Learning design and student engagement
Learning design and the need for student engagement requires a practical, evidenced-based course design model with applications of technology to improve student learning outcomes and student satisfaction. The student-centered learning design model is called RASE. The model has four components: Resources, Activity, Support and Evaluation (RASE) (Churchill, King, & Fox, 2013).
The RASE model is based on what is considered important for ensuring quality in learning and teaching and can be used in almost every program and course. Central to the RASE is the notion that content or resources are not sufficient for full achievement of the learning outcomes. In addition to resources, teachers need to consider:
- Activity - for students to engage in using resources and working on tasks such as experiments and problem solving leading through experience towards achieving learning outcomes set
- Support - to ensure that students are provided help, and where possible with tools to independently or in collaboration with other students solve emerging difficulties. This support includes peer, course tutor and technology support.
- Evaluation - to provide structured information to guide students' progress and to serve as a tool for understanding what else we need to do to ensure that learning outcomes are being achieved.
The figure below is a visual summary of the RASE pedagogical model.
Figure 1: RASE pedagogical model
Resources include (a) content, e.g., lectures, textbooks, journal articles, digital media, (b) materials, e.g., chemicals for an experiment, paint and canvas, and (c) tools that students use when working on their activity, e.g., laboratory tools, brushes, calculators, rulers, statistical analysis software, word processing software. When integrating technology resources in teaching, it should be done in a way that leads students to learn with, rather than just learn from these resources.
An activity is a critical component for full achievement of the learning outcomes. An activity provides students with an experience where learning occurs in the context of emerging understanding, testing ideas, generalizing and applying knowledge. Resources, such as conceptual model learning objects, are elements that student use while completing their activity. The following are two key characteristics of an effective activity:
1. An activity must be ‘student-centered’
- It focuses on what students will do to learn, rather than on what students will remember
- Resources are tools in students’ hands
- Teachers are facilitators who participate in the process
- Students produce artifacts that demonstrate their learning progress
- Students learn about the process
- Students develop new literacies
2. An activity must be ‘authentic’
- It contains real-life scenarios and often ill-defined problems
- It reassembles professional practice
- It uses tools specific to professional practice
- It results in artifacts that demonstrate professional competence, not only knowledge
The following are examples of what an activity may be:
- A design project (e.g., design an experiment to test a hypothesis)
- Case study (e.g., a case of how a scientist identified new physics regularity)
- A problem-solving learning task (e.g., minimizing friction in a design of a wakeboard)
- Develop a documentary movie on a specific area of interest (e.g., GM food pros and cons)
- A poster to promote a controversial scientific issue (e.g., Nuclear energy)
- Planning a field day for your cohort
- Developing software to control mechanical transfer of power
- Role-play (e.g., defending a science experiment with small animals)
Outcomes of an activity can be: a conceptual artifact (e.g., an idea or a concept presented in a written report), a hard artifact (e.g., a model of an electric circuit), a soft artifact (e.g., a computer-based creation). Artifacts produced by students should undergo reviews and revisions before final submission and might involve presentations in class or online. These artifacts must be evaluated in various ways so that students can receive timely feedback to reflect upon and take further actions towards more coherent achievement of learning outcomes. Feedback can be given by teachers, peers, and/or invited experts from the community/professions.
‘Support’ provides students with a scaffold while enabling them to develop learning skills and independence. Support can be broadly categorized into pedagogical, administrative and technical. This section focuses on the pedagogical support. For teachers, ‘Support’ reduces redundancy and workload. Support might anticipate student difficulties, such as understanding an activity, using a tool or working in groups. Teachers can track and record ongoing difficulties and issues that need to be addressed during learning, and share these with students. Three modes of support are possible: teacher-student, student-student, and student-artifact (additional resources). Support can take place in a classroom and in online environments such as through forums, Wikis, Blogs and social networking spaces.
Often support can anticipate the needs of students. Depending on the course, proactive support structures such as FAQs can be planned and implemented in the light of anticipated needs. The objective of anticipatory support is to ensure students have access to a body or resources when they need support, rather than just being dependent of asking teachers for help. Here are some specific strategies:
- Build a body of resources and materials which form a FAQ Page
- Create a "How Do I?" or "Help Me" Forum
- Create a Glossary of course-related terms
- Use checklists and rubrics for activities
- Use other social networking platforms and synchronous tools such as chat and Skype
Overall, support should aim to lead students to become more independent learners. Teachers should give frequent, early, positive feedback that supports students' beliefs that they can do well. Students also need rules and parameters for their work. For example, before a student asks a teacher for help, they might first ask their classmates through one of the Forums and/or search the Internet for solutions to their problems.
Evaluation of student learning during the semester is an essential part of effective student-centered learning experiences. The evaluation needs to be formative in order to enable students to constantly improve their learning. An activity should require students to work on tasks, and develop and produce artifacts that evidence their learning. This evidence of student learning enables the teacher to monitor student progress and provide further formative guides to help improve students’ learning achievement. Students need to record their progress in completing the tasks set, so they too can monitor their learning and the improvements they make. Rubrics can be provided to enable students to conduct self-evaluation. Evaluation can also be conducted by peers. Here are few points why evaluation is important to student learning:
- Offers feedback on work and identifies where students are in their learning
- Offers opportunities for students to improve their work
- Enables students to become more effective and motivated learners
- Helps students become more independent and self-directed learners
Putting it all together
The following set of recommendations might be useful to teachers in developing their courses and learning units based on RASE.
