Instruction and Student Outcomes

What is the relationship between instruction and student outcomes? In other words how does how you choose to teach affect student learning? A new ACE report identifies five areas where what faculty do and how they teach intersect with student outcomes. These are: transparency, pedagogical approaches, assessment, self-regulation, and alignment.


Transparency: Transparency requires that learning goals and how they will be assessed be made visible to students. Assignments should be designed and presented in such a way that students understand where they are going and the criteria by which they will be judged to have arrived.


Pedagogical Approaches: Pedagogical approaches such as problem-based learning, collaborative learning, service learning, undergraduate research, experiential learning, flipped classrooms, and inquiry-based learning, have been shown to increase student engagement and learning. Also, high-impact practices like first year seminars, common intellectual experiences, learning communities, writing-intensive courses, collaborative assignments and projects, diversity/global learning, and capstone courses/projects have been shown to lead to deep student learning. Learn more about the University of Delaware’s General Education program and its high-impact practices.


Assessment: Assessment should be intentionally designed to align with the learning goals of the course and embedded into instruction from the start — not added on later for reporting or compliance purposes. Thus, assignments should: be authentic (meaningful in the real world); reflect student interests; be built on high expectations; and incorporate meaningful feedback with chances to improve.


Self-Regulation: Students are more likely to persist to graduation if they are actively engaged in their own learning. Such self-regulation requires metacognition — an awareness of one’s own cognitive processes and what strategies work for academic success. Metacognition in turn depends on reflection. Faculty can embed reflection into a course by asking students what was most challenging about an assignment for example, or what questions arose for them in the process of completing the assignment. Another way of encouraging reflection is for faculty to share how they think through a concept or work through a problem, thus making explicit for students what are otherwise implicit cognitive processes.


Alignment: Successful learning occurs when course content, instructional design, and assignments are all aligned. Plan your course backward from the intended learning goals and make it clear to students how the pieces fit together to achieve the stated learning goals. Doing this with an eye to meeting curricular requirements will also help students avoid curricular fragmentation and they will be able to integrate their learning across contexts and over time.

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