How does this align with the literature?
It was evident from the discussion with the students and the interviews with the teacher that a number of events and situations occurred in the course which enabled highly positive learning outcomes of a deep nature for the students. This conclusion is particularly strengthened when considering the views of Marton et al (1997) and Hager (2005) who pose that the highest level of good learning involves learners undergoing some change or development as a person and where learning is not just the development of “propositional understanding, but [also] cognitive, conative and affective capabilities” (Hager, 2005, p662). As well, Biggs (1999), in his analysis of deep learning includes the development of higher order thinking abilities such as analytical and conceptual capacities as desirable outcomes of good learning experiences.
In CG, the students demonstrated awareness of a number of significant personal changes and developments that they called ‘life changing’ and considered were a result of their experiences in the course. The changes they mentioned were cognitive and affective as well as having significant influence in reshaping values they held personally. Specifically, the changes they mentioned included their enhanced abilities to think creatively and confidently express ideas as well as recognising that they related with more respect and had more value for other students and their views. They also understood that they were developing a more sophisticated vocabulary for expressing their thoughts which increased their feelings of confidence.
Significantly, the students did not talk about knowing more, but talked about being challenged to consider issues from new perspectives. Ballanytne et al (1999) define this particular ability to know differently as a highly desirable learning outcome. Given that the objectives of the course were not to acquire content and skills, but to explore ideas and develop intellectual processes for thinking creatively, discovering and solving problems, these declarations of their learning outcomes are highly meaningful.
When talking about their experience of the CG, the students revealed many qualities of good teaching that they had experienced which resonate with the literature of good teaching. From their study, Miley & Gonsalves (2003) identify that students consider equality, respect, friendliness, accessibility and empathy to be highly desirable qualities of good teaching, each of which was mentioned by the students in CG. The students also alluded that their teacher was organised and enthusiastic, which are qualities considered by Miley & Gonsalves (2003) in their study to be positive indicators of good teaching.
In alignment with the national Course Experience Questionnaire indicators for good teaching, which is mentioned in this study because this survey is used to measure good teaching in the university, the teacher revealed that he paid particular attention to issues of ensuring appropriate workload, providing feedback and designing appropriate assessment for students. Also, in resonance with Ramsden’s (1994) qualities of good teaching, it was apparent the teacher was providing students with intellectual challenges, making them responsible for their learning, showing them respect and concern, understanding what students had learnt and what they needed learn, giving them feedback, monitoring the effects of his teaching and engaging in teaching as a conversation where students could learn and develop. The students’ positive comments about their experience of the learning contract model also suggest good learning outcomes that resulted from a direct intersection with a number of qualities of good teaching that specifically encouraged students to engage in independent learning and intellectual challenge as well as realise there was relevance and respect of their work.
In his narrative, the teacher also revealed qualities of good teaching that strongly resonated with the themes from narratives and insights of exemplary teachers from a study conducted by Ballantyne et al, (1999). These key themes included a love or enthusiasm for one’s discipline, valuing students and their perspectives and teaching to make learning possible (Ballantyne et al, 1999). In their discussion, the students particularly reinforced that they had experienced the qualities of feeling valued and respected and being in situations where they were able to learn.
The teacher designed the studio around the theme of a game and this in itself generated much fun and excitement for participants. The theme kept students intrigued and interested. They weren’t just being entertained in lectures but they were actively engaged in their own learning in the workshops and in the peripheral learning they undertook during the week. They recognised that the issues they were exploring in the CG were relevant and ones to which they could make connections to their own lives and experiences. Relevance and fun are also key qualities for good learning (Ballantyne et al, 1999; Marton et al, 1997).