Before beginning, teachers need to:
- Ensure that specific course learning outcomes are aligned with overall program learning outcomes
- Identify courses required to achieve learning outcomes
- Align assessment, courses and learning outcomes
These should be presented in the overall Course Outline document where details of the course, including learning outcomes, schedule and topics, and information about evaluation/assignments, etc. are clearly presented and aligned with each other. Once done, developing and presenting learning units can include:
- Describe a topic
- Present learning outcomes
- Describe what to expect and what to do if Support is required
- Explain prerequisites and how to build on previous learning
- Describe an Activity
- Explain the tasks within the activity
- Provide instructions about how to proceed initially
- Describe deliverables (artifacts to be produced), provide templates if any, provide examples of deliverables if any
- Present standards for Evaluation and provide rubrics
- Provide self-check and peer evaluation forms as required
- Explain support options
Resources to include, such as:
- Notes, articles and books
- Presentations, demonstrations and recorded/virtual and real lectures
- Interactive material - conceptual models and other forms of learning objects
- Software tools
- Support tools
We also need to specify what is expected from evaluation and how it will be conducted, so that students have clear reference points for their work.
A revised version of this information about the RASE with extensive additions has been published in a journal and a summary published in a conference paper:
- Churchill, D., King, M, & Fox, B. (2013). Learning design for science education in the 21st century. Journal of the Institute for Educational Research, 45 (2), 404-421.
- Churchill, D., King, M., Webster, B., & Fox, B. (2013). Integrating learning design, interactivity, and technology. In H. Carter, M. Gosper, J. Hedberg (Eds.), Electric Dreams. Proceedings ACILITE 2013 Sydney. (pp. 139-143). Retrieved 15 August 2017 from http://www.ascilite.org/conferences/sydney13/program/papers/Churchill.pdf
RASE: 5 minute video.
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- Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (2003). Learning to work creatively with knowledge. In E. De Corte, L. Verschaffel, N. Entwistle, & J. van Merriënboer (Eds.), Unravelling basic components and dimensions of powerful learning environments. EARLI Advances in Learning and Instruction Series. Retrieved May 15, 2013 from http://ikit.org/fulltext/inresslearning.pdf
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- Churchill, D. (2006). Student-centered learning design: key components, technology role and frameworks for integration. Synergy, 4(1), 18-28.
- Churchill, D. (2013, February). A pedagogical model for science educators in 21st century. Keynote, Science Education Conference, Serbia.
- Churchill, D., Fox, B., & King, M. (2016). Framework for designing mobile learning environments. In D. Churchill, J. Lu, T.K.F. Chiu, & B. Fox (Eds.). Mobile Learning Design: Theories and Application. (pp. 3-26). New York: Springer.
- Divaharan, S., & Wong, P. (2003). Student-centered learning: microlessons. In S.C. Tan (Ed.), Teaching and learning with technology: an Asia-pacific perspective (pp. 182-198). Singapore: Prentice Hall.
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- Gleason, J., & Daws, L. (2012). Interactivity and Its Effect on Student Learning Outcomes. In S. P. Ferris (Ed.), Teaching, Learning and the Net Generation: Concepts and Tools for Reaching Digital Learners. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
- Grabinger, R. S, Dunlap, J. C. (1997). Rich environments for active learning: a definition. Research in Learning and Teaching, 3(2), 5-34.
- Harper, B., & Hedberg, J (1997). Creating Motivating Interactive Learning Environments: a Constructivist View. Paper presented at the ASCILITE 97. http://www.ascilite.org/conferences/perth97/papers/Harper/Harper.html
- Jonassen, D. (1999). Designing constructivist learning environments. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional Design Theories and Models: A New Paradigm of Instructional Theory, volume 2 (pp. 215—239). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Jonassen, D. (2000). Towards design theory of problem solving. ETR&D, 48(4), pp.63-85
- Oliver, R. (1999). Exploring strategies for online teaching and learning. Distance Education, 20(2), 240-254.
- Savery, J. R., & Duffy, T. M. (1995). Problem based learning: an instructional model and its constructivist framework. Educational Technology, 35(5), 31-38
- Vosniadou, S. (1994). Capturing and modeling the process of conceptual change. Learning and Instruction, 4(1), 45-69.
Seminars for UNSW staff
The Connections Seminar series and the annual Learning and Teaching Forum provide platforms for UNSW staff to explore different aspects of learning and teaching, share ideas and get feedback on practice and research.
These recordings and presentations related to assessment can be found on the respective Moodle course sites (self-enrolment key provided)
2019 Learning and Teaching Forum
- 2019 Learning and Teaching Forum on 26 November 2019: Challenges of course redesign in revitalising students learning experience presented by Dr Arash Khatamianfar, School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, Faculty of Engineering. (self-enrolment key: lntforum)
- 2019 Learning and Teaching Forum on 26 November 2019: Co-Design the student learning experience presented by Ms Selena Griffith, Centre for Social Impact, Business School. (self-enrolment key: lntforum)
- 2019 Learning and Teaching Forum on 26 November 2019: Applying Course Design Institute Principles to Course Development presented by Dr Sarah Grundy, School of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering. (self-enrolment key: lntforum)
- 2019 Learning and Teaching Forum on 26 November 2019: Fixing teaching from the ‘back-end’ with some help from your technical team presented by Dr Gee Chong Ling, School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, Faculty of Science. (self-enrolment key: lntforum)