about the Mentimeter and Padlet tools

Mentimeter is a digital tool for increasing involvement and interactivity with participants in lectures, meetings and events.

Information about Mentimeter

Padlet is a tool for creating digital collaboration spaces that are easy to share between participants.

Information about Padlet