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Pedagogy Notes
Designer Debrief


Pedagogy Notes


Using three key learning principles as the framework, an implementation strategy was proposed that would support the development of learning environments based on these ideas:

  • Authenticity - is promoted throughout the whole unit, with students developing projects for real clients, as well as portfolios they can use in the industry as well as for their CV’s. Their final products are hosted on an ECU server, so students can show potential employers.
  • Student-centred activities are promoted through the use of contracts (individual and team) in teams that develop a web site for a "real" client. Also, these teams are required to create solutions to 10 problems which represent the core materials in the unit.
  • Reflection – students are required to perform self and peer assessment, task evaluation as well as reflective reports.

An implementation strategy described by Oliver and Herrington (2001) uses a design methodology centred on developing student-learning activities as the main focus of the course design. These help determine how learners engage with course materials and the forms of knowledge construction that take place through the purposeful selection of tasks, resources and supports. These elements are defined as:

  • Learning tasks – pivotal elements in the design process used to support knowledge construction and guide the design process. These are chosen based on the intended learning outcomes, resources and learning supports available. Typical learning tasks include problem solving, investigations, inquiries, projects and role play.
  • Learning supports or scaffolding - needed to guide learners and provide feedback on their progress. Can include tutor support, library support or online facilities, and counselling.
  • Learning resources – these are often the most visible components and include print materials, media and online resources. These must support learners’ inquiry and problem-solving activities and should allow students to browse a range of alternative.


Oliver, R. & Herrington, J. (2001). Teaching and learning online: A beginner’s guide to e-learning and e-teaching in higher education. Edith Cowan University: Western Australia.




The design originates as part of my PhD thesis. It has been implemented 4 times.

I keep refining the tools and syllabus to help make the delivery more effective and efficient. Also, the software is being re-written in PHP/MySQL.

The design has not been disseminated further yet, as it has only just been developed. In 2003, other staff in the Faculty are keen to use it in different discipline areas.




The learning environment was designed and developed as part of a PhD research study (Joe Luca), and was rigorously evaluated over a period of 6 months inSemester 1, 2001. Both qualitative and quantitative research techniques were implemented.

Qualitative Analysis:
Techniques of qualitative data analysis were used to analyse data collected from focus group interviews, one-to-one interviews and comments made in students’ online reflective journals and bulletin boards. The study concluded with:

"The findings of the study show that the authentic activities were instrumental in motivating most students in this study. Once motivated, these students actively engaged in self-directed activities, and through reflective practice helped to construct knowledge as well as promoting the development of their generic skills. Being able to see the relevance of the activities, and the rewards they would achieve from successfully completing them, proved to be a key element in the design of this learning environment."

These results showed that the authentic context provided a motivational context for most students to actively practise using their generic skills. Authentic activities provided a clear link to reality, which embedded learning in a realistic and relevant context that helped these students see significance in what they were doing "beyond the corridors of the academic institution", and motivated a range of skills to be used such as problem solving, collaboration, communication and peer assessment to complete the given tasks. Within this context the self-regulated nature of the learning environment allowed students to freely experiment with different implementation strategies that suited their learning styles within the given context. Reflection was then encouraged through a variety of activities that provided students with feedback on their performance from a variety of perspectives, which enabled them to modify their behaviour through a continual process of reflective practice.

Quantitative Analysis:
Pre-test/post-test scores were analysed from two different questionnaires (with fifty one students) that analysed generic skills changes during the semester:

  • Workplace Competencies Questionnaire (Miles & Grummon, 1996) was developed in the United States through a series of national and state surveys of workplace skills, reviewed to determine generic skill sets considered critical by employers (Carnevale et al., 1991). The online instrument assessed students’ generic skills across nine scales (taking responsibility, working in teams, persisting, quality, life-long learning, adapting to change, problem solving, information processing and systems thinking), with six test items in each scale. This data was analysed for significant differences using SPSS (Paired-Samples t-test). The results showed a significant increase across each of the nine-workplace competencies. Statistically, the questionnaire clearly illustrated that students exposed to the learning environment showed a significant increase in each of the nine generic skills over the duration of the semester.
  • Generic Skills Comparison Questionnaire was given to three focus teams (thirteen students) at the beginning and end of the semester. The instrument was based on a five-point Likert scale designed to measure differences in student opinions about their self and peers’ generic skills over the duration of the semester. An increase of 14% was obtained in pre-test/post-test scores across all focus team members.

These results provide evidence that the learning environment was effective in promoting the development of students’ generic skills. The reasonable conclusion presented from the quantitative research and analysis conducted in this study reflected that, over the duration of the semester, students within this course perceived their generic skills as significantly improved.


Designer Debrief


It appeared that the motivation created through the implementation of authentic activities encouraged most students to actively engage with the self-directed and reflective activities with a view to enhance their skills and portfolio. This was reflected by the large proportion of students who passed this unit. From an original 85 students who started the unit, four students withdrew from the course before academic penalties were incurred. All but one of the 81 students passed. (See table below.)

Grade Percent No. of Students
High Distinction (80 -100%) 11
Distinction (70 - 79%) 28
Credit (60 - 69%) 34
Pass (50 -59%) 7


( 0 - 49%) 1

Also, the course evaluation collected by the university was high. The teaching effectiveness rating given by the students was 4.91 (out of 5), compared to the Faculty average of 3.84.

Many students have appreciated being made aware of the how the industry operates and the skills required, and have actively developed CVs based on the work done in this unit.

As discussed in the design, students are required to engage with the learning materials as a result of designing authentic, self-regulated and reflective activities.

The authentic activities are specifically related to the context. Students are required to research information and problem solve issues that are based in the learning context of the subject being taught. The focus is on making these activities authentic in nature, so that the students see their relevance and usefulness.

Students have the opportunity to become expert in their chosen team role. They embrace their responsibilities through a contract, and commit to a number of deliverables within a period of time. Within this setting, they continually reflect on their performance, and also receive feedback from their peers, tutor and client.

So, the students are challenged to build skills for the unit, as well as preparing themselves for the industry by learning extra skills needed to perform their roles at a satisfactory level.

A key feature of this learning environment is encouraging students to continually practice skills, and receive continual and varied feedback on their performance. This is achieved by providing regular feedback, and the opportunity for students to regulate their own learning in an authentic environment.


